If you have a cat, you’ve probably experienced this scenario a few times: you are browsing your phone, checking your messages, or scrolling through TikTok when suddenly your cat comes up to you and starts rubbing her face on your phone. She might even try to knock it out of your hand or bite it gently. What is she trying to tell you? Is she jealous of your phone? Is she marking it as her territory? Is she just being cute?
My cat is pretty aggressive about it; she will nudge my phone harder and harder until it falls on the ground, or I move it enough for her to have the space she wants to lay down. It may seem super annoying at the time – but I promise, your cat isn’t actually trying to be annoying.
Your Cat is Scent Marking Your Phone
One of the main reasons why cats rub their faces on phones is to mark them with their scent. Cats have scent glands on their cheeks, forehead, chin, ears, and neck. When they rub their faces on objects or people, they transfer their pheromones, which are chemical signals that convey information about their identity, mood, health, and reproductive status.
Cats use scent marking for two reasons – establishing territory/ownership and communication.
In this case, your cat is saying, “This strange object is mine, and mine alone!”
Although, it would be nice if their claim of ownership extended to paying the bill!
Your cat will also leave their scent on objects to communicate with you and other animals – of course, your underdeveloped nose can’t pick that up, but your cat doesn’t know that. To them, they are leaving their scent to let others know they are around.
Your Cat Wants Your Attention
Cats are intelligent animals that know how to get what they want – case in point, they domesticated us a few thousand years ago.
Cats are social animals, and they can crave interaction and stimulation from their owners (sometimes). They may meow excessively or rub up against whatever you’re holding, among other things, to get your attention.
So what is it your cat wants? Do they want to curl up in your lap for a nap, or do they want 30 seconds of petting? That’s up to you to figure out – but they likely want something.
Cats Show Affection by Rubbing
When cats have something or someone that they really REALLY like, they rub their face on it. It sounds strange when it’s put like that, but it all comes back to scent marking and how cats process scents.
Given how frequently most people are on their phones nowadays, to a cat, your phone seems like an extension of you rather than a completely separate object.
By rubbing their scent glands against your phone, they are both picking up your scent as well as leaving their own – showing that they love you or an object.
If you want to see what I’m talking about, watch your cat on a cat tree. I’ve genuinely watched my cat rub her face on every square inch of that thing. At first, it seemed extremely strange since I don’t frequently rub my face on the things I like – but it makes so much sense now. My cat loves her cat tree.
Your cat loves you and, by extension, your phone. Take the compliment!
Your Cats Food Bowl is Empty
I’m sure there are many people who need this, so here’s your reminder to go refill your cat’s food bowl.
But don’t worry, if you’re reading this when you aren’t at home – your cat will let you know as soon as they can see the bare bottom of the bowl. When cats are hungry, they will do whatever it takes to get food. If that means nudging your phone out of your hand to get your attention, then that’s what it takes.
I love my German shepherd to death, but he’d be screwed without me – my cat would figure it out.
Your Phone Smells Like You
Many animals, cats included, live life through their sense of smell. Your phone smells like you, so when they notice it, they recognize their favorite person – You! They get so happy they just can’t help but rub all over it.
You might notice the same thing with your pillow, blankets, and dirty laundry. They are happily basking in your smell!
Cats rub their face on things to check for scent marks and gather information about their surroundings. Once they have found a scent, they may repeatedly rub against it as they process what it is.
Depending on how strong the scent is, they can tell how long ago someone was at the object and who they are.
Cats often use head rubbing or head butting as a greeting. Think about when you come home from work: does your cat come up and rub against your leg? If they do, they are basically saying, “Hi, welcome home!”
The same activity is seen in all felines, including lions. When lions return from a hunt, one of the first things they do is rub their faces on each other. A way of saying, “I’m back, I’m safe.”
How to Stop Your Cat From Rubbing Her Face On Your Phone
You can’t. Plain and simple.
If you want your cat to stop rubbing their face on your phone, what you really want is for your cat to not act like a cat.
Cats rubbing their face on you or other objects is a normal bonding behavior – take the time to enjoy it and appreciate their companionship.
In the moments when you do need your cat to leave you or your phone alone, figure out what they want. They might just want some food or a few seconds of your time before they are on their way again.