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Home > Cats > What Is Cat Nuzzling? Here’s Why Cats Do It

What Is Cat Nuzzling? Here’s Why Cats Do It

Young woman bonding with calico cat bumping rubbing bunting heads

Cats are independent animals with unique personalities. Because of this, many would think that cats are indifferent toward humans. The truth is cats have their own way of communicating and showing affection to their owners! Yes, they purr and vocalize, but cats also communicate through body language and physical contact.

Cat nuzzling is a behavior that cats use to communicate with humans through physical contact. Cats nuzzle to show affection and to seek comfort and attention.

Still curious? Read on to find out more about what cat nuzzling is, and what it means!


What Is Cat Nuzzling?

Cat nuzzling is when a cat rubs its head and face against an object or person. This behavior is a sign of trust, affection, and comfort, as cats have scent glands in their cheeks and forehead that they use to mark their territory and feel secure.

By nuzzling, cats communicate to their owners that they trust and feel comfortable around them, seek attention and affection, or find comfort during stressful situations. This behavior is innate to cats and is often seen as a sign of a close relationship between a cat and its owner.

Why Is My Cat Nuzzling Me? What Does It Mean?

Cat nuzzling is a natural behavior and is often considered a sign of a good relationship between cat and human. Cats nuzzle to show affection and seek attention, but they can also mean different things. Here are the different reasons why cats nuzzle their humans!


Contrary to popular belief, cats actually miss their owners when they’re left alone. After finally seeing you again after a long day at work, you may find your cat nuzzling your head when you get home! Nuzzling is a way for your cat to show you that they missed you and that they’re happy to see you again, so be sure to return the affection to your cat as well!

cat rubbing face on man's leg
Image Credit: AlenaBalotnik, Shutterstock

Show of Affection

Cats have many ways of showing affection and nuzzling is a behavior common to many cats. Cats generally keep their distance from strangers, so the fact that your cat is rubbing themselves against you is a sign that they love you.

Note that not all cats may express their affection through nuzzling, as each of them have their own personalities and behaviors. But if your cat is a nuzzler, at least you know that they love you and enjoy your company!

Seeking Attention

Many people may think that cats mind their own business and enjoy being left alone. While this may be true for some cats, other cats may attempt to grab your attention by nuzzling!

You may find your cat rubbing against you as a way of informing you that they want food, their litter box cleaned, or just plain old love and affection. Remember, your cat can’t verbally say what they want, so as cat parents, it is important to understand your cat’s individual behavior and habits!

cat rubbing against owner
Image Credit: Irina Kozorog, Shutterstock

Marking Territory

Cats have scent glands all around their furry bodies, including their head and face areas. Aside from showing affection, your cat may also be nuzzling you to transfer their scent to you.

Nuzzling helps cats establish their territory and communicate their ownership to other cats. This form of marking through scent rubbing tells other animals that you belong to your cat. This is a natural behavior for cats and is also seen as a way for them to feel secure and comfortable in their environment.

Of course, the scent they leave on you doesn’t last forever especially after a shower, so your cat will have to nuzzle over and over again to continuously leave their scent!

Stressed and Anxious

Cats can easily feel stressed when experiencing change in their environment. This may include moving furniture, adding a new animal in the household, or separation anxiety. As creatures of habit, cats can easily get overwhelmed and resort to a variety of behaviors in order to cope with the situation.

A common sign that cats are stressed is an evident increase in attention and affection. Many cats will resort to nuzzling to seek comfort when they feel anxious. They may also feel more comfortable and secure smelling their own scent when they nuzzle against you or objects around the house.

If your cat is feeling stressed and anxious, try to provide reassurance and attention. It is also important to address the stressor in order to help your cat cope with what’s bothering them!

Woman touching cat with nose
Image Credit: Sam Lion, Pexels


When Is Nuzzling a Cause for Concern?

While nuzzling is considered a natural behavior for cats, Excessive nuzzling in cats can be a cause for concern if it is out of character for the cat or if it is accompanied by other unusual behaviors and physical signs.

Here are a few signs to look out for:
  • Excessive nuzzling of objects
  • Eye flicking
  • Hair loss
  • Overgrooming
  • Head tilts
  • Increase vocalizations
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced appetite
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Hiding
  • Vomiting and Diarrhea
  • Signs of distress

Reasons That May Cause Excessive Nuzzling

If nuzzling is unusual for your cat, or if they are nuzzling excessively, they may be experiencing behavioral or underlying medical issues. Here are a few reasons why your cat is nuzzling more often than normal:

Medical issues such as:
Behavioral issues such as:

As cat parents, it is important to familiarize yourself with what is considered normal behavior for your cat in order to determine if something isn’t right. When in doubt, consult with your veterinarian for proper recommendations and management advice.

Why Is My Cat Not Nuzzling Me?

There can be various reasons why a cat may not nuzzle its owner. Some cats may be less affectionate or social than others and may not feel comfortable showing affection in this way. Additionally, if a cat is new to a household or has had a traumatic experience, it may take time for them to develop trust and feel comfortable enough to nuzzle.

In addition, if your cat is a nuzzler and suddenly stops nuzzling, then you may want to explore why. They may be experiencing a behavioral or underlying medical issue that requires attention.

Each cat has their own unique ways of showing affection, so just because they don’t nuzzle you doesn’t mean they don’t love you! Some may show affection by purring, snuggling, or by simply being around you without even touching you. It is important to know that not all cats are the same and that each of them has their own personalities and preferences.

cat rubbing its head on the bathroom floor
Image Credit: mistermon, Unsplash


Final Thoughts

Cat nuzzling is a natural behavior that signifies affection, trust, and comfort. It involves rubbing their face and head against objects or people, marking their territory, and seeking attention. However, excessive or no nuzzling could be a sign of underlying medical or behavioral issues. Understanding your cat’s behavior is essential to recognize if further attention is necessary.

Overall, cat nuzzling is a beautiful display of a cat’s affection and can be a sign of a strong bond between cats and their humans!

Featured Image Credit: Kristi Blokhin, Shutterstock

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