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Does your cat like to jump up on your lap and head-butt you? Often accompanied by loud purring, this act of rubbing or nudging their face against your cheek or chin is referred to as ‘bunting’ and is your cat’s way of communicating with you and showing affection.
Cats communicate in a number of ways – by talking to you (vocalisation), via body language and by scent. Scent communication includes urine marking but also includes the more common behaviours of bunting and rubbing. Cats carry scent glands in a number of places including on the sides of their faces, the pads of their paws and their tails. So, when your cat rubs against your face and gives you a gentle head-butt or rubs himself against your legs while you’re in the kitchen preparing a meal, he is leaving his scent mark with you.
Scent marking and rubbing is a means of establishing territory and proclaiming ownership but it is also how cats bond. When your cat is rubbing against you he is being sociable, friendly and affectionate.
Cats don’t just engage in bunting with their humans, they will also head-butt and rub against other cats in the household who they are familiar and friendly with. This is referred to as ‘allorubbing’ and is a part of social communication in multiple cat households. Sharing scents in this way ensures that all cats and humans have the same scent, and communicates a sense of belonging to the same family.
Bunting is also a means of asking for attention. If your cat head-butts you and then tucks his head down or turns to the side he is probably asking for some special attention – for example, to be petted or scratched behind the ears or on top of the head.
Cats that bunt their owners are displaying their unconditional love, affection and trust. Even if this does come with a mouthful of cat hair, enjoy this special moment between you and your cat – it’s the next best thing to a warm hug and a kiss on the cheek.
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Images: Alexis Fam Photography / Paddy and Dushi via Flickr