The actual term is "bunting". Regardless of what you call it, it definitely involves the sense of smell. A cat's sense of smell defines life for your cat. For cats, scent determines sexual status. They also use this sense of smell to communicate and interact socially with each other, as well as to identify territory. To put this in perspective, people average five to 20 million scent-analyzing cells lining their nose. Cats have about 67 million.
Cats have scent glands in their toes, chin, cheeks, lips, forehead, and tail. Bunting spreads your kitten’s signature odor upon whatever they rub, and this “sharing of the scent” identifies family members and safe objects with familiar odor. Bunting is a huge compliment when Kitty head-bumps you, or rubs your ankles and twines their tail about your leg. They're marking you as part of their family, a favorite part of their territory or property.
Face rubbing is thought to be a subtle sign of deference with the subordinate kitty approaching and bumping/rubbing against the more dominant pet or person. This exposes eyes to the other cat's teeth and claws, so head bumps and cheek rubs to your face (or another cat’s face) should be considered a sign of friendship and great trust.
Nose touches and hip leans are considered by your kitten to be gestures of friendship. You may notice Kitty cheek-rub as a greeting behavior, too, after you come home from work. They are bunting to freshen the “family scent” and so welcome you home.
Social grooming—that is, kittens grooming each other or even you!—is also thought to figure into this mechanism of sharing familiar scent. You’ll know your kitten considers you, the dog, or the other cats a true part of the family when they want to clean you.
Of course, there's always exceptions to the rule, mainly Grumpy Cat, who has some definite opinions!
Ouch! That wasn't love at all! On this wonderful day, let's consider these feelings instead.
And last, but not least:
Hope you have a wonderful day, readers! As always, we look forward to your comments and feedback about the blog. Happy Valentine's Day!
Marion Lovato is the author of Sam, the Superkitty. Her book describes an ordinary cat changing into a superhero to protect his family from things that go bump in the night. Available on Amazon as a paperback or Kindle edition. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1604588667