Behavioral Problems

Why Do Cats Rub Against You When You Feed Them?

Cats rub against you when they are looking for attention. When given a meal, this action may seem pointless. Most cats want to be left alone to eat in peace, but there are reasons why they still do it.

Cats rub against your legs to say thank you for providing food. The cat will mark you as a valuable source of nourishment through rubbing. Your cat could also be asking for more food or reassurance that it is OK to eat. It’s more concerning if your cat rubs against you but ignores the food you provide. This suggests the cat is unwilling or unable to eat.

Cats understand that rubbing against owners achieves results. You cannot ignore the physical contact, and you cannot walk away for fear of tripping over the cat. What’s more, you will likely find this behavior endearing and cute. Cats often manipulate humans into getting what they want.

Why Do Cats Rub Against You When Hungry?

A cat rubbing against your legs is typically seeking your attention. Sometimes, this is a plea for play or petting. The cat may also just be showing affection. Check your watch when the cat does this because it is likely reminding you that it’s dinner time.

You may find that this behavior is not limited to hungry cats. Many cats rub against their owners during or after feeding. There are, again, carious possible explanations for this. Understanding the reason for the behavior is key to maintaining a bond with your cat.

Why Do Cats Rub Against Your Legs After Eating a Meal?

It is common for a cat to rub against your legs after a meal. It may even start this behavior between bites. There are four significant explanations for this action. None of them are concerning, unless the cat stops eating.


For many cats, dinner is the highlight of their day. Equally, cats rub against owners to display affection.

This makes the behavior easy to explain. The cat is grateful to you for providing food. In such an instance, the cat is willing to demonstrate this appreciation. It wants you to know that you are valued.

This does not mean that cats only care about food. As per Current Biology, cats forge complex, emotional bonds with human owners. Felines do not always show this affection, so be sure to enjoy these demonstrations.

why cats rub against your legs


The cat may be rubbing against you for reassurance and confirm that it is OK to eat. As many human foods are toxic to cats, you may have confiscated something previously. Cats do not understand the difference between safe and unsafe nourishment. The cat is wondering if all food is off-limits. Make it clear that anything in a bowl belongs to the cat.

Some cats are also nervous about food if they live in multi-pet homes. As felines are territorial by nature, cats compete for everything. This includes food. Ensure all cats are reassured that they are permitted to eat, encouraging them to do so. Perhaps your cat eats its food too fast.

Make it clear that your cat has permission to consume its meal. At this point, walk away to settle the cat’s nerves and leave it to eat.

Requesting More Food

As rubbing against an owner demonstrates hunger, the cat may be asking for more food. Take a look at the cat’s bowl. If it is empty, and the cat ate quickly, it is likely requesting seconds.

Consider whether this is an advisable course of action. Senior cats, in particular, need to watch their calorie intake. The less a cat moves, the faster it gains weight through overeating. On the other hand, you don’t want your cat to be hungry. Cats eat more food in the winter.

Make a judgment call based on your cat’s existing weight and lifestyle. Be mindful when your cat constantly wants two meals, though. Change to a more nourishing brand of food or split allowance into multiple meals. The present status quo clearly leaves your cat dissatisfied.


Cats rub against humans and objects as a marking behavior. The cat is applying its scent to you to mark you as its property.

This serves two purposes. It warns other cats to back away. The cat is making it clear to rival felines that you are claimed. This will prevent other cats from approaching you for food.

Equally, marking reminds the cat that you are safe and valuable. As cats get older, their cognitive function starts to fade. Marking owners with scent reminds a cat that you are the provider of food and comfort. This information is invaluable as the cat continues to age.

Why Does My Cat Rub Against Me But Won’t Eat Its Dinner?

Oftentimes, placing food in front of the cat is the last you’ll see of it. It takes a lot for a hungry cat to be distracted from eating.

If your cat is reluctant to eat, focusing on gaining your attention, something is amiss. Understand why this may be the case. Cats can be fussy about food, and you do not want your cat to get into a habit of skipping meals.

Some cats will cease rubbing after a minute or two and eat anyway. If the cat continues to approach you, there is definitely an issue. Never ignore this behavior for a prolonged period. Investigate why your cat is more interested in you than its food.

Inappropriate Environment

Your cat may find the environment unsuitable for eating. Cats like to eat in quiet, safe areas. If the cat rubs against you, it is informing you that something is wrong. Common issues that may put a cat off its food include:

  • Noise
  • Strong scents (including the litter box)
  • Footfall
  • Other pets in the vicinity

Rectify these issues as quickly as you can by relocating the food. This will prevent your cat from developing unhelpful habits and routines. If changing the environment yields no results, the fault lies elsewhere. This may be the food itself, or the vessel that hosts it.

Inappropriate Food

Your cat may be rubbing against you to draw your attention to its food. Something about the food is not right. This could be taste, scent, texture, or temperature.

Cats like routine and react poorly to a sudden change in food. If your regular brand of cat food is unavailable, find an alternative as similar as possible. Cats can tell the difference. Do not switch straight from wet to dry food, or vice versa.

