Cat asks to have his head petted. Why do cats like this so much?

Through sign language, this sweet cat asks to have his head rubbed and when the person duly obliges he is in heaven. This is an animated .gif, which means a series of photographs in a loop so it is short and repetitive but the point is made, cats learn by observation and they can ask for the things they like which confirms their intelligence. Does your cat ask for something specific that she likes, something a bit different perhaps?

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

You might have a different interpretation on this little video but what I see is a cat showing the person what he wants to happen by rubbing his head with his paws and then expecting the person to deliver. He emphasises his request by going up on his hind legs to get nearer to his human companion who of course is much larger and too distant.

My cat loves the top of his head and the back of his neck being rubbed or to simply feeling the pressure of my hand against him in that area. It puts him into a state of euphoria almost, which begs the question why?

The obvious answer is that this is another – let’s call it a reverse example – of head-butting. When a cat head butts they put pressure on their head normally against the chin or face of the recipient human. This is ‘scent exchange’. Putting their body scent on the person and the person putting their scent on them. It makes them feel better when their scent is deposited on their human companion because it surrounds themselves with their scent and it merges human with cat from the point of view of smell (body odour).

More than scent exchange?

But I think this is more than simply scent exchange. I think it goes back to being a newborn kitten. I’m not sure why putting pressure on a cat’s head feels so good but perhaps it rekindles a subconscious memory of the time when a newborn kitten is feeding at his mother’s breast. It may be something like that or perhaps it is the heat+pressure from the hand. I have a feeling that it might be. I don’t know.

Cats – like the cat you see in the video – often raise themselves up like this because they are living with the human animal who is considerably larger which presents a barrier to the usual interactions that domestic cats perform one to another. It makes you wonder how cats perceive us. Do they recognise the fact that we are so much larger and therefore cannot be the same species of animal as them? Or do they put that obvious observation to one side and instinctively relate to us as another cat, their surrogate mother?

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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