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Why Do Cats Put Their Butts in Our Faces?

Why Do Cats Put Their Butts in Our Faces?

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If you have a cat, then hopefully you’ve been fortunate enough to experience your cat putting its butt in your face.

This definitely isn’t how humans show affection to other humans, but oddly enough, showing their butts is how cats communicate that they love you! 

So, what does it mean when your cat shows you their butt? Read on to find out more about how and why cats use this odd “butt greeting”.

The Basics of the Cat Greeting Process

The best way to explain this butt-showing behavior is to think of it like a reverse handshake.

When cats greet or meet each other for the first time (after the hissing stops), they go through a series of behaviors where they sort of “sniff each other out.”

Cats use visual, auditory (hearing), olfactory (smelling), and tactile cues (shared grooming and resting or sleeping next to each other) to communicate with both people and other cats.

To truly understand why cats put their butts in our faces, we first need to understand how cats greet each other. Here are some steps cats go through when greeting each other.

Courtesy of Hannah Hillam

1. Face Sniffing: The first step in the cat greeting process is to sniff one another’s face and neck.

Cats produce pheromones (unique scents) in their cheeks that signal messages to other cats. So, when they sniff each other, they’re attempting to learn more about each other.

2. Side sniffing: Next, the sniffing progresses to the sides of the cat. The cat’s flanks (sides) not only carry their own scent, but also the scent of people and other animals in the house.

When we pet our cat, we transfer our scent onto them.

3. Butt sniffing: The final step in the process is when the cats raise their tails and sniff each other’s butts, right below the base of the tail.

The scent glands on a cat’s butt are your cat’s “signature scent.” It’s unique to them. When a cat raises its tail, allowing another cat to sniff them, it’s a friendly gesture

Cats who keep their tails down don’t want to be sniffed. They’re signaling that they’re not comfortable.

Butt sniffing helps cats make friends!

Some researchers think that this scent exchange is in order to form a “colony scent.” A colony is a group of cats who live together or a home or other environment.

Once the first scent exchange takes place and the new cat has the colony scent, it signals to the other cats in the group that the new cat belongs and is a member of the family (or colony).

It’s like being initiated into an exclusive club – a sorority or something like that.

So, why do cats put their butts in our faces?

Now that you know why cats show their butts to other cats, you can pretty much guess why they do it to you too.

They like you, accept you, and trust you. Showing you their butt is the “seal of approval”.

Even though this behavior is rooted in how cats greet other cats, that doesn’t mean that your cat wants you to give their bum a sniff. This is not advised for obvious reasons.

You’re being manipulated!

Your cat might be doing it because they’re feeling affectionate, but often they do it because they want something.

Often this is part of your cat’s plan to get food or treats. Cats know just how to push our buttons to get what they want!

**AUTHOR’S NOTE** My cats love to put their butts in my faces as soon as I wake up. This is their version of politely asking for breakfast!

Image Source

Start thinking like a cat!

Getting a close-up of your cat’s butt may not seem pleasant at first, but if you start thinking like a cat, you’ll realize that your cat is really giving you a great compliment.

To them, you’re an honorary member of their family. Your cat is showing you that they feel at ease with you and that you’re their person.

It’s the best compliment, and we humans should receive it as such, even if it’s a little stinky.

QUESTION: Does your cat put its butt in your face? Did you know that it was such a high honor or do you wish your cat would stop doing it?

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Friday 4th of June 2021

We have a bunch of felines. They all look at me as the Alpha as I've always behaved very much as an alpha and train them hard. Inside is my territory, outside is theirs. They know the drill, they know they are loved too. I used to let my cats on the bed, but not anymore given they do roam outside during the day. Its not fun sleeping in cat crumbs, soil and whatnot that they carry on them in between grooming sessions, same rule for dogs we've had. Ok, the butt thing. I discourage it, and encourage headbutting instead. I'm grateful for their trust and inclusion, but I'm seriously not into parasites, so am careful about handling litter box waste and avoid any exposure to their butts. Yes, they are medicated at proscribed intervals, however this doesn't stop all types of parasite. Pregnant women ought to be extra cautious of toxoplasma gondii, a parasite which is common in felines. This parasite may cross into the placenta and cause birth defects. So while your fur baby's third eye may amuse you, remember it isn't a healthy thing for you to be exposed to.

Christine Grabar

Wednesday 2nd of October 2019

My cats have also given me their back ends at times -- those silly willies! Like some of you I would gently move their butts away from me at times.


Friday 13th of September 2019

Our cats put their butts in our faces day and night. If I'm sitting on the sofa, at least one will stand on my lap and slowly wave his/her tail in my face. They do it in bed, too. One cat likes to lie on my pillow before I can get in bed, and sometime during the night, that butt is in my face! We love our kitties, but if the butt is too close to my face, I will try to turn the cat around...and then there is 15 minutes of grooming themselves!


Monday 29th of April 2019

I did know this! I have 7 beautiful cats and they all put their butt in my face at some point during the day, but Gus really loves and trusts me! He is a beautiful 10 year old tabby and sleeps on a pillow next to me with his butt as close as he can get! I have to gently move him so his butt is not right in my face! If I turn over, he just moves to the other side! I love him dearly, and love that he loves me, but sometimes I wish just not so much! LOL..NOT!

Jane I. Miller Fuller

Sunday 28th of April 2019

I kinda figured this out many years ago. But we love our fur babies unconditionally no matter what they do. But having our babies pass away or having to be put down is the true test of love.Now I have another tuxedo baby he's only 10 months old and he's definitely testing my patience. My husband loves cats but not before he met me, now when we lose one he cries like a baby.