Why Do Cats Get Close To Face Like They Are Going To Kiss You?

Cats exhibit a wide range of behaviors that may seem unusual or perplexing to their human companions. One such behavior that often confuses cat owners is when cats rub their faces against their owners, as if going in for a kiss. This article provides an overview of the reasons why cats engage in this facial rubbing behavior.

We will explore several theories proposed by animal behavior experts that aim to explain why cats rub and bunt their heads. Potential reasons range from scent marking, to displaying affection, building trust, communication, seeking attention, and more. We will analyze the evidence behind each theory and present a holistic explanation of the origins and motivations behind this unique feline behavior.

By the end of this article, readers will have a deeper understanding of their cat’s facial rubbing and head bunting behaviors. Cat owners will be empowered with insights into their cat’s means of communication and relationship building needs.

Scent Marking

Cats have scent glands located on their faces, including on their cheeks and forehead. When a cat rubs its face against a person or object, it is depositing pheromones from these scent glands. This leaves the cat’s scent as a way to mark territory and objects. Rubbing against people allows cats to claim that human as their own. According to a Wisconsin veterinary hospital, cats use this scent marking behavior to feel more secure in their environment.

Cat owners often notice their cats rubbing against them, especially around the legs and ankles. This face rubbing shows that the cat considers that human part of their territory that they want to mark with their personal scent. It’s a sign of trust and affection, as the cat is making that person “theirs.” So when a cat rubs its face near a human’s face, it is engaging in scent marking due to those facial scent glands. The cat is showing trust and considering that person as belonging to them.


Cats will rub their faces against other cats or humans as a way to show affection and bond socially. It relates back to their scent glands and leaving their scent on something or someone is a way for them to show familiarity and fondness. Mother cats will rub and bunt their kittens as a soothing gesture and to mark them with her scent, so the kitten associates mom’s scent with affection from a young age.

This behavior usually starts when cats are kittens imprinting on their human companion as a source of food and comfort. The cat transfers that kitten-like nuzzling behavior to their human companion and will rub up against their face as a social bonding mechanism. It mimics their grooming and affectionate behaviors with other cats. The cat is transferring its scent and locking the human as a source of food and caretaking. (Source)

Face rubbing and head butting are reserved for cats’ closest companions – often mates and human caretakers that the cat has bonded closely with. The fact that cats engage in bunting and head rubbing with faces shows they view that person as part of their inner circle. It’s a sign of deep social intimacy and affection. So take it as a compliment when your cat wants to mark you with their scent and rub their cheeks and head against your face!


When cats rub their heads against their owners, it’s a sign that they feel safe and trusted. This behavior, called bunting, is how cats show affection and acceptance. According to Southern Living, cat mothers teach their kittens to rub their heads as a greeting and sign of friendship. So when a cat rubs against their owner, they are treating them like family and feel completely comfortable in their presence.

Cats are very selective when choosing who to bestow bunting upon. As one Reddit user shared about their cat’s face rubbing: “The fact that you receive the rubbing shows you trust him too.” When cats head butt and nuzzle against their owners’ faces, it signals they feel safe, loved, and trusted.


Cats use pheromones in their saliva to communicate affection and claim territory. When a cat rubs its face on people or objects in the home, it deposits pheromones that mark its scent. As described on the Feliway website, “They communicate territory messages, indicate sexual status, and express stress or fear. Both male and female cats may urine mark. It’s more common to see male cats do so though. Facial marking from rubbing the face and head is usually equally common in males and females.”

According to Wikipedia, “The mechanism of chemical communication for felines involves chemical stimuli being secreted or excreted through the urine, faeces, saliva, or glands, with the pheromones detected by the vomeronasal organ located above the roof of the mouth via the nasal cavity.” When cats rub their faces on objects, they are depositing pheromones from glands around their mouth, chin, and cheeks. This leaves a scent message for other cats that communicates territory, relationships, and more.

As Comfort Zone explains, “The feline facial pheromone (FFP) is used when cats rub their faces on furniture and other objects. They’re marking these with a pheromone that signals the location as safe and forms familiarity within their environment.” So when a cat rubs its face close to a human’s face, it is communicating affection, trust, and a sense of territorial ownership.


One of the main reasons cats rub their faces against people is to get attention and interact with their owners. When a cat rubs its face on you, it is a friendly gesture and a request for your attention. Cats, being naturally independent creatures, have learned that face rubbing and head bunting is an effective way to get their human’s attention and affection.

As social creatures, cats crave attention and interaction with their owners. Face rubbing triggers a response from the human, encouraging positive interaction and bonding. It’s a way for the cat to say “hey, don’t forget about me, pay attention to me!” (Rover). Many cats will initiate face rubbing and then purr happily when their human responds by petting or talking to them.

The fact that cats rub against people they are attached to and not random strangers shows this is a social behavior directed at a particular human to elicit attention. Cats especially crave interaction in the morning and when their owners return home, two times of day when they are eager for affection and play. So face rubbing is a cat’s way of saying hello and reconnecting after an absence.


Cats have poor vision up close, so they rely on their whiskers to build an understanding of the world around them (Source). A cat’s whiskers are highly sensitive tactile hairs that send sensory information to the brain, acting as a navigation system of sorts. When examining a person’s face in close proximity, a cat will use its whiskers to feel and map out the contours of the face. This allows the cat to gain spatial awareness and avoid bumping into things. The whisker sensation likely provides more detail than a cat’s blurry vision can perceive up close. So when a cat gets very close to your face, it is using its whiskers to carefully examine and understand the features of your face.


One reason your cat may lick your face is to get a taste of you. Cats have a strong sense of taste and smell, and they gather a lot of information from these senses. According to cats.com, cats have scent glands around their mouth and nose, so when they lick you, their scent transfers to you. This allows them to gather information about you (Source). By licking your face, your cat is able to pick up on scents and flavors that interest them. The taste and smell of your skin, cosmetics, food you’ve eaten, and more are all sampled when your cat gives you cat kisses. This can be a way for them to investigate you more thoroughly.


Kneading is a common behavior that originates from when kittens would knead their mother’s belly to stimulate milk production while nursing. As adults, cats continue to exhibit this kneading behavior on soft surfaces or their owners as a sign of contentment and comfort (PetMD). When cats feel very relaxed and happy, they will often knead while purring or even engage in suckling behaviors.

Kneading and suckling often goes hand-in-hand with head-butting and face rubbing. As social creatures, cats use these behaviors to show affection and bond with their owners. The act of kneading while suckling on a blanket or owner simulates the bonding kittens experienced with their mother. So even though it may seem silly, this is your cat’s way of connecting with you and showing how comfortable they feel in your presence.


In summary, cats often touch or rub their noses against human faces as a form of affection, communication, and scent marking. Key reasons cats exhibit this behavior include:

  • Leaving their scent on humans as a territorial marking and a sign of familiarity or ownership.
  • Showing trust and affection, similar to giving human kisses.
  • Initiating play or seeking attention and interaction.
  • Investigating sights, smells and tastes up close.
  • Self-grooming through picking up scents and oils from human skin.
  • Kneading and massaging as a leftover instinct from kittenhood.

While strange to us, face-touching is normal cat behavior. It signifies cats consider their human family part of their territory and social group. Rubbing faces allows cats to pick up our scent, greet us, show fondness, communicate, and reaffirm social bonds. With positive associations, most cats will continue trying to steal a “kitty kiss”!

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