Why Does My Cat Rub His Face On Everything?

Is he giving himself a massage? 💆‍♀️

cat rubbing his face on a tree

If you’ve noticed your cat rubbing his face all over your house, you might have wondered what he’s doing. Is he giving himself a massage? And is it normal?

When your cat rubs his head on an object, it’s called bunting, and cats do this for a bunch of totally normal, harmless reasons.

The Dodo spoke to Dr. Crista Coppola, PhD, a certified dog and cat behaviorist at Senior Tail Waggers, to find out why cats like to rub their faces on things — including why your cat rubs his face on you.

What are cat scent glands?

Your cat’s able to leave his scent on everything he rubs his face on with the scent glands located in and around his face.

“Cats have scent glands on their cheeks, over their eyes, above their mouth and sides of their nose, on their forehead, between their ears, and under their jaw,” Dr. Coppola told The Dodo. Cats also have scent glands on their paws, which is one way they’re able to find their way home.

These scent glands release pheromones, which are chemicals that can only be detected by other cats. Their pheromones provide a ton of info about them, including their gender, reproductive status and age.

Reasons why cats rub their faces on things

Cats rub their faces on things to leave info about themselves, but they also bunt for several other reasons, too.

Here are some common explanations for why your cat likes to rub his face on everything.

To leave his scent

Cats rub their faces around their homes to let other cats know it’s theirs.

“Cats rub their face on things to deposit scent,” Dr. Coppola said. “Cats use this information to mark their territory and to help timeshare areas.”

They can even tell how long ago another cat was in the area by how strong or fresh the scent is. If a cat smells a recently marked area, he might want to leave to avoid a confrontation in case the other cat’s still nearby.

To make himself comfortable

Cats may also bunt when they’re in a new environment to make it smell familiar, which makes them feel safe. So if you have a new cat who’s rubbing himself on everything, he’s probably trying to make himself feel at home. Or if you buy something new for your house, like a new chair, your cat might rub his scent against it to reassure himself that the object’s OK.

He’s anxious

Stressed-out cats sometimes bunt more often because they’re trying to make themselves feel safe.

But some cats just like to rub their faces on things a lot, so it might be difficult to tell the difference. If your cat’s anxious, you’ll notice other signs, such as overgrooming, aggressive behavior, hiding and trying to escape, in addition to excessive bunting.

To help relax your cat, you can try a cat pheromone product that mimics his natural pheromones.

Try this Feliway Classic Cat Calming Diffuser Kit from Amazon for $32.75

If your cat’s anxiety doesn’t go away, you can talk to your vet for treatment options.

To show affection

Your cat rubs his face on you to show that he loves you.

“Rubbing their face is also a sign of affection,” Dr. Coppola said. “Cats can be incredibly affiliative [aka friendly], and this is one of the ways they show affection and seek physical contact with people.”

If you have other pets who your cat’s super friendly with, you may even see him bunt against them every once in a while to show he likes them, too.

And similar to how your cat leaves his scent on objects when he rubs against them, he’s also leaving his scent on you to mark you as his own. If your cat ever kneads you, he’s doing something similar, since his paws have scent glands, too.

As a greeting

If you have a social cat who rubs on your friends when they come over, he’s doing it as a greeting.

“Cats are also very tactile, and this can be a sign of affiliative behavior,” Dr. Coppola said.

He’s also picking up the newcomers’ scents to learn more about them and find out if they pose any threat.

To get your attention

A lot of cats use bunting as a way to get what they want. Your cat might learn that bunting you is a good way to get your attention if you pet him or play with him every time he does it. So if your cat’s rubbing against you when you’re working at the computer, it’s probably because he wants a quick cuddle.

It's most likely normal if your cat rubs his face on everything (including you). He’s just marking his territory and letting you know he loves you — or maybe looking for a treat.

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