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Why Do Cats Like Their Cheeks Scratched? 6 Possible Reasons

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Stroking your cat can be a deeply satisfying experience for you, with studies suggesting that it helps reduce stress and anxiety and can help beat depression. Most cat owners will also attest to the fact that their cats love being stroked and petted, but only if you get the right spot, in the right way, and at the right time. Some cats can be picky!

One place where most cats love to be scratched is on the cheeks. Whether it’s with a fingernail, your fingertips, or even a brush, it can set off an intense purring session and provoke a wriggling and stretching frenzy.

The main reason cats like being stroked in this area, specifically, is because they have scent glands around the cheeks so when you scratch the area, it releases pheromones that mix with your own pheromones. But there could be other reasons your cat enjoys this experience so much.

The 6 Likely Reasons Cats Like Their Cheeks Scratched

1. It’s a Scent Thing

Cats mark their territory, and they scent other pack members. They do this to ward off potential threats and to let others know what belongs to them. It is also a sign that they are comfortable around you or whatever animal they are rubbing up against. When you scratch your cat’s cheeks, it is simulating this rubbing. The same pheromones are released, and if your cat is enjoying it, it is a good sign that they feel safe and comfortable in your presence and with your actions.

human stroking a cats cheek
Image Credit: Eliz A, Shutterstock

2. It’s a Communication Thing

Cats are highly scent-based animals and as well as releasing scent on you, your cat may enjoy being scratched in this way because it enables them to detect any smells and aromas that you carry. A cat can tell a lot from a simple smell, and yours may be able to tell what you’ve been doing and where you’ve been. This is also one of the reasons that your cat circles your legs, rubbing against you and raising their head and mouth to you when you come home.

3. It’s Like Grooming

In their packs and feline families, cats groom one another as a way to show affection and love. While this grooming typically involves licking one another from tail to head, cats don’t expect their humans to lick them, but they do see ticking and scratching as a human equivalent of this activity. Your cat may enjoy you scratching its cheeks because it sees this as an expression of your affection.

palm of hands on cats cheek
Image Credit: Ekaterina Kuzovkova, Shutterstock

4. It’s a Pleasant Feeling

Cats aren’t always complicated animals. Sometimes they like you doing something simply for the pleasure of it. Your cat might simply like the sensation of having its cheeks rubbed, and you’ve likely developed a really good technique that specifically suits your cat. Expect plenty of grooming, a curled-up expression that looks similar to a smile, and the feline equivalent of appreciation for your efforts. You can also expect your cat to demand more of the same if it is really enjoying the experience.

5. You’re Giving Them Attention

Cats enjoy attention from those they love, including other cats and their human families. By rubbing against you, headbutting you, and nudging your hand, they are doing everything in their power to get a little more attention. If your cat comes to you for cheek rubs, it could simply be looking for a little acknowledgment.

Image Credit: catinrocket, Shutterstock

6. It’s Satisfying

Cats have sensitive skin, and some cats suffer the equivalent of dermatitis. Whether it is an allergic reaction, a reaction to flea bites, or poor nutrition causing poor skin and coat health, if your cat has itchy skin around the cheeks, your rubbing may be alleviating that sensitivity and helping your cat feel better. You do need to take care to ensure that you aren’t making the problem worse, and you should look for any potential cause of this irritation.

Look at the food you are feeding and the environment your cat spends a lot of time. if you are in any doubt, consult a vet so that they can help you identify the cause of any skin or coat problems.


All cats are different, and some cats can have different likes and dislikes from one minute to the next. But generally, cats like to have their cheeks scratched. This is likely because it is the same as them rubbing their head against you, releasing pheromones and effectively marking you as a pack member. It could also be satisfying an itch to scratch, and it may remind your cat of being groomed.

As long as your cat enjoys it, and you aren’t injuring or irritating any acne or other skin condition, you should welcome the opportunity and feel free to scratch your kitty’s cheeks, at will.

Featured Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

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