Every cat owner has likely experienced it. You come home from a long day at work and plop yourself down on the nearest comfy surface. Your cat jumps up next to you, kneading away, their engine already purring. You’re primed and ready to pet and give your kitty some well-earned scritches behind the ear when Mr. Socks turns around and sticks his furry little bum in your face.
We’re the first to admit that this sudden about-face can be a bit of an unpleasant sight, especially if your cat is a bit lax on their, uh, grooming sessions back there.
But even though the court-side view of your cat's rear isn't the most amazing view, take it as a compliment. It’s your cat’s way of saying, “Hey, I trust you and you make me feel safe."
The presentation of their bum is a sign of trust. When your cat turns around, she is putting herself in a vulnerable position, possibly opening herself up for an attack. But by giving you a gander at her caboose, your cat's signaling that she feels safe and secure around you.
Cats communicate through a combination of scent and body language - a raised tail is a sign of friendship and affection. It is also an invitation for other cats to come give them a sniff and learn all about their day, offering full access to all of the olfactory details about them found in their scent. It's essentially a way for cats to introduce themselves, akin to a handshake, and get to know each other better.
Cats also have scent glands around their ears, mouth, and at the base of their tail, and use these scent glands to not only mark territory but to essentially "mark" their people, saying, "This is my human, other cats beware!"
So when your cat shoves her but in your face, she's asking you for affection - but also for a bit of reaffirmation of your social bond. When you pet your cat, you simultaneously depositing your scent from the glands on your hand and picking up her scent, which cats regard as being social.
So the next time your cat comes in for a cuddle with her behind, take it for what it is: a compliment and sign of love, trust, and affection.
Note: Originally published 2018.