Why Do Cats Rub Their Gums On Things? ( A Puzzling Habit?)

Do you know that cats walk like camels?

They will move both their right legs first then followed by their left legs!

Cats are pretty amazing and mysterious creatures if you think about it. There are so many things about cats that we still scratch our heads about.

Even though cats can be an enigma, we get to understand them better through the power of observation and deduction.

For example, when cats meow to communicate, knead with their paws or even attempt to suffocate you in your sleep by sitting on your face.

But what does it mean when cats rub their gums or teeth on things?

When cats rub their teeth or gum on things, it usually means that they are marking you as their territory. Cats have scent glands that leave their scent on things that they rub against. This helps to recognize its territory and friends.

In this article, we will be expanding more on the above as well as touch on other possible reasons for this behavior.

Let’s dig in.

Why Do Cats Rub On Things?

To further understand this behavior, we need to look at the rationale behind it when it comes to cats.

Cats communicate largely by scent. This happens when they are trying to investigate something new or when flirting with a new cat. Cats smell other cats to determine if they are friend or foe.

This might seem rather strange to us humans as we communicate very differently from our feline friends.

We do it mostly with sight and by speaking.

There isn’t much info that we can gather about someone from the way they smell unless they smell bad. Then we know they need to do better when it comes to personal hygiene.

But with cats, they are able to pick up encrypted messages in another’s cat smell or pheromones.

Male cats know when female cats are ready to mate just by smelling them.

It is a common sight to see your cat rubbing on things like your phone to mark its scent. Cats have scent glands located on various parts of their bodies like on their paw pads, anus, mouth and cheek area.

This is why it seems like the cub is rubbing its gum or teeth on things when they are marking their scent.

Your Cat Considers You As Family

Why does my cat smell so good

Do you know that your cat sees you as a big bald cat?

I am honored to be considered as one of its kind except for the bald part.

Cats are very territorial in nature and they have an inclination to mark areas that they frequent or cats that get along with.

When cats rub their gums or teeth against their owners, it is their way of saying “You belong to me!”

And it also serves as a warning to other cats that you are spoken for and are no longer available.

It is quite a loving gesture if you see it from a cat’s point of view.

This behavior goes back to when cats are kittens. They are born blind and deaf but have the ability to use their noses properly.

Mother cats will always be licking her kittens to groom them but more importantly to impart her scent on them so that they can recognize her.

Kittens will also leave their scent on mommy cat by kneading (making biscuits) on her. Littermates will groom and lick each other to mutually exchange scents.

Given that cats are so reliant on scent, most mother cats and kittens don’t recognize each other when separated for a period of time. They can even act aggressively toward each other when reunited.

You can also see your cat rubbing its mouth against areas close to its feeding and sleeping areas as these are crucial spots for your cat.

Even if you have one cat at home, it will still continue to mark its territory purely out of feline instinct.

Cats rub on things all the time.

Why Are Scents Important To Cats?

Cats rely very heavily on smell just like how the sense of sight is to humans. Cats use smell to identify friend or foe within their own social hierarchy and colonies.

During mating season, male cats and female cat use their sense of smell and pheromones to attract potential mates.

A Sign Of Dental Issues

If you find your cat rubbing its teeth or gums on your more than usual, it could be that cat is having dental problems.

Your cat is doing so because as cats rub their teeth or gums against a hard surface, the pressure might provide some temporary relief from the pain or discomfort.

Dental problems and diseases are very common in cats of all ages. This can be due to the type of diet that they are on or an underlying medical condition.

Dental issues are very painful for your cat and can lead to other health problems if left untreated.

Diet Type

It has long been believed by many cat owners that feeding their feline friends dry food helps with oral hygiene. This is due to dry food being harder in texture forcing the cat to chew on it more.

But many studies have shown that dry food doesn’t do much to help with your cat’s oral hygiene. It is as good as someone telling you that eating donuts help brush their teeth.

Dry cat food is also very high in carbohydrates which stick to your cat’s teeth and encourage the growth of plaque. Hence it becomes a vicious cycle.

There is also no moisture in dry food which can contribute to dental diseases. Our cats evolved from desert-dwelling animals which makes them not drink as much water as required which further adds to this problem.


For cats that have FELV (Feline Leukaemia) or FIV (Feline aids), they are more prone to contracting dental diseases.

This is due to the nature of such viruses which suppresses your cat’s immune system thus making it harder for them to fight off any dental problems.

Common Types Of Dental Problems In Cats

Here are some of the more common dental diseases that your cat can suffer from.


Gingivitis refers to the inflammation of the gums that surrounds your cat’s teeth. This is one of the most common types of dental disease and is widely found in many cats.

