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Why Do Cats Put Their Butt in Your Face?

cat lying butt near person's face

Cats have many strange behaviors, but putting their butts in our faces is probably one of the most confusing. You’d imagine that this would be a sign of dislike (after all, since when is a butt in your face a good thing?).

However, cats see it differently. While we don’t know exactly why they perform this behavior, we have a few theories that may help explain it. Many of these theories are likely right at different times — it depends on the cat and the situation.

Firstly, cats may stick their butt in your face on accident. They wanted to turn around, and your face happened to be where their butt was supposed to go. When your cat searches around your lap for their most comfortable spot, it’s easy to see how this might happen.

However, cats may also put their butt in your face to share their scent. Like dogs and many other mammals, cats have scent glands on their butts. They can use these scent glands to communicate with other cats, and they often assume that you can understand this form of communication as well.

When two cats meet, it isn’t odd to see them rubbing against each other and doing a great deal of sniffing. They aren’t as obvious about it as dogs are, but there is a bit of scenting going on.

hepper single cat paw divider

Sniffing and Cats

Just like dogs, cats can receive information about other cats through smell. It isn’t odd for two cats to smell each other in greeting after some time apart, even if that time was only a few hours.

If one cat in a household went outside or to a vet’s office, they will likely be sniffed heavily by the other cats.

Sniffing can let a cat know where another one has been, such as the vet’s office or in the litter box. It can also reveal aspects of that cat’s identity. For instance, a cat can determine another’s availability for mating, stress levels, and diet based on scent alone.

Smell is an important way that cats communicate with each other. While we can’t smell nearly all the things that cats can, they assume that we can.

So, when a cat shoves their butt in your face, they may be allowing you to sniff them and therefore, receive information about where they’ve been and what they’re up to.

Of course, we don’t have this excellent ability, but our felines don’t know that!

cat smelling woman's chin
Image Credit: Koldunov Alexey, Shutterstock

Why Does My Cat Hit Me in the Face With Their Tail?

There are many different reasons that a cat’s tail may hit your face. Cats have scent glands located underneath their tail on their butt. If your cat hits your face, it could be an accidental byproduct of them attempting to shove their scent glands in your face.

Cats will assume that they can use this method to communicate with you, though we can’t smell all the pheromones that cats produce.

Cats may also hit you with their tail while they’re trying to find a comfortable spot to lie down. Many cats may turn around multiple times in your lap before they find a comfortable spot, giving their tail plenty of opportunities to hit you.

It’s not that they are purposefully hitting you with their tail — your face just happens to be in the way!

Some cats may also figure out that this behavior gets your attention. In this case, they may do it on purpose. If you usually pet your cat after their tail has made contact with your face, there is a good chance that they’ll start using this method to get your attention.

Cats may also use their tail to signify that they’re hungry. This behavior may be especially true if they have figured out that you pay attention to them after hitting you with their tail. If they can get your attention, they may also be able to lead you to their food bowl.

cat in man's shoulder
Image Credit: Skarynka Alena, Shutterstock

Why Does My Cat Sleep With Their Butt Toward Me?

There are many different reasons that your cat may decide to sleep with their butt pointing toward you.

There are a few theories that it’s because the cat trusts you to guard their back. After all, they can’t see behind them. However, there is no evidence for this argument. There are countless other (more probable) reasons that your feline may decide to sleep with their tail toward your face.

Cats can communicate through scent. It may be that your cat is simply allowing you to sniff them and then wants to lie down. Perhaps their visit started as them showing you their scent glands, and then they just decided to lie down.

That position may have just been the most comfortable way to lie in your lap. It isn’t that your cat is necessarily making a conscious decision to sleep with their butt in your face — they may simply find that part of your lap the coziest.

cat sleeping near man's face
Image Credit: Maliflower73, Shutterstock

Do Cats Mark People?

They can, though not in the way that most people think. Cats typically mark other felines through social grooming. This process mingles the cats’ scents together, making them smell the same. In a natural setting, this would enable the cats to notice each other easier.

If cats spend too much time apart and start smelling too different, they may not necessarily recognize each other anymore. This is one reason that siblings won’t necessarily recognize each other after being separated for a while. Cats don’t recognize each other by what they look like. They recognize each other by their scent.

Cats may attempt to share their scent similarly with people. This behavior is one reason that they rub up against you while being pet. Cats have scent glands in their cheeks, which explains why much of this rubbing is focused on their face specifically.

Cats may also shove their tail and butt in your face for this purpose, though this is rarer. Cats have more scent glands in their behinds. If they rub these on you enough, you will also start to smell like them — to cats, at least.

hepper cat paw divider

Final Thoughts

Cats stick their butt in your face mainly for communication purposes. Their anal scent glands can communicate many things to other cats, specifically about their health and wellbeing. Cats assume that we can interpret these scent sentences too.

But of course, we can’t. When our cats stick their butt in our face, the only thing that we’re getting is a good view of their rear end. Our cats can attempt to communicate with us all they want, but it won’t help us understand their message.

There are also times when a cat may accidentally stick their butt in your face. They may just be trying o get comfortable, and your face happens to be in the worst spot.


Featured Image Credit: Benoit Daoust, Shutterstock

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