Cats love a good head scratch

Cats love having their head scratched because it reminds them of their mothers who licked their faces when they were kittens, according to feline experts.

When an owner takes over this role it reinforces the idea they are their mother.

When they don't have their mothers to pester them, scientists found owners giving a head rub serves as a handy reminder to cats that they need to groom themselves.

They do this by sweeping a front paw backwards across the ear and then forward over the top of the head.

However owners rubbing the face and top of the head is particularly crucial as cats find it almost impossible to lick these places themselves.

The concentration of scent glands on their heads is also stimulated when they're having a blissful rub which releases smells that they find extremely relaxing.

Nicholas Dodman, a professor emeritus found cats also rub their heads to show friendly feelings towards their human companions.

This 'feels good and probably releases pleasure', Dr Dodman said, which is why they purr when they're feeling very idle.

As kittens their mother do their grooming for them - particularly around the face - which is one area cats struggle to look after themselves.

When a human owner takes over this role it reinforces the idea that they are now their mother.

'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', Dr Dodman said.

'People's petting and mum cat grooming have a lot in common physically and I feel sure that our petting of cats must conjure up early reminiscences of getting coiffed by mum', he said.

Dr Dodman said it was a way for cats to communicate without sophisticated language and it makes sense that a high concentration of scent glands would be located there.

He described a head rub as a 'very loving gesture'.

'Leaving an olfactory mark of pleasure pheromones is more appreciated by the recipient than the donor', said Dr Dodman.

'When cats scent mark objects with their cheeks and chin, they are simply leaving an olfactory reminder of their erstwhile present', he said.

Like cats, many dogs also nuzzle their owners according to Daily mail.

'I find that most dogs love their head and ears scratched — it is a sign of affection, bonding and attention', said Leni Kaplan a lecturer

However, not all dogs appreciate having their heads scratched and find it a sign of domination.

Researchers noted that it was best to read the individual animal's body language to find out what it preferred.