Why Do Cats Rub Against Strangers? | 5 Ways A Cat Greets You!

Cats are strange, I don’t think I need to tell you that.

If you have had the pleasure of being in a cat’s company, you know that the one thing that can be said about cats is that they are unpredictable.

They have this uncanny attitude of keeping our eyes on their toes so to speak.

At one moment they may seem aloof and make you feel like you don’t exist.

Next thing you know they are curling up in your lap and purring. If you have ever looked into a cat’s sleepy eyes and internally asked what are you?

Hey, you aren’t alone.

Of different ways cats communicate, I have been continuously receiving emails from my readers to shine some light on a peculiar one. Which is,

Why do cats rub against strangers?

They are trying to include the stranger into their domain. A Cat’s head is loaded with scent glands. And when a cat rubs her head and body around you to express their affection and to show their willingness of including you into their territory. In other words, if a cat is rubbing against you she is willing to own you.

Truth be told, cats have this quality of skepticism when it comes to strangers unless of course, the cat is way too affectionate.

They know how to pick their strangers to rub against. How do they do that is still a mystery.

But if you find a cat rubbing against you, you are one lucky person I will tell you that.

There is so much I wish to share with you in and around this topic. The upcoming sections will reflect the same.

Stay tuned till the very end.

And before you go ahead here are a few more articles that I feel you will enjoy a lot. Open them in a new tab.

5 Ways In Which Cats Greet Humans

Alright, before we go ahead and really get into the topic of why cats rub against strangers, let me introduce the other ways a cat chooses to greet humans.

As I said, what you can say with absolute certainty is the fact that cats are mysterious creatures.

So, often have I talked about how cats have evolved to come to a place where they can live with us the way they do.

It’s a little difficult to comprehend but it is the way it is.

Consequently, cats have a variety of mysterious and some not so much ways of greeting the humans they love or are willing to love.

Here are some of them.


In one of my previous articles, I relayed the scientific reason behind why do cats purr.

Cats purr usually when they are restful, playful, or while they are cozily sleeping.

That being said there are also instances when cats may purr because they may not be well health-wise.

But if you just entered home and your cat is rolling on the floor playfully and there is a slight purr coming out of her, guess what.

Your cat is greeting you and is happy that you are home.

Head Bunting

One of the very common ways in which a cat expresses her affection and greeting towards the human she considers her own is by pushing her head against him or her.

You see cats are highly territorial beings.

This is very much the case in the wild and while domesticated cats may have toned down some of their wild instinct the sense of smell still remains profound.

So, a cat will head bunt you because her head and places around her ears secrete a scent particular to her.

In cat language when a cat is exhibiting this behavior she is claiming you as theirs. She is trying to include you in what she considers as her boundary.

This is because the way they identify their domain is via smell.

So, if you even find your cat head bunting you, it will be like a slight push which you don’t need to reciprocate, you must know you are the chosen one.

Showing Her Underbelly

If you pay a little attention to a cat’s anatomy, you will soon realize that a cat’s underbelly is her most vulnerable part.

Now if you find your cat rolling in front of you seeing and inviting you to touch her underbelly, this is the highest form of trust that she can relay.

It is worth mentioning here that not all cats may be okay with you touching their underbelly and may sit upright when you try to but the very fact that she is okay to put her vulnerable side in front of you means she enjoys your presence.

And she is showing that in an action that speaks for itself.

Many people write to me saying my cat rolls in front of me but don’t let me touch it.

I reply then what is the problem. Isn’t that enough?

See, the most important and sensitive aspect of a cat or any animal for that matter is their body.

They are letting their physical guards down in front of you is a sign that should be enough.

I am not saying they will never let you touch their belly. With time as trust increases that may also happen.

But when she greets you by showing you her underbelly, a soft word, a reward or words of appreciation is enough.

I have uncovered the secrets of a cat’s slow blink in enormous details here.

While most experts agree that a cat holding your stare and blinking slowly is a sign of affection.

It is a moment of direct communion between a person and their cat where the clear message is that your cat is content in your presence.

While a slow blink is widely accepted as a cat’s affection for you. A cat holding her stare in a relaxed way and slowly blinking at you is also a way of her greeting you.

If you ever find yourself in this situation, you can actually reciprocate the slow blink matching her frequency.

It’s a wonderful feeling and you will feel you have contributed to the comfort and security of your cat.


Trilling is without a doubt the cutest way a cat greets the human she loves.

The sweet trilling sound is a cat’s way of saying hello to you.

Usually, it is accompanied by the cat rubbing against you and having her tail erect.

Whenever a cat approaches you playfully with her tail held up and its end slightly tipped, it is a clear sign that the cat is happy that you are here.

I covered this in detail in this article where we took an in-depth look into a cat’s tail language.

A trill is similar to a purr is another good indication that your cat is happy to see you and sees your presence as loving and secure.

Importance of Smell and Scents In Cats

A cat’s senses or any animal’s senses for that matter are their ultimate tools of survival.

Depending on what kind of situation the animal evolves in nature automatically chooses to what extent any particular sense will develop.

