Why Do Cats Rub Their Teeth On You?

Why Do Cats Rub Their Teeth On You

As a cat owner, it is normal to see your cat rubbing on your legs and furniture in your home. Your cat may also rub her face on things.  However, your kitty may also tend to rub her mouth and teeth on you which you may find confusing or even alarming. 

Why do cats rub their teeth on you?

Cats may rub their teeth on you to mark you as their territory since they have scent glands on their faces. By rubbing their teeth and face on you they are transferring these scent glands to mark you as their own. However, some cat experts note that a cat’s intention may not be to rub their teeth on you since it is not quite possible to pull their lips back for a cat’s teeth to be able to touch a person. Some cat experts theorize that a cat may just be rubbing the side of her muzzle against you to mark you with her scent. 

When cats rub the side of their muzzle against a person, their lips may partially part so that it looks like they want to rub their teeth on you.  In transferring their scent glands located in that area, their mouth may partially open which gives the impression that it is their teeth that they are rubbing on you. There are scent glands in a cat’s muzzle, cheeks, top of the head and the area around the eyebrows. These scent glands are called perioral glands and are located on the side of the muzzle or lavender spots as well as cheek glands which are located on each cheek. 

Aside from marking you as their territory, cats may also rub on you with their face or muzzle, also called bunting, to display their affection and fondness. It may also be their way to catch your attention and to indicate that she wants to cuddle or be petted. 

Why does my cat rub her gums on me?

Cats may rub their gums, mouth and teeth simply to show their love and affection to their owners. When cats rub against things or persons they release and leave their scent glands on them as a way to mark their territory. Most cats rub their gums, faces or bodies toward persons they are affectionate with and may usually do this when they meet you at the door upon arriving home in the evening. 

Cats may also do this before feeding time to indicate that they are hungry and ready for their meals. It is also a form of socialization not only toward humans but between cats and other pets and you may also notice that cats rub their bodies on pets like dogs in the household. 

Can cats smell with their mouths?

Yes, cats can smell with their mouths and this is aptly referred to as the Flehmen response.  Have you noticed your cat opening her mouth slightly and she looks like she is snarling? Most likely, she is trying to decipher a scent or smell with the use of her mouth.  Just as cats have at least 40 times more scent-sensitive cells than humans, the Flehmen response helps them to verify the smell more clearly. 

Flehmen response is from the German term “flehmen” which means “to bare the upper teeth”. The behavior is characterized by curling back the upper lip to expose the front teeth, inhaling with the nostrils closed and holding the position for at least a few seconds. Cats usually do it over some sight or substance that piques their interest and usually performed while the neck is stretched and the head is held up high in the air. 

Jacobson’s organ, a unique organ located on the roof of the mouth and behind the front teeth intensifies a cat’s sense of smell and may allow them the ability to taste the air. Male cats tend to manifest the Flehmen response phenomenon more compared to the female cats and they may utilize it especially during mating season to check if a female cat is in heat by smelling her pheromones.

Why are scents important to cats?

Cats have a superior sense of smell and it is essential for them as they use scents to identify the members of their clan or colony. With the aid of their sense of smell, felines can mark territories with scents as well as announce fertility, reinforce bonds or manifest aggression to other cats. When cats rub things and persons with the scent glands on their face or head they are signifying friendliness and affection. 

Scratching objects with her paws may mean a cat is marking her territory and letting her presence known to cats near her. Scent glands or pheromones in a cat’s urine may indicate aggressiveness since cats use urine to signify stress and excitement. 

Final thoughts

Cats are territorial by nature and rubbing their teeth, face and body on you signifies that they are marking you as their territory and that they own you. Cat experts note that felines may not actually be rubbing their teeth on you but that it is their muzzle that they are rubbing on you since it is where scent glands are located. Cats may also rub on you to signify their love and affection, as a means of socialization and to catch your attention.