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Why Does My Cat Rub Against Things? 6 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on February 6, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat rubbing against owner

Why Does My Cat Rub Against Things? 6 Vet-Reviewed Reasons


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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All cat owners have surely seen their cats rubbing up against things. If you are just as curious as your feline friend, you may wonder why they do this so much. There are many reasons why your cat may be rubbing against objects or people, so we have made a list of the six most common reasons for you to satisfy your curiosity.

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The 6 Reasons Why Cats Rub Against Objects and People

1. Your Cat Is Saying “Hello”

If you have just arrived home or your cat has woken up from a nap, they may be rubbing their head against you as a greeting. This is a great sign, as it means that your cat has missed you and is very happy to see you. You will most often notice this rubbing if you have been away from your cat for an extended period. Feel free to respond to your cat’s greeting with plenty of petting!

cat rubbing its head against the owner's legs
Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

2. Your Cat Is Collecting Information

As strange as it may sound, your cat may be rubbing up against objects and people as a way to collect information. If there is something new in your cat’s environment, such as an unfamiliar person or a new piece of furniture, they may be rubbing against it a lot. One of the reasons that they are doing that is to gather information about the novel person or object.

Many people assume this is an invitation to pet your cat, but that is rarely the case. If your cat is rubbing against a stranger, they are trying to size the person up before they permit being pet.

3. They Are Claiming Their Territory

Rubbing against objects and people is your cat’s way of claiming territory. When they rub against something, they mark it with their scent. Once a cat’s scent is on an object or a person, that thing is now associated with them. They will do this often, as their scent will fade over time.

If you have multiple cats in one household, you may also notice them rubbing against each other often. When they do this, they create a communal scent. This helps to establish peace among the group.

cat rubbing itself on cat tree
Image Credit: chie hidaka, Shutterstock

4. It Is a Form of Communication

Although cats cannot speak to us, they still have their ways of communicating. Rubbing their heads against you or objects within the room may be a form of communication. Cats will often rub, headbutt, or nibble to communicate their wants and needs.

Your cats may rub their head near their food bowl when hungry or headbutt you if something is wrong. As you grow to know your cat, you will be able to interpret their body language better to know what they are trying to tell you.

5. Your Cat Wants Attention

Some people think cats are unaffectionate and aloof, but that is not true. Cats love to have people’s attention, just on their own terms.

If your cat is rubbing against you more than against other things in the house, they may be trying to tell you that they want affection. If you think that your cat is looking for some love, be sure to scratch all their favorite spots.

cat rubbing against a girl's leg
Image Credit: Luidmila Kot, Pixabay

6. They Are in Discomfort

If your cat’s rubbing seems excessive, they may be experiencing pain or discomfort. For example, allergies can make your cat feel itchy, and they may be rubbing against objects to relieve that itch.

If you think an allergy may be behind your cat’s constant rubbing, contact your veterinarian. They will be able to pinpoint the cause of the allergy and help you form a treatment plan.

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Other Medical Issues That May Cause Excessive Rubbing

Excessive rubbing is likely caused by a medical condition. If you think your cat is rubbing against things too much to be normal, consider some of the possibilities.


Your cat may be rubbing against things too much due to flea irritation. Fleas can even lead cats to develop allergies, which could contribute to extra itchiness.

Ear Infections

If you notice that your cat’s rubbing tends to be focused around the ears, it may be possible that they are suffering from an ear infection. Other signs of an ear infection include discharge, ear swelling, hearing loss, disorientation, and a foul odor from the ear.

cat rubbing itself
Image Credit: NARONGKAN WANCHAUY, Shutterstock

Feline Hypersensitivity Disorder

Feline hyperesthesia disorder is not well understood. It is believed that the root issue may lie in psychological, neurological, or even dermatological problems. If your cat has this disorder, they will experience twitching of the lower back, pain when touched, dilated pupils, and exhaustion.

Other Signs to Watch Out For

If you think your cat is not well, but none of the above issues sound accurate, check for other signs that could indicate a problem.

If you see any of these signs, they could indicate the presence of a medical concern:
  • Tilted head
  • Confusion
  • Increased appetite or thirst
  • Itching, scratching, and overgrooming
  • Increased meowing, yowling, or hissing
  • Significant weight or hair loss
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If you notice any of these signs or believe your cat has any of the medical issues mentioned in this article, reach out to your vet immediately.

cat examined by Vets
Image Credit: Kzenon, Shutterstock

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Although there is a possibility that your cat is rubbing up against things due to a medical issue, the more likely reason is that they are simply behaving as cats usually do. Of course, pay attention to any other signs if you are concerned about their behavior, but otherwise, enjoy your cat showing affection and saying “Hello.”

Featured Image Credit: Irina Kozorog, Shutterstock

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