How Cats Say Hello

LOL cat-butt sniffing-hello-cat wisdom 101-behavior

You’d think cats who live together would recognize each other by sight, but that’s not always true. Since cats have peripheral vision designed to track prey, they don’t see well up close but their sense of smell makes up for it. The universal way how cats say hello, is the classic butt sniff. This holds true for cats who have lived together for years, introducing a new cat indoors or cats greeting each other outdoors.

Anal sacs located on either side of the anus are an olfactory smorgasbord offering cats a “Google search” of scent identification. Cats can also say hello, by head-butting or bonking which trigger the release of scent glands and reinforce their social bonds. Licking and grooming each other is a sure sign two cats have bonded and consider each other family. If a cat does that to us, it means they’ve accepted us as one of them.  Seeing formerly feral Domino and Merlin groom each other lately is especially heartwarming.

In this photo, Merlin is sniffing Odin. Note how Odin is offering his butt to Merlin to smell. This butt display not only shows the behavior for saying hello and who are you? but also their bond. Odin is assuming the position a kitten would to their feline mom who would clean their butt. It’s the same reason a cat shows their butt to humans. They’re saying, “Hi, how are you, mom?”

They don’t expect a lick, but a nice pat on the rump will do.

19 Comments

on “How Cats Say Hello
19 Comments on “How Cats Say Hello
  1. Gee, I’ll have to be nicer to the cats when they stick their butts in my face. I usually just give them an “Ewww (fill in name)” then give them a scratch at the base of their tail. I prefer the head bumps or kisses. My first cat would wrap her arms around my neck and then bump me under the chin. I wish I had more cats that did that.
    Oui Oui recently posted…Inappropriate Santa!

    • Abby, so true. Cats and their creative means of communication fascinate every single day.
      Oui Oui, you’re doing the right thing by giving them a scratch which completes the process.

  2. Good information. With all these cats here, I have never noticed them doing that butt sniffing. Guess I need to pay more attention. I think the guys that live in the house recognize each other. I know they are all very careful of Little Bit. And I know they don’t sniff her butt. She wouldn’t allow it. Maybe just boy kitties do it.
    Take care.
    Marg recently posted…Thankful Thurs.

    • Marg, good to see you making your blog comment rounds given the loss of BB. Sending continued purrs and prayers. re: butt-sniffing, it’s a not a gender thing. Most cats do it but some prefer headbutts or some other form of contact as social bonding.

    • Caren, thanks and LOL about Dakota’s obsession!
      @Brian, waving works, as does all kinds of brushing up against.
      @Chey, some say there is a link between the butt sniffing and food identification which makes sense.
      @Carolyn, yes it finally happened, he’s 100% at home.

  3. My guy Skeeter gives me tail luv..he wraps his tail around my leg and pats me with it and I greet him with a gentle tug on his tail.Skeeter’s tail is his “voice”. My little girl Izzy gives me head butts. Both groom me from time to time and Izzy grooms Skeeter. They head butt and butt sniff each other sometimes and at times Izzy will sniff Skeeter all over ….sometimes rooting thru the fur to the skin up his back to see where he has been. I always feel very honored when I am sniffed,bathed or am deemed cuddle worthy by my feline family.

  4. As an only-cat Sam doesn’t have a lot of chance to butt sniff – there’s one neighborhood cat who Sam allows on our porch and THEY warily approach each other and touch noses but that’s about it. I have had cats who indulged in these activities before though and I love that it’s a sign of caring and friendship to allow such a – er – um – PURRSONAL intrusion as the old butt sniff!!!!!

    Pam
    Pam Kimmell recently posted…Bragging On My Mom

  5. The mom speaks:

    Interesting article. Milo grooms Alfie when he’s not smack-pawing him (nails in though) and they seem genuinely fond of each other, although Alfie doesn’t groom Milo. Milo also washes his dad but never washes me ~ and Alfie doesn’t wash either of us but he does give us the sweetest, gentlest nose to nose taps.
    Jan x
    Milo and Alfie recently posted…Thursday …

  6. My cat Twinky head butts and bonks my head every morning when I first wake up!! Well…..hello there Twinky!! I guess he has accepted me!! Better…I rescued him from a Feral Mama who used to live at my place!!!

    • Kathryn, it’s thrilling. Purrs to Ched.
      @Deb, that’s wonderful news!
      @Alfie & Milo, nose taps, washing, it’s all social bonding.
      @Rumpy, LOL, about verification.
      @Pam, thanks for the reminder that not all cat perform the “butt display for their humans.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>