In the case of cats, they rely very heavily on their sense of smell.

So much so that in addition to hunt for potential food they use it for communication and to gather information.

They secrete certain types of smell and also know how to demarcate and detect different smells in their environment.

They also use their particular smells to declare which territory belongs to them and to communicate with other cats.

So, when a cat rubs against a stranger, furniture, or any particular object what they are doing is depositing their smell on the object or person to include them in their zone of familiarity so to speak.

And also top declares to other cats in the area that this area is already claimed by her.

To have an estimate of how strong a cat’s smell is, experts, say a cat’s sense of smell is at least 14 times that of humans.

So, you see when a cat rubs against you or some object your nose may not have the sense to smell it but your cat knows how to use it and what it means.

Nature and its infinite mysteries wouldn’t you agree?

I hope I was able to create a vivid picture regarding what is the importance of a sense of smell in cats.

The topic is really interesting to me so if you want me to go in-depth into understanding the importance of smell in cats let me know in the comments.

If I can, I will dedicate a separate post to the topic.

More Reasons Why Cats Rub Against Strangers And New Objects

Now I hope you understand the fundamental reason behind why cats rub against strangers or people in general.

While transferring their scent and the sense of familiarity is on the core of it, there are still many acts that happen as a result of this tendency.

So here are some more reasons or acts to be more precise in brief that explain why cats rub against people and objects.

  • To Leave Messages

In one of my previous articles, I explained how cats use their entire body to speak and communicate.

While those are an active form of communication using scents that secrete from their cheeks, tails, foreheads, paws, etc. are more of passive communication.

Experts also believe that when a cat rubs against something the smell sticks even though we humans aren’t aware of it.

This smell relays information to other cats that can be as simple as declaring a territory or a call for a potential mate.

  • To Mark Their Tribe

So, in addition to marking territories with the help of smell, it is also observed that cats use their smell to mark their tribe as well.

In feral colonies, for example, the members mark each other by rubbing and head bunting each other. This is a form of communication, declaration, and acceptance into the group.

By extension, if you find your cat rubbing against you or any stranger they are claiming you in the borders of their familiarity.

In other words, they are making you theirs.

  • Pheromones

Cat’s body also secretes a chemical substance known as pheromones. Our noses aren’t sensitive to the chemical but they are released to communicate a lot of information to other cats.

Among the many other information that gets conveyed the biggest one is that the cat may be looking for a potential mate.

Do Cats Choose Rub Spots

Regarding this behavior where the cats rub their bodies against people a very common question that I get is do cats choose rub spots?

Do they have any kinds of preference for which body part they rub against?

And if they do the difference in different spots hold different meanings?

The answer is no. Cats don’t target a specific spot to rub against. They don’t have any preference which part they rub against. While your legs and your face (for bunting) seem to be their favorite part it is more a question regarding accessibility.

For strangers especially, who spoil them with food, they will usually rub against their legs or revolve around them (with the danger to tip them over).

That being said if a cat is comfortable with rubbing her face against your head, it can be said with a great degree of certainty that she really trusts you.

And in her eyes, you are really someone special.

Because you see when a cat is rubbing her face to yours she is letting the very essential tools of her survival which are her eyes in a vulnerable position.

If you have to bet on a way, cats could say I love you, well that is pretty much it.

You may have also observed your cat sometimes closely walks beside you with her tail held erect in a circular fashion.

She then follows up by wrapping her tail around you. This again is an expression of her love and trust in addition to a greeting.

How To Get Your Cat To Rub Against You?

So, it all comes down to this when a cat rubbing against you is a direct expression of her fondness of you.

The natural question that arises is how to get your cat to rub against you if she already doesn’t.

You see many people out there including some renowned experts actually provide an elaborate procedure for the same.

I even found one gentleman creating a course around the topic and selling it for big bucks.

I was really surprised why is simplicity isn’t valued the way it should be in today’s world.

Anyways, I want you to not complicate such matters. And not get swayed by stupid marketing tactics. Keep things simple.

So, how to get your cat to rub against you?

The answer is, make her feel secure around you. Yes, it’s as simple as that. You don’t need to complicate stuff. Don’t ever try to force her to do something that she isn’t comfortable doing. Give her the nurture and care that makes her feel safe and in return, she will express the love she feels is best.

In most cases, yes it will be head bunting you, rubbing against you, slowly blinking at you, or playing with you.

But hey as I said cats are mysterious beings maybe your feline friend may express it in ways I haven’t mentioned in this article.

Keep in mind whenever she does something that you want her to replicate or if you want to show your general appreciation award her nice acts with a soft pet or her favorite treat.

And your bond will see deeper levels of trust every time.

Hope you enjoyed reading the article as much as I enjoyed writing it.

If you did let me know in the comments below in addition to any other comment query or feedback you may have.

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Take great care of yourselves and your cat and I will see you in the next one!


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A Humble Parent To Two Cats, One Dog, One Turtle And One Indian Ringneck. Have Been With And Around Pets And Animals For My Entire Life. Everything You Read Here Is An Expression Of my Love Towards Animals And The Innocence They Embody.

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