We've all heard of the phrase "It's like herding cats." Cats are strong-willed and wildly independent. Good luck trying to get a group of them to follow directions all at once. As hard as it is to "herd" cats, did you know our feline friends sometimes try to "herd" us? Check out the fascinating motivation behind cats winding around your legs!
Rubbing against your legs
When your cat rubs against your legs (or any part of you really) she is marking her territory. Your kitty loves you so much and wants you and the world to know it. She will rub against you to deposit her scent and stake her claim.
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The glands around her mouth and chin produce pheromones, her chemical calling-card, if you will, letting other cats know you're spoken for. Not only can rubbing against you act as an affectionate greeting, it also establishes possession.
Winding through your legs
Dilara Goskel Parry, a cat behavior expert at Feline Minds, told The Dodo that when cats take the rubbing one step further and wind through your legs, they're not only being playful, but manipulative.
Parry explains that cats will wind between your legs when they want something and are excited about it. A prime example is feeding time. The moving between and rubbing against the legs is called marking and happens when they are excited. Cats are not bred as herding animals like some dogs, but they have learned that this behavior, marking, is a way to get what they want.
When the behavior is reinforced, the cat now realizes "if I do this ... my person is going to feed me," Parry explains. Owners see their cat's excitement and are quick to give her what she wants. That and they probably want to stop the cat from tripping them up. Genius feline manipulation!
The act of marking doesn't only take place when it's time to eat but generally when a cat is excited and anticipating some sort of award like a toy or a trip outside. Cats can also mark against other animals when they are excited or aroused.
Your cat is going to rub against your legs instinctively, whether to show affection, greet you, or mark her territory. The marking experience that includes rubbing against and winding through your legs can be controlled, however! Marking continues due to positive reinforcement given by humans. If you encourage this behavior and give in to the manipulation, it will continue. If you don't give your cat everything she wants directly after she rubs her way through your legs, it is more likely to stop.
It all depends on how cute you think this feline power is. The choice is yours.