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Ask A Vet: Why Does My Cat Rub Around My Legs?

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Cats normally rub on things as a greeting and we humans instinctively know that the cat is relaxed and happy to see us, even though we do not technically speak the same language. People have tried to make the rubbing out to be more nefarious and postulated that cats rub on us to declare ownership, but since the scent of one cat on something or someone does not seem to actively deter another cat, this theory may not be feasible. It seems to be something more benevolent and caring.

In fact, when a cat rubs on something, he does deposit a facial pheromone, but science has shown us that the chemical is actually a good thing and not a deterrent for other cats. This quirk of the feline species has been commercialized for use in stressful settings for cats. Many “cat savvy” vets and grooming facilities use Feliway®, a synthetic feline facial pheromone to help cats feel calmer in these situations.

The action of rubbing itself can be a part of the behavior known as bunting. Veterinary behaviorists seem to believe that bunting is more of a familiarity and  an outward sign that the cat feels safe and calm rather than a territorial marking. Your cat looks to you to have her needs met and sees you as a part of her family. She wants to declare that she feels glad to see you, not mark you as her property.

Cats that do not feel safe, do not rub or weave between anyone’s legs. So the next time your cat comes out to greet you and makes display of rubbing on you, take it as a sign of contentment, satisfaction and love. Perhaps you can stroke him and tell him that you love him too.

 

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Written by Dr. Kathryn Primm
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