Cuddles, a manner of speaking
Cats' reactions to physical contact depend on the area that you touch. As any cat owner soon learns, cats like to be stroked under the chin, behind the ears and on their back, all the way to the base of the tail. For wild cats, mutual grooming involves contact with these parts of the body. However, cats do not like to be petted in other parts, such as the belly, and they do not like to be stroked backwards. And although it is generally agreed that cats are not as sociable as dogs, stroking them and the satisfaction that it produces in them demonstrates their social nature.
For example, two cats who meet in a friendly situation often greet by rubbing and sniffing noses. Indeed, cats are thought to recognise their peers by smell. Cats also touch people with their nose in a similar manner. Some cats hit their head against their owners, sometimes quite strongly, as a sign of affection.
Cats often rub parts of their body which have scent glands to leave their own scent on the cat, person or surface they touch, although their odour is perceptible only to other cats.
Felines have scent glands in the base of their tail, which is why they often tend to rub it on vertical surfaces such as people's legs. Another common gesture amongst cats is the use of the front paws to make a movement as if kneading, over objects such as blankets and also over people. Cats also have special scent glands at the bottom of their legs. This behaviour usually manifests in young kittens using kneading to stimulate breast milk output. There is no clear explanation of the meaning of kneading in adult cats, although it is believed that in most cases this behaviour may be a gesture of comfort that cats still do as adults because they have been domesticated to be docile.
Any gesture received or given by a cat has its meaning. And although there is an explanation for most of them, there's no better way to communicate with cats than by watching them every day and trying to learn their language based on gestures.