A bum in your face is a good thing!
Growing up with animals, you get used to the weird things they do.
Puppies like to dig in the dirt with their noses or eat each others poop (don’t worry, your pup will likely grow out of it – maybe!).
Cats and kittens are typically very clean creatures and highly sensitive to smell. They sleep a lot and they self groom a lot too. If they have siblings / partners (not necessarily of the feline type), they will groom them too.
This act of grooming each other is called allogrooming. Yup there is a word for it – and it is an important part of the bond between cats.
Cats that groom each other are pretty special – they save you tons on Q-tips to clean the ears!
Cats groom each other for multiple reasons, one is for a social bonding. But it is also a practical need, especially in the head / neck areas that are difficult for self grooming. You may see your cat tilt its head to show off the neck area to another, this is a cooperative invitation for grooming.
Allogroomers (the cat giving the grooming) are often the dominant one. It is also a way of showing their “rank” (this is probably more accurate in wild cats than domestic). Allogroomees (the cat receiving grooming) are typically the more laid back cats. In most cases each cat will reciprocate (wild cats not so much).
But then comes that private area – the cat bum!
Most cats are rather particular about their own bums, and it can result in a wrestling match when one tries to sniff another bum. I am sure you have all seen the mouth open expression on the bum sniffer (they are taking in the aroma – I kid you not!)!
Sniffing each others bum is a form of checking identity for cats (I know it is weird!). It is also a form of greeting (apparently!).
Cats use their sense of smell as a form of communication – and the bum can tell them a lot about the cat they are sniffing!
The sniffing of a rear end can also establish dominance. The dominant cat will usually initiate the sniffing, while the more submissive cat waits his turn. A submissive cat may end the sniffing with a hasty retreat. Some cats are shy and like to limit the information they give out, so they will simply sit down and clamp their tails over their bum, reducing the odor they emit.
Bottom line – sniffing bums is a healthy, socially acceptable form of feline communication.
In our cat family, Ophelia is the bum sniffer – she is the boss! Rocky doesn’t care when she does, but then again they have been together since birth. Shady will sometimes get agitated and run away (with a pitiful meow!) – this is his sign of submission.
Now to the cat bum / human interaction. This is very important for many cats and their owners. It really is a sign of trust.
Showing their rear puts a cat into a vulnerable position. It is a form of absolute trust towards the person whom they are shoving their bum in the face.
This is typically a request for affection. And when you give the affection and start to scratch the back near the tail, you will likely get a cat-bum rising situation – this is the cats way of communicating that they are enjoying themselves.
So don’t worry when your cat sits with its back to you – it is not a sign of discontent – it is a sign of love and trust – especially when they lay on you.
Some of us may have cats that are not especially fussy about keeping their bums clean when they do their business. I can be seen running around my flat with a cat wet-wipe after Shady – he is a hot mess of a gorgeous cat! I want to get his stinky bum bits before he sits down anywhere!
Thankfully he is used to having his bum wiped every now and then, and the playful running continues after a quick wiping up the bum mess.
Enjoy your fur babies and feel blessed with a bum in your face.