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Why Does My Cat Nudge My Hand?

If your cat is nudging your hand it may seem cute to some, but annoying to others. And, it may intrigue you to understand why it is happing…

Why does my cat nudge my hand?

When your cat is nudging your hand then they are getting your attention, most commonly in cases where grooming is expected. Often this nudge is followed by a lick of the hand, which if just a further affirmation that this is the case.

So, now you know why. But, is this a good sign, or not? Where should I pet my cat when it nudges me? Why does it nudge me and nobody else? Keep reading for these answers, and much more…

What is cat nudging?

A cat staring.

A cat staring.

When your cat ‘nudges’ you, we are referring to when the cat pushes their nose or the side of their cheeks against you and pulls their head up. Your cat has many scent glands in their face, specifically in the forehead, lips, chin, and cheeks, and the nudging behavior helps to pass their scents along to you.

It also helps them to gauge your scents and by rubbing against you, they can further test these scents by licking their own fur. Basically, your cat loves you and wants you to smell like they do!

Is it a good sign if your cat nudges your hand?

Yes. When your cat nudges your hand, it is a sign of both affection and a deep trust. Your cat is showing that they love you and it’s a bit of a possessive love, as transferring their scent to you is also a way of saying to other animals that ‘this person is mine’.

It also helps them to relax and to feel safe and you’ll see scent marking in other behaviors if you know how to look. Cats also have scent glands in their paws and when you see them kneading a surface, it is for a similar purpose to nudging. Their transferring their scents to people and places that they like and feel like they ‘own’.

Where should I pet my cat when it nudges my hand?

Cats have odd behavior sometimes and if you pet them the wrong way or in the wrong place, a playful nip will often be the result of your troubles. Generally petting your cat’s head as a response to the nudging is your best bet for avoiding this, but pay attention to the cats body language.

Start by stroking the top of your cat’s head lightly and then hold your hand (click here if its squeezing it) rigidly in place for a moment. Your cat will rub against your hand, letting you know exactly where they wish to be petted so try to stick to only petting these areas.

Due to the many scent glands in their faces, this is where the scent transfer is most effectively accomplished, and that is why petting their head is the best place to start when you get nudged for attention!

Why does my cat only nudge my hand and nobody else?

Some cats are friendly with everyone, but more commonly they are very picky and particular about who they choose to share their affection with. Your cat is singling you out because they love and trust you very much.

Even if the same cat allows other people to pet them, this is not the same as nudging, so when your cat only nudges you then you are being paid a huge and very deliberate compliment. Think of it as your cat saying ‘I choose you!’.

Why does my cat nudge my hand when it’s on my lap?

Known as ‘bunting’ or ‘head butting’, when your cat nudges against you while already warm and cozy in your lap, then this means that they are affectionately telling you that you are theirs. Not only this, in some cases it also means ‘you’re mine and you should give me attention now’.

This is a great time to take advantage and rub your cat’s chin or scratch behind their ears and a lot of purring and further bunting is likely to follow.

Why does my cat follow me around and nudge me?

When your cat is following you around and giving you nudges, it generally means one or more of 3 things. First off, if you’ve just come in from the outside, then they might be ‘freshening up’ the volume of their scents on you.

Cats also do this as a way to get attention, so that you will pet them, and finally, your feline friend may be politely telling you that the food bowl is looking a little neglected and could use a refill.

Why does my cat nudge my hand then lick it?

A brown cat.

A cat licking its owners hand.

When cats live together with other cat, they commonly groom themselves and each other, to regulate their body temperatures, stay clean, and to spread their own scents around. Cats have about 200 times the olfactory senses that humans does and having their scent present in their environments is important for them to feel safe and secure. 

Could a cat nudge you just to bond with you?

Definitely yes! Your cat is marking and remarking you with their scent and this is a huge part of bonding. Cats don’t feel comfortable around people or places that don’t have their scents attached to them.

 In the wild, while these predators can wake and pounce in a heartbeat from even a deep sleep, they simply aren’t going to be comfortable with the wrong scents in the area.

This behavior continues into domesticity and so while you can’t really smell it, your cat has put their scents all over your shared home and you are definitely included on the list.

Why does my cat nudge & rub against hard things?

When your cat is nudging and rubbing against hard things in the house, this is just a way of marking their territory with familiar scents while getting the equivalent of a head-scratch at the same time! You might notice them purring from this and they’ll have favorite items that they will do this with, because it spreads their scents and it just feels so good!

Do cats like to be stroked?

Most cats like to be stroked, but not all of them. It depends on the cat and many cats are quite fickle, enjoying attention one moment but giving you a glare the next!

With cats, as long as you pay attention to their body language, you can get a pretty good idea but watch out – they can change their minds quickly and you’ll get a light nip for your troubles.

Don’t take it personally, cats are just peculiar and very particular about when and for how long they want attention. Now, if a cat that is normally affectionate is showing signs that they do not wish to be touched, then this should be viewed as a warning flag and a vet visit would be a good idea at this time.

The reason for this is that cats are notoriously good at hiding when they have been physically harmed or fallen ill. A sudden aversion to touch that wasn’t there before is one of the only clues you might get, so if you see this behavior then it’s time for a check-up.

If you have a new cat that is simply taking awhile to warm up to you, then you might try giving them treats and lightly stroking their fur while they eat them – if they allow it. With new cats, you don’t want to push them, but with treats, toys, and some judicious sprinkles of catnip then your new kitty should quickly warm up to allowing you to pet them.

Just be patient with the process and see what happens!

Lindsey Browlingdon