Feeding time is the highlight of the day for many cats. As aloof and independent as house cats may be at times, felines still cannot operate a can opener. This means that cats always appear at dinnertime, and often rub themselves against the person who gives them food.
Rubbing against your legs is a cat’s way of showing gratitude for being provided with a meal. She can’t verbalize her appreciation, so she uses body language instead. Rubbing her head against you also releases pheromones and scent markers.
We will look more closely at feline rubbing behavior at mealtimes. There are numerous reasons why cats engage in this habit, and some of them may well surprise you.
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Why Does My Cat Rub Me While I Feed Them?
Even cats that ignore you all day will suddenly show an interest in you when it’s feeding time. Your cat will become affectionate and start rubbing her head against you.
She will be engaging in typical bonding behaviors, ensuring that you don’t get distracted. If your cat has your full and undivided attention, you’ll ensure that she gets fed.
There is more to this action, however. Your cat is expressing genuine love and affection at this moment. As Catster explains, cats rub against their owners to strengthen their bond. By feeding your cat, you are demonstrating your value to them.
Your cat will acknowledge this importance by rubbing against you, declaring you as part of the same family. More importantly, your cat is marking you as safe and trustworthy. The way to a feline’s heart is most definitely through her stomach.
The fact that you are preparing food for her means a lot. As cats cannot verbalize their gratitude for a meal the way you or I would, they rub against you instead.
Does My Cat Rub Against Me Because She’s Hungry?
It’s possible that your cat will also rub against to let you know that she’s very hungry. If an elongated meow accompanies the rubbing, this is almost certainly the case.
She’s reminding you that she is there, and is gaining your attention in a way she knows works. If you have been busy all day, your cat may feel a little neglected. When a cat doesn’t get enough attention, she becomes anxious. She may worry that you’ll forget to feed her.
This is an unnecessary fear, but your cat doesn’t understand that this is the case. By rubbing against your shins, your cat is sending you an unequivocal message about what she needs from you
If it’s not a scheduled mealtime, it could just be attention that she’s after. She could be testing your resolve and hoping that you’ll offer her a treat. If she rubs against you at the time when she usually eats food, your cat is doing what she thinks is most likely to get her bowl gets filled.
This isn’t necessarily a conscious act, either. Kittens will often rub against their mothers to announce their presence. This means they can start to enjoy their mother’s milk. Your cat now looks to you to ensure that her needs are met, with food being critical.
Why Do Cats Rub Against You at Other Times?
It’s not just mealtimes that cats choose to rub against humans. Rubbing is a common behavior in cats towards both owners and strangers. There are four reasons why a cat rubs against you:
- Greeting an owner after a prolonged separation, or perhaps saying hello to a stranger
- Expressing affection to a human, whether this is gratitude for dinner or just fondness
- Marking you as ‘theirs’ and removing traces of other cat scents
- Gaining information about a human – who they are, where they have been today, etc
A lot can be determined about a cat’s mood by how she rubs against a human. If a cat leads with her head, this is called bunting. It looks like a headbutt, but it’s really a display of trust and affection.
If a cat isn’t sure about a human yet, she will typically rub against you with her body, not her head. A cat’s head is very delicate, and she retains strong safety instincts to avoid placing herself at risk.
If your cat hasn’t seen you in a while, she’ll rush over to rub against you on sight. This is a common action when a pet owner returns home from work or has been out socializing all evening. Cats aren’t as outwardly excitable as dogs, but they do show their pleasure to see you in a different way.
You’ll know if your cat is excited to see you based on her body language, according to National Geographic. When your cat approaches you, take a look at her. Does she appear relaxed and calm?
This means that her back will not be arched, and her ears not pinned back. If this is the case, investigate her tail next. This should be straight with a curl at the very top. If this is the body language that your cat demonstrates, then she’s happy to see you. Rubbing will then likely follow. This is all feline for, “you’ve been away for a while, and I’m glad you’re back.”
Of course, your cat will also rub her head or body against you for other reasons, too. Your pet will be removing the scents of other animals and learning where you’ve been while you were away. The initial greeting is just the beginning of your cat’s rubbing and scent-based investigations.
2) Express Affection
Sometimes, your cat is just rubbing against you to show affection. It may leave you concerned that you’ll trip over your pet, but she means well. This behavior is an extension of ‘bunting.’
If your cat rubs with her cheeks, it’s a particular sign of affection. As Pet Happy explains, a cat’s cheeks contain pheromones. By rubbing the side of her face against you, your cat is expressing contentment in your company without having to say anything.
A cheek rub is declaring you to be a source of pleasure and comfort. Don’t be surprised if she follows this up by leaping into your lap and purring.
The opposite of cheek rubbing is spraying urine, which is always something to look out for. If a cat encounters something that causes her stress and emotional discomfort, then she’ll likely urinate over it. This is your cat’s way of introducing a familiar scent to an unfamiliar item.
It’s important to know how to react around a stressed cat. If your cat urinates, she’s setting herself a reminder that the object in question requires further investigation at another time.
3) Mark You as Their Own
When cats rub themselves against people, other felines or inanimate objects, they leave a scent behind. This is known as marking. Marking usually starts with the head before the entire body is rubbed over a person or object. Marking serves two critical purposes for felines.
It means that cats have claimed the marked object as their own. This sends a message to other felines to stay away. It also leaves a reassuring scent behind for your cat. If somebody or something carries a familiar and comforting smell, it means that it’s safe.
This is why a cat rubbing her scent against you is essential, and also a compliment. When your cat does this, primarily through bunting, she is demonstrating her absolute trust in you.
To an extent, your cat is also acting slightly jealously. She will be removing any scent of other cats and overriding it when her own scent. This means that you are incredibly important to your cat. She wants everybody to know that you belong to her.
4) Learn More About You
If you have been out all day, your cat will want to know what you’ve been up to during that time. Have you been somewhere interesting that she’s never visited? What have you been eating? Have you been in the company of other cats or animals?
By rubbing herself against you, a cat learns the answers to all these questions through your scent. She’ll also learn plenty about a human she doesn’t know as well yet.
When cats greet each other, they often rub against each other. This is an exchange of information that reveals the other feline’s mood. Pets aim to garner this data from new humans, assigning them a friend or foe status.
It’s best to allow a cat to do this, especially if you’re a stranger. Don’t react, and don’t pet your cat unless asked. The cat is likely to start bunting you. At this point, you have achieved acceptance.
If you have multiple cats, you’ll notice that one tends to hold court over the others. This will be the feline that spreads the ‘approved’ friendly scent through bunting.
Few things make a cat feel more pleasure than being fed. This is why a cat will typically rub against you at mealtimes. It’s just a classic sign of feline fondness. Enjoy these displays when they arrive as cats do not demonstrate affection lightly.