Understanding your pet’s behavior and personal tastes are all part of being a pet parent. Cats, in particular, are known for their very specific preferences. But due to an unfortunate language barrier, we never quite know why our pets like certain things more than others. But now, new research has revealed that cats love getting their head scratched so much because it reminds them of being groomed by their mother as a kitten. It also releases scent glands which can cause a pleasurable response in your cat.
When an owner scratches their cat’s head, it reinforces bonding and the maternal or paternal role of the owner, and feline experts suggest that it serves as a reminder for the cat to groom himself.
“The head and neck are some key areas groomed but mum cats groom their kitties all over until they are old enough to take care of coat care on their own,” said Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a professor emeritus at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.
The scent glands on top of cat’s head serve an important purpose for marking territory and spreading a soothing scent that cats find very calming, which could explain why your cat is fond of butting his head up against you.
“When cats scent mark objects with their cheeks and chin, they are simply leaving an olfactory reminder of their erstwhile present,” Dodman said.
Dogs are also fond of a good head scratch, but canine behavior experts recommend treading carefully as touching the head can be seen as a sign of dominance. While many dogs love getting their ears and head scratched, it’s best to spot any signals that your dog is giving off to let you know to stay away from that area.
Not all cats and dogs are created the same, so it’s always best to read your pet’s body language before you start lunging for a chin or head scratch. However, if your cat is calm and purring away when you scratch their head, it’s probably because it reminds them of their mother.