Cats are scrappy and affectionate little creatures. Not all of them will dole out the cat headbutting, but those with needy or loving personalities certainly will. If you want to understand why headbutting is part of your cat’s instinctual actions, you’re in the right place. Let’s start with the why and go from there!
Why Does My Cat Headbutt Me?
Also called “head bunting”, headbutting is one of the best signs a cat can give a human. It means that your cat trusts you and is willing to get up close and personal. Furthermore, cats have scent glands in their cheeks, which is the reason that they may start to rub their face on your skin or clothing.
If you’re someone who leaves the house and comes back to an over-affection cat headbutt, it’s because your cat missed you.
It’s our humble opinion that any cat owner who experiences the utter joy of a headbutt from their animals should feel lucky. This form of affection is very open. In cats, it’s a way they exchange scents to claim each other as family. You may see several cats headbutting each other or rubbing their cheeks against one another. Sibling cats do this frequently.
Why Does My Cat Headbutt Objects?
Here’s where another part of head bunts comes into play. If your cat is headbutting something you’re holding or an inanimate object that is next to you, they’re trying to get your attention. It can be through jealousy, which seems funny because, well, your cat might be jealous of your phone just because it’s in your hands.
What Does a Headbutt Look Like?
When a cat head pushes against your hands, face, or any other body part, that’s a headbutt. Other cats may rub their entire side against you, but the action is really down to what your cat likes and how they want to get your attention.
We humans are suckers for cats doing cute things. The headbutt is a great sign of love and trust from a cat, and we can’t help giving them pets after they’ve done it.
Returning the Headbutt
You can return the sentiment of cat bunting in a few different ways. If you decide to bump your head against your cat’s head, be careful and do it very gently. Less of a headbutt, more placing your head against theirs and nuzzling your face into them.
Alternatively, try scratching them under their chin, petting their little bodies, giving them food, or putting your hand on their paw. You can even boop their nose together with your nose! Felines respond better to bodily communication because it’s how they speak to us.
Cats and Scenting
We’ve mentioned that cats have scent glands in their cheeks. Scent makes cats recognize what they smell, so many of them like to leave their scent on objects and people. Does your cat sleep on a lot of clothes in your house? It’s because they can smell you on them and that makes them feel safe.
The life of a cat revolves around safety, sleep, affection, and getting their paws on food. Even wild cats and other animals need these four things to feel fulfilled. Cats will headbutt each other to create a colony scent in their home, which is why multi-cat households function well after all of the cats are used to each other. Without this group scent, cats don’t recognize each other as well.
Scent Gland Locations in Cats
- On their heads (mouth, forehead, cheeks)
- Flanks (their sides)
How Do I Stop My Cat Headbutting Me?
Though headbutting is often just a means for your cat to get your attention, it can be annoying when you’re working at home or doing something you can be distracted from. Many pet owners find it awful when they’re trying to sleep at night, too. Most cats will stop trying to headbutt you if you move them away or ignore them long enough, but there are a few things you can try:
- Shut the door to the room you’re working or sleeping in.
- Throw treats in the other direction to distract your cat.
- Give in and return the headbutt to reassure your kitty before moving them away.
- Distract your cat with inanimate objects or cat toys.
We don’t advise halting this behavior often because it’s such an innate part of the way your cat shows they trust you. When you experience cat head bunting, your cat will rub their own scent on you from the scent glands in their cheeks, which is a way they mark territory and claim you as their own. By stopping your cat from putting their head close to you, you’re telling them that you don’t want to give them affection.
What is Head Pressing?
Head pressing is when a cat or dog presses their head (usually their forehead) against the floor or wall for a length of time. They will occasionally press their head against their owner, instead. Head pressing is an indication of a serious medical issue that your pet should go to the vet for so that they can be checked out. They press their head down to relieve discomfort.
Pressing Versus Pushing
Head pressing involves your pet leaving their head pressed against something, while pushing is a form of attention-grabbing or affection. It may sometimes seem like head pressing is head pushing/headbutting, but your cat will always follow through with their movement when they’re headbutting you, as opposed to head pressing where they stay still.
If your cat is pressing their head against you or standing against walls for long periods of time, seek veterinary advice. It’s a sign of discomfort, meaning your cat is in pain and trying to tell you so.
Possible Health Conditions
- Head trauma
- Brain tumor
- Liver disease
- Metabolic disorders
Do not be concerned if your cat sleeps face-down and always has. Some cats just like to do this and find it comfortable. The concern should come when they are standing against a wall, unmoving, with their face pressed against it.
A lack of headbutting doesn't mean that your cat doesn't like you. Cats headbutt for all sorts of reasons, but it's usually a behavior that they learned from another cat. Cat owners shouldn't be concerned if their cat chooses not to headbutt them, it just means that it's something they didn't learn with their littermates as kittens. They are surely displaying other signs of affectionate cat behavior.
Love, play, "give me attention". These are the three major reasons that a female or male cat will submit to head bunting or headbutting. You can tell which of these your cat is trying to portray by the other behavior your cat displays. Get to know your cat's body language to help you figure it out.