Consider the temperature of your cat’s meal too. Cats cannot smell food served straight from the refrigerator. The scent is key to stimulating feline appetite. Let your cat’s food reach room temperature before serving. If necessary, place it in the microwave for a few seconds.

Inappropriate Bowl

The bowl that you serve your cat’s food in may be causing a problem. This issue may stem from the material the bowl is made of. Alternatively, it may be the size and shape of the bowl.

Some cats are allergic to plastic. This is not necessarily a lifelong affliction for cats. Felines can develop allergies and sensitivities later in life. You’ll know if your cat is allergic to plastic. It will display the following symptoms after eating:

  • Scratching
  • Hives and hotspots on the skin
  • Wheezing and trouble breathing
  • Streaming from the eyes and nose

This problem is a relatively easy fix. You’ll need to switch the bowl for a different material. Pet stores will sell ceramic or porcelain bowls.

If your cat has no issue with plastic, it may be struggling with whisker fatigue. Feline whiskers are in constant use, detecting air pressure changes and judging spatial awareness. This leaves them sore and tender. If whiskers rub against a food bowl, it will hurt.

Try serving your cat’s food in a wider vessel or use a flat dish. This will enable to the cat to eat without discomfort. Whisker fatigue is not a permanent issue. It will right itself with an hour if the whiskers are rested sufficiently.

Inability to Eat

Your cat may be hungry, but incapable of eating. A cat will alert you to this. The cat will grow increasingly distressed by its inability to consume food. This must be managed.

Learning what is bothering your cat is a case of trial and error. You’ll need to observe your cat’s demeanor and behavior. Most feline health issues have symptoms – albeit subtle. A cat willingly revealing pain will be in significant distress.

Dental Pain

All cats are likely to encounter dental issues in their lives. Feline toothache is usually caused by gum disease. Bacteria will enter a cat’s mouth throughout the day. If a cat’s teeth are not brushed, these bacteria multiply and cause gum disease.

A cat living with oral discomfort will be unable to eat or drink. The cat may try, but every attempt will be abandoned. The pain in the teeth will be too severe. Other signs that a cat has a dental problem include:

  • Visible discoloration of the teeth and gums
  • Foul breath
  • Drooling, especially from one side of the mouth
  • Constant pawing at the face

A vet must review dental issues and can prescribe your cat painkillers, if necessary. This will leave your cat able to eat again. Alas, it is a temporary fix for a prolonged problem. A solution must be still be found

Brushing your cat’s teeth will provide short-term comfort – and should be a regular habit. Your cat may need a professional tooth clean, though. Tooth cleaning can be dangerous in older cats, so seek advice. A vet may find a way to clean your cat’s teeth without anesthesia.

cat rubs on my legs

Intestinal Blockage

Intestinal blockages are a serious concern in cats. This issue arises when something blocks the gastric tract. This will usually be a non-edible item that your cat consumed. Equally, substantial hairballs may be to blame.

A feline intestinal blockage is usually easy to spot. The cat will become lethargic and withdrawn, while its stomach will be visibly swollen and distended. These symptoms, coupled with difficulty eating, must be addressed.

The Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition recommends miscanthus grass or cellulose to resolve a blockage. These ingredients are indigestible but contain high levels of fiber. These will aid a cat in passing a blockage. A teaspoon of edible oil can also be used.

Such remedies will only be effective if the object can be passed as feces. Large foreign objects must be professionally removed. This will be achieved via surgery or an endoscope. It depends on the size of the object and how far it has progressed along the digestive tract.


A cat that is anxious or stressed will refuse to eat. The cat is incapable of relaxing long enough to consume and digest food. A cat may approach you for reassurance. If the anxiety is severe, this comfort will be insufficient.

It is important to keep cats calm and contented. This goes double for senior cats, who have weaker hearts. Prolonged exposure to stress is not safe for older felines.

Ordinarily, the scent would be used to calm a cat’s nerves. The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery recommends Feliway, for example. This is not an option when a cat is eating. Strong aromas will distract a cat from food. The same applies to scented candles.

Instead, observe your cat throughout its day. Learn what provokes such feelings of stress and anxiety. Exposure to these triggers must be removed. If your cat lives with generalized anxiety disorder, a prescribed medication will be necessary,

Full Stomach

Ordinarily, a cat that loses its appetite is a cause for concern. Many medical issues list this habit as a symptom. If your cat is otherwise acting normally, something else may be at play. Your cat may have a full stomach already.

Investigate what your cat does all day. If your cat roams outside, it may visit other homes. In doing so, the cat may be eating in this second home. Some cats can, and will, eat multiple meals a day. Others, especially older cats, struggle to fit excessive food in their stomachs.

Monitor how many treats you are feeding your cat, too – and what they are comprised of. Cats are obligate carnivores. Protein is key to the feline digestive tract. High-fiber human foods, like bananas, take some time to digest. This leaves cats feeling fuller for longer.

Your cat wants your attention in this instance. It does not want to eat. If your cat’s routine involves petting after food, it is skipping to this. Keep an eye on this habit. If your cat is eating elsewhere, you have limited control over the vitamins and minerals it obtains.

A cat rubbing against you while eating is rarely a cause for concern. The cat may be just showing appreciation and affection.