It happens almost every time: Your cat comes up to you, demanding attention, so you start to rub them behind the ears and under the chin, only for them to turn around and present you with their butt.
Given that your choices are to either scratch their butt or have them leave you, chances are that you’ll give in and start butt-rubbing, but have you ever wondered why cats like having their butts scratched so much?
There may not be a single answer to this question, so let’s look at a few possibilities.
1. Their Butts Itch
Sometimes the most eloquent solution is also the simplest. It may be that cats enjoy having their butts scratched because, well, they itch.
It’s difficult for a cat to scratch their own butt, as they can’t really rub it on that many things and they can’t reach it with their paws. Luckily, Mother Nature in all her wisdom has presented them with the perfect butt scratcher: you.
The next time that your cat comes and presents their butt to you, you should scratch it. It’s the neighborly thing to do.
2. They’re in Heat (or About to Be)
If you have an intact female cat, she may want you to scratch her butt because it stimulates the instinctive mating response.
This could be purely instinct, or it could feel good or even relieve pain and pressure. Regardless of the reason, it’s something that she might come to crave more and more over time.
There’s a bit of a flaw to this theory, of course, and that’s the fact that many spayed females enjoy having their butt scratched, as do many males. However, it may well be true that intact females enjoy a good butt scratching more than anyone else.
3. They Have a Skin Condition
Some cats can suffer from dermatological conditions like mange, seborrhea, or some sort of parasite, like worms. All of these can cause persistent, intense itching, causing your cat to seek relief at your hand.
Cats that suffer from these conditions may not demonstrate pleasure so much as a weird intensity. They’ll arch their backs stiffly, press their ears to the side of their necks, meow ferociously, and may even try to bite you.
Outdoor cats are more prone to both skin disorders and parasites than indoor cats, so keeping your kitty inside can help prevent this from occurring. Regardless, if you think that something is amiss with your cat, take them to the vet right away.
4. They’re Being Polite
If your cat’s behavior seems to be less about having their butt scratched and more about shoving their butt in your face, take heart — it means your cat loves and respects you enough to allow you the privilege of sniffing their anal sacs.
Many animals will greet each other by sniffing one another’s butts, and it seems that the odors emanating from the rump can carry important social signals. Thus, your cat is inviting you to check in with them — kind of like the feline equivalent of allowing you to read their blog.
5. It’s a Throwback to Kitten Behavior
When kittens are very young, their mothers will groom them by licking them, often aggressively. These licks often start at the top of the head or nape of the neck and end at the base of the tail, right where they like to be scratched.
That may mean when you scratch your cat there, it sends them down memory lane to a time when their mother licked them. This is likely to be a safe and comforting feeling for your cat, so it’s no wonder that they enjoy it so much.
6. It Just Feels Good
There’s something to be said for simple solutions. This is the theory that’s most widely believed to be true.
It’s thought that cats have a wide array of nerve endings at the base of their tail, making it one of the most sensitive spots on their bodies. When you scratch them there, it releases a ton of oxytocin, dopamine, and other powerful neurotransmitters.
This creates a “feel-good” sensation in your cat’s brain, one that they won’t want to stop. It’s likely fairly addictive, in fact, which is why they keep coming back for more.
Where Will You Scratch Next?
Until scientists invent a cat translator, we’ll never know for certain why cats enjoy having their butts scratched so much. For now, we’ll have to settle for these six prevailing theories. Keep in mind that there doesn’t have to be a single answer to this question; several of these factors could be in play at any moment. Most of them are just about your cat feeling good, so there’s no reason to deny them their butt-scratching requests.
Featured Image Credit: Christin Hume, Unsplash