Why do cats insist on rubbing everything with their faces? You are sitting there, minding your own business when all of a sudden, the cat is head-butting you and rubbing his cheek on your leg. What gives?
The short answer is they love the way they smell and they want everything to smell like they do.
Yeah, surprisingly, cats think very highly of themselves and think they smell better than everything else on earth, including your fresh sheets. Generally, cats do the weirdest things and this includes big game cats, like lions and cheetahs and tigers. They knead the carpet, they knock all your stuff off the counter, they plot world domination and they are scared of cucumbers. All pretty weird behavior for a pet. But what's with the rubbing of their heads up against everything, like the couch, or the table, or your legs? Are they really trying to trip and kill you when they slink in and out between your legs? Well, I think they probably are, but there's no scientific proof of that (yet). What there is scientific proof of is that cats distribute a specific kind of pheromone, called "Feline facial pheromone" through their heads, cheeks, and chins. So they are, in effect, marking their territory, but it's a much nicer way of doing than say, spraying urine across the furniture. And yeah, some terrible cats do that too, but they usually don't last long as pets.
There is another convenience to the head rubbing -- cats love having their heads rubbed. Seriously, it's one of their favorite things. They don't much prefer the belly or the behind, like dogs often do, but they can't enough of their heads and ears being scratched. So when they are head-butting and begging for your attention, give a few scratches on the head and few behind the ears and maybe, just, maybe, the cat might like you. Probably not though, it'll probably still plot to murder you.
So why is all this territory marking so important for cats? Cats hate unknown smells. They are like little smelling factories and if they don't like a smell, it can really throw them off. If you're a cat owner, you know how bananas they get when you put new sheets on the bed, right? They hate your detergent that smells like "mountain rain." They hate any smell that they don't recognize. So when the "mountain rain"-smelling sheets come out of the dryer, it's time to go to work and get that weird smell out of those sheets! Same goes for the owner's clothes. And owner's friend's clothes. And everything else they come in contact with.
Some people say cats do tend to enjoy the smell of their owners, and that cats treat their owners like other cats and will often lay in the spot of the bed their owner sleeps in when their owners are away. Or they will sleep on their owner's bath towels. Some cats insist on accompanying their owners into the bathroom for the same reasons. Though I expect they are probably on the lookout for a weakness to exploit in their attempts to escape and/or attempt world domination.
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