Gingivitis can range from mild with just some redness and swelling to severe gingivitis where there can be bleeding and tooth decay.


Periodontitis is a more advanced case of gum disease and affects mostly older or elderly cats. The cat’s gums are usually almost eroded thus exposing the roots of the tooth. This causes the tooth to be very loose and needs to be extracted.


A cat suffering from stomatitis is having an inflammation of its entire oral cavity and not just its gums. This can be a very painful condition for your cat as its entire mouth is inflamed.

Tooth Fracture

If your cat is hyperactive and has the tendency to jump and climb on higher ground, it might be possible that it has a featured tooth from knocking into something hard or falling down.

A fractured tooth can be painful for a cat as the nerves are already damaged from the impact.


Here are some common symptoms that your cat will show if it is having dental problems:

  • Rubbing its mouth against a hard surface
  • Constantly pawning at its mouth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Bleeding and swollen gums
  • Eating and chewing from only one side
  • Unable to close its mouth properly
  • Bad breathe

If you notice your cat showing a few of these symptoms, please bring it to the vet right away. Your vet will have to access your cat’s dental condition and get it sorted. Usual treatments will be a thorough cleaning of your cat’s teeth and gums, extraction and antibiotics.

Your Cat Is Being Curious

A cat’s curiosity is pretty similar to my love for desserts. It is insatiable and there’s always room for more.

When cats are curious about something and someone, they will make use of all of their senses to investigate. Besides using their noses to decipher the scent, cats rub their mouth against the object to try and collect the scent.

It can seem rather far fetched when I saw that cats can smell with their mouths.

But it is true.

This is process is called the flehmen response.

Cats can flick scent particles on their tongue to the top of their mouths. There is an organ situated there called the Jacobson’s organ that can help cats in analyzing scents and the pheromones of the other cats.

Once the at is satisfied that the person or object isn’t harmful, they will attempt to mark it with their scent glands.

Teething Kittens

Can you remember those younger days when your mouth is always feeling itchy and slightly uncomfortable?

This is because you were teething.

Teething happens when a baby or kid starts growing a new set of teeth to replace the old ones. And kittens do go through with this too.

Kittens will start to grow their first new set of little teeth when they are about a month old. After a few months, they will lose this set of baby teeth and replace them with new ones which will last them a lifetime.

Teething in kittens can be slightly uncomfortable and painful for the little ones. Some of these cats rub their gums and teeth against you as a form of pain relief.

Here are some other symptoms to show that a kitten is teething:

  • Constant teeth rubbing
  • Bleeding gums
  • Drooling
  • Loss in appetite
  • Bad breathe
  • Gingivitis
  • Eating a lot slower

Most of these symptoms will resolve on their own after some time. But if the teething is interfering with your kitten’s appetite, please bring it to the vet for a check-up.

How To Help A Teething Kitten?

A couple of things that you can do to help your poor kitten find some relief during its teething period.

The most effective way is to feed your kitten softer food. If your kitten is on dry food please stop that immediately.

Start feeding your kitten soft canned or wet food. You can mix in more water to further soften it up and make it like baby food texture.

If your kitten doesn’t have much of an appetite, try adding some homemade tuna juice to entice your cat to eat more.

Having a couple of soft chew toys for your kitten to chew on can also help to alleviate the discomfort.

The good thing is that it won’t take long for your kitten to get over this sprouting teeth episode and walk around proudly showcasing its adult teeth.

What Should I Do When My Cat Rubs Its Teeth On Me?

Most of the time, your own cat is just reinforcing the bond between itself and you, the big bald cat. Sometimes after you shower or change out to new clothes, your cat’s smell is gone and it wants to import his scent back onto you.

But do lookout for signs of dental issues from time to time especially if your cat is old or has FELV/FIV.

Why Does My Cat Rub His Teeth On My Phone?

My cat seems to do this rather frequently when he recognizes the sound of the person coming from the phone. To your cat, it might seem that the phone represents that familiar sound and it is rubbing the scent glands in its mouth against the phone as a sign of familiarity and affection.

Why Do Cats Rub Against You Then Bite?

Don’t be surprised if your cat attempts a small nip or bite after rubbing against you. My cat likes chewing on my finger after he smells it. Cats do this playful bite as a form of dominance or affection.

You can see cats to this to each other when playing.

Just make sure that your cat doesn’t try to get aggressive with its biting.


It is always a warm and lovely feeling when your cat is rubbing itself against you. Is it how your cat shows you affection and accepts you as part of its family.

You too can rub your face against your cat’s as this is called bunting. Cats bunt with other cats that they like.

Time to start putting your own scent on your cat.

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