Is it normal for cats to rub against your legs?
If you’re a first-time owner, you may be wondering what’s up with this strange cat behavior.
Does he just really love the feel of those fleece jammies and cotton sweats you’re currently donning?
You probably assume that your own cat does it seeking affection in much the same way as a dog will come up and nuzzle you.
However, if you have a friend with a cat or have ever encountered a particularly friendly kitty while out and about, you might wonder what’s up with this behavior.
Why Cats Like to Rub Against Your Legs
Cats and dogs are both affectionate animals, but they show it in different ways.
We all know why dogs nuzzle us. They want to get pets and scratches – usually, as much of both as possible.
But why do cats rub against your legs? It’s for much the same reason as dogs nuzzle, but there’s a little more to it than that.
Kitties are famous for making you fall for them – literally.
#1 Affectionate Greeting
Rubbing against your legs is a sign of affectionate greeting in cats. It’s the universal feline way of saying, “Welcome back, my friend.”
If you’ve ever seen a nature special on big cats or even seen two very close house cats greet one another, you know that they will sort of bump faces and then slide against each other in greeting.
This is the same reason your cat rubs against your legs.
If you’ve come home or back into a room, he’s telling you he’s happy to see you.
If you’re just relaxing on the couch, and he initiates this behavior, he’s saying, “Hey, pay attention to me, pal.”
#2 Scent Marking
Cats also rub against you to mark you with their scent.
Both big cats and domesticated house cats have scent glands in their faces, bodies, and tails.
When your cat circles your legs and rubs with her face and body, she’s mingling your scents.
This is an instinctual way of telling the world at large that you are hers and she is yours.
It’s an extension of affectionate greeting in that it announces to the world that both you and your cat are part of the same social grouping.
Why Do Stray Cats Rub Against Your Legs
Stray cats rub against your legs for the same reason that your own cat does. They are greeting you and marking you.
Stray cats and feral cats are two completely different things, but people often get them confused.
A feral cat wants no contact at all with humans. They are fearful, distrusting, and generally avoid all human contact.
However, a stray cat is simply a cat with no home. Just like cats with homes, strays can be very affectionate.
In fact, in many cases, they’re even happier to see a friendly face. Again, in addition to saying hello, they’re also marking us.
Stray cats must mark their territory because they need those resources. Rodents, water sources, and shelter are all desperately needed by strays to survive.
So if a human ventures into their space, a stray will immediately mark them as part of that space.
Why Do Cats Rub Against You Then Bite
Some people think that a cat rubbing against them and then biting them was a dirty trick on the cat’s party.
They think the cat is luring them into a false sense of security and then attacking. Although it might seem that way, it’s really not the case.
What’s actually happening is a form of play. Cats play differently than dogs. While dogs love to wrestle, cats require predatory play.
Pouncing, grabbing, and biting are all instinctive forms of play that simulate their natural killing behavior.
Basically, this type of play keeps their hunter skills sharp. When pet your cat after she rubs on your body, the movement of your hand can trigger that predatory play response.
We had a cat at the vet who routinely had me coming home after work with bite marks and scratches all over my hands and forearms.
She was the sweetest cat in the world, but you wouldn’t know it by how rough she played. But that’s all she was doing. Just playing.
Why Do Cats Go Around Your Legs
We know why cats like to rub against your legs, but why do they love to circle them?
No cat is happy to simply rub against your leg.
They seem driven to actively circle the legs, routinely doing figure eights around and in between the legs.
It’s all a part of their greeting and scent-marking process.
When cats rub against our legs, they’re both greeting us and marking us as their property.
To really get their scent all over us, they intertwine between our legs while rubbing,
This maximizes the scent transfer and mingling that we talked about earlier. It’s just a more effective way to do the things we already talked about earlier.
What Does it Mean When a Cat Rubs Against Your Face
We know that affection and claiming you as their own are why cats like to rub against your legs.
If you’ve ever wondered why some cats rub against your face, it’s the same idea.
Cats greet each other and beloved family members by rubbing against them.
A very deep sign of affection is face-to-face contact. This is an extremely intimate form of greeting because cats like their space.
An aloof cat is probably not going to rub her face against yours.
If your cat rubs against your face, she’s telling you that you are extra special, and she’s also being extra sure that you are firmly marked as her companion.
Even a head bump results in my cat’s absolutely revving her purr engine. I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t.
Why Do Cats Rub Against You When Hungry
In addition to showing affection and marking you as their territory seeking attention for another need is also why cats like to rub against your legs.
The rubbing behavior is a way of politely asking for something.
Your cat is saying, “Hey, buddy. I’m hungry. Maybe you could put some more food down. You know, I can see the bottom of my bowl, right?”
Why Do Cats Rub Against Things
As I mentioned earlier, cats mark territory as well as their friends and family.
Cats rub against furniture, walls, and other surfaces to get their scent on them, telling the world that their home is their territory completely.
It’s an instinctive way of ensuring that any other cats that might come by that they are entering another cat’s territory.
This instinctive rubbing is done by all cats whether or not they have another cat in the home or are 100% house cats that will never see another cat.
What Does It Mean When a Cat Rubs Against You and Purrs
It’s the ultimate sign of affection when a cat rubs against you and purrs.
Cats rub against us to greet us and to mark us as their property.
Cats usually purr due to contentment – although in some cases, they will purr when they are stressed in an attempt to soothe themselves.
In this instance, though, it means that your cat is just about as happy as a cat can be. She’s greeting you warmly, purring with contentment, and generally just happy with everything in that moment.
Love is Why Cats Like to Rub Against Your Legs
When it comes down to it, love and affection are why cats like to rub against your legs.
I know if I’ve been gone for an extended period, my cat will just about rub the fur off of herself when she greets me.
Contrary to the running joke, cats are highly affectionate animals!
So, if your cat is rubbing against your legs, you’re getting a warm welcome from a very happy cat.
What do you think? Is it normal for cats to rub against your legs? Do yours do this? Share below!