Do cats like it when you rub your face on them the way they do to you?

Face rubbing is one of those things that all cats do to their owners.

So, it makes sense to wonder if they’d like for us to do it to them.

Keep reading to find out the answer.

Do Cats Like it When You Rub Your Face on Them?

Face rubbing is a fairly common thing for cats to do to us owners. It’s right up there along with the closely related head butt.

They do this to display both affection and ownership.

However, just because they can do it to us, doesn’t necessarily make it a two-way street.

I recently came across a question in one of the forums asking if cats liked for us to face rub them the way they do us.

So, let’s discuss, starting with a deeper look at why they do it.

Why Face Rubbing is a Thing

Let’s be clear- no one REALLY knows why cats do anything.

Scientists and animal behaviorists make educated guesses, but as we’ve said before, cats are horrible research subjects.

As far as face rubbing goes, science has a few potential answers, depending on what they’re rubbing up against.

In general, experts say it’s all about marking. Cats have glands throughout their sweet little faces that leave behind their scent.

So, when they rub up against something- say their favorite naptime chair- they’re basically saying, “I was here. This is mine. Don’t steal it.”

Since we’re talking about why they rub against you here, though, the most likely answers are as I said above: it’s both a sign of affection and ownership.

Cats rub on your to say “I love you” and “I own you.”

When a cat rubs his face against your body, he is showing that he loves you by increasing his contact with you.

That’s why it’s often accompanied by blissful purring.

He is also showing ownership (as in, his ownership of you) by transferring his scent onto you.

It’s a calling card of sorts. It’s his way of saying, “Hey all you other cats, this human belongs to me!”

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Which is also a sort of affection, if you think about it.

Related: Is it normal for cats to rub against your legs?

Do Cats Like to be on the Receiving End of Face Rubbing

The short – and unsatisfying – answer to this question is some do. Some don’t. It all depends on the cat.

A particularly friendly cuddle bug of a cat is most likely going to ADORE you putting your face all over him.

I have one cat that is all about the cuddles. He loves to be held like a baby and snuggled in close against my cheeks.

On the other hand, a more reserved cat is probably not going to be so keen on the prospect of your face all up in his personal space.

My other cat is the complete opposite of my cuddler. She decides when we’re going to snuggle, and she absolutely hates being held.

I made the mistake of rubbing my face against hers once out of the blue and she swatted me!

My cat purrs when I rub my face on hers. Does that mean she likes it?

One of the greatest mistakes we humans have ever made in our efforts to understand cats is assuming that purring equals happiness.

Hey, we don’t exactly have a cat Rosetta stone, so we’re bound to make mistakes and misjudge their sounds.

While bliss is among the reasons cat purrs, it’s far from the only one. According to PetMD, the other most common reasons include:

  • To stimulate healing, especially of bones and tendons.
  • As a natural pain reliever.
  • To self-soothe in stressful situations.

New mama cats also use purring to guide their kittens, who are born unable to see or hear.

Interestingly, PetMD points out that when cats are purring out of happiness, it’s more to train US to keep doing what we’re doing.

For example, if your cat purrs when you pet her, you associate that with joy, so you keep doing it. If she didn’t purr, you may think she’s not having fun and stop.

Isn’t that intriguing? All this time we thought we were in charge and leading our cats towards behaviors that we want, but really they’ve been training us!

What about Head-Butting? Do Cats Like That?

First, according to cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett, author of CatWise, what we call “head butting” is actually “bunting.”

Bunting, like rubbing, is all about using those scent glands to send a message.

However, while rubbing can mean “I own this” equally as often as “I like this,” Pam says that bunting is almost always a sign of affection. She writes,

The bunting and rubbing are reserved for bonding, social, comforting and friendly purposes. When your cat engages in head bunting or head rubbing, he is placing his scent there as a social and affectionate gesture.

However, Pam doesn’t go into detail about whether kitties like to be on the receiving end. Again, it really depends on YOUR cat’s personality.

It’s all about Your cat’s personality

Bottom line: your cuddle bug may love face rubbing from you, but if you have a cat that wants affection when he wants it and ONLY when he wants it, it’s inadvisable to put your face directly within striking distance.

Remember, your surly cat can love you and still tell you to back off with his claws.

It’s all about personal preference. For example, the general consensus is that cats hate belly rubs.

However, both of the cats in my home present their bellies before I even make it over to them.

They like belly rubs more than the dogs do! Most cat owners who read this will assume that I’m making it up, but I assure you, it’s true.

This type of individual preference holds true with face rubbing as well. So if your cat is a regular feline Casanova for you, feel free to try face rubbing right back.

However if your cat is more of a “serve me, human” type of cat, I would NOT recommend it. And remember, NEVER push anything on your cat if he doesn’t want it.

You could end up scratched or bitten, or at the very least, your cat may give you the cold shoulder for a while.

Does your cat really like it when you rub your face on him the way he does to you? Check out our cat health tips to find out the truth about face rubbing!

We’d love to hear from you! Does your cat love when you rub your face on him? Share in the comments!


Ben is an animal lover, blogger, and all around geek. He divides his love equally between his family, his animals, and his video games. In his spare time he is attempting to get a blog off the ground. Boy, are they heavy!