Q:My cat frequently turns around and puts her floofy behind in my face Doesn't matter if I’m on my computer in the middle of a Zoom meeting or watching TV on the couch. Why do cats put their butts in your face? Is this normal?
A: Yes, it’s normal. Your cat is most likely just trying to communicate with you as cats do.
You’re having a pleasant evening, sitting on your couch watching that Netflix show that everyone on your Twitter feed has been talking about, when your cat jumps into your lap. You think that maybe they want you to scratch their head or rub their back, but…nope. Instead, they turn around and put their butt right in your face.
This isn’t the first time that your cat’s, uh, given you that particular vantage point, and they’re definitely not the first cat to do this. “Why do cats always put their butts in your face?” has been a frequent topic on subreddits like r/ExplainLikeImFive and r/NoStupidQuestions. So what gives?
A cat showing you their butt is a normal behavior among cats themselves, particularly among feline friends. It likely means they trust you and probably want attention.
It’s Common in Cat Conversations
We’re humans, so we tend to analyze our pets’ behaviors as if they’re four-legged people. We’d (probably) never kick off an interpersonal interaction by shoving our butts into someone else’s personal space, but it’s not uncommon during cat conversations.
“To analyze cat communication we need to look at all body language signals as well as the context of the behavior,” says Pittsburgh-based cat behaviorist Patience Fisher ACCBC, CVA, DipFBST, BSBIO, owner of Patience for Cats LLC.
While Fisher isn’t aware of any research on the behavior, “what I can tell you is that cats live in a world of scent. They sniff each other's pee and poop, so there must be information in it. And they sniff each other's rear ends sometimes.”
It’s Not for Every Cat
Cats can be selective about which other cats get to see their butts, according to Fisher.
“I’ve had cases of cats that don’t get along, and have seen one cat sniff the other’s rear, and that one will whirl around, sometimes even swatting [at] the sniffer,” she says. “I’ve also seen [cat] friends do this, and the other cat has no issue with it. So it seems to be something that is only tolerated between friends.”
What Are Cats Trying to Tell Us With Their Butts?
There have been suggestions that this is an instinctive behavior, and that cats backing into your face with their tails up is a throwback to how kittens would allow their mothers to clean them. (It’s for the best if you don’t think too hard about that sentence.) This particular presentation could also be your cat’s way of demonstrating that he trusts you, or feels affectionate toward you.
“If the cat is being friendly to the person by purring and rubbing on them, has relaxed ears and a relaxed body, and then puts his rear end in their face, it is likely a friendly gesture,” Fisher says.
It could also be because they want something from you, like to be petted or food, and “rubbing and purring did not get them the attention they were seeking.”