Everything You Need to Know About Cat Headbutting

cat headbutting

If you are lucky enough to own a feline, then the odds are that you have experienced a headbutt, also known as a head bunt. You come home after a long day at work. Your cat strides towards you and jumps onto your laps, and instead of getting cozy, it lightly touches their forehead to yours, or they push their tiny head against your body. Often, they may include a quick rub along whatever part of your body she’s nearby. Does this sound familiar? Do you need to push your head or rub them back? Well, read on and find out more about headbutting.

What Is Cat HeadButting?

Many people assume that cat headbutting is when your cat sticks their head into another cat’s butt. However, as hilarious as it may sound, this is not the case. When a cat headbutts, they will bump their head against you or an object and then go ahead to rub their cheek. Is it love, or is it anger? Well, if a human comes headbutting you straight in the face, run or get out of their way. With cats, however, things are different. Ideally, cats headbutt their favorite humans, other cats, and even objects like walls, chairs, and furniture.

Head Pressing vs. Headbutting

People often misconstrue head pressing for headbutting, which is not the case. Unlike the affectionate and cuddle-like headbutt, a head press, according to PetMD, is characterized by the compulsive act of pressing the head against a wall or other objects for no reason. Head pressing is a dangerous manifestation of hypertension, a brain tumor, or other neurological disorders which might be causing them pain and discomfort. This indicates that something is wrong with your cat’s nervous system. Let’s explore some of the characteristics that may indicate head pressing to help you tell the difference.

  • 1. No sideswipe action with the cheek
  • 2. Relentless pressing, usually against objects like the wall, floor, or furniture rather than people
  • 3. Abnormal vocalization, meowing, or screaming
  • 4. Impaired reflexes.
  • 5. Circling and pacing or disoriented behavior
  • 6. Change in behavior, for instance, decreased appetite or lethargy

So now that we know the difference between a heat press and a headbutt let’s dive into why cats do it.

What Does It Mean When Your Cat Headbutts You?

By now, you might be wondering, what’s the deal? While it may seem like a playful form of interaction, cat headbutting is a significant gesture reserved only for members of the cat colony. Below are some of the reasons your feline friend is headbutting.

Scent Marking

According to Catster, a cat’s scent glands are located all over its body, its mouth, the sides of its head, and even its tail. They use them to leave marks on objects and even humans. Scents are very crucial to all felines, domesticated or wild. They have a strong sense of smell. Apparently, fourteen times better than that of humans, according to Paws Chicago. What better way, thus, of interacting and communicating with their surroundings? Every time a cat comes into contact with a surface and rubs against it, it produces pheromones. Pheromones are special chemical messages that cats use to engage with their environment. Cats do this to claim their property, territory or to indicate that an area is safe.


As bizarre as it may sound that now your cat’s scent is all over your face and your house, to your cat, it is a delightful thing. This is just how they want it. Cats like the location they call home to smell like them. Familiar scents calm and comfort your cat in times of stress and anxiety. This explains why cats cuddle you all night when they are scared. This will make them feel more comfortable and relaxed with the environment.

Sign of Affection

Cats have attained a reputation for showing attention by giving a headbutt. We all know that cats don’t want to be associated with just anyone. Therefore, when your cat headbutts you, they show trust, respect, and acknowledging familiarity. It is more of a “you are in my gang” gesture and shows that your cat holds you in high regard.

Seeking Attention

If your cat tends to tuck its face down or turns to the side after it has headbutted you, then its goal is to gain your attention, most probably. And let’s face it, no matter how hectic your day has been or how tired you are, it is very hard to turn down that cute excited cat, who has firmly slammed its face onto yours. You are likely to cuddle and gently scratch their backs while at it, and the intelligent little feline it is they learn that headbutting results in attention. So why not use this trick the next time they feel lonely. Did you know that the average domestic cat has the largest brain in the family, Felidae?

Bonding With Other Cats

A head bunt between cats is no different from a handshake or a hug between you and your best friend. Not only are they creating a communal scent, but they are also socially bonding. It is a pretty big deal for a cat to willingly put its face close to another cat. Why do you ask? If you have observed cats fighting, they mainly target the face, injuring the most important parts like the eyes, nose, and mouth. Therefore, when you see a cat head bunting another cat, it is a way of implying, “I trust you not to hurt me.”

Seeking Food

Bunting from your cat is a way to remind you of your responsibilities. Especially if you have established a feeding routine, some cats will headbutt your legs once you get close to the food bowl as a way of notifying you that mealtime is late. How do you know whether your cat’s head bunts are motivated by mealtime? Watch what your cat does after the head bunt. If they run excitedly towards the food bowl and immediately come back for you with the headbutts, if you don’t go in the right direction, then drop all that you are doing and feed that kitty.

How Do You Respond to Your Cat’s Head Bunting?

If you have read through to this point, it goes without saying that it has affectionate connotations the majority of the time when your cat head bunts you. If your cat does not receive the affection it seeks, it may stop seeking out. You should, therefore, head bunt your little feline friend back. Even so, you might want to keep it gentle and slow as hard head bunts are considered aggressive. This may result in your cat scratching, biting, or fearing you. There are times when head bunting might be because your cat is feeling stressed or anxious in their current situation. You must be observant and aware of when this happens. This is as your cat might be signaling that all is not well. Additionally, if your cat displays other strange body language, for instance, abnormal vocalization, screaming, or other disoriented behavior, you should seek immediate help from a veterinarian.

Reasons Why You Should Headbutt Your Cat Back

Now that you know why your cat is headbutting you let’s explore the various reasons why you should headbutt your cat back.

Sign of Acceptance

If your cat is headbutting you to indicate that they want your attention, you should reciprocate this by headbutting them back and petting them. This shows your cat that you love and adore them as much as they do you. It gives your cat a sense of acceptance.

Close Bonding

By headbutting you, your cat is trying to establish a bond between the two of you. Reciprocating this with a gentle headbutt will strengthen the bond between the two of you. Shouting at your cat or ignoring them will rather strain the bond and make your cat cautious of you.

Attending to Your Cat’s Requests

Time and again, your cat might be headbutting you to imply that they are hungry, especially during the morning. Therefore, a positive gesture by a head bunt from your side establishes that you hear them and want to attend to their needs. Despite that, don’t take too long as you don’t want to keep your furry friend hungry.

Establishment of Trust

This far, you already know that you are quite lucky to be on the receiving end of an adorable, gentle head bunt from your cat. On top of that, you should be thrilled as this is a show of friendliness and trust. Matching the energy with a headbutt establishes that you trust your cat as much as they trust you.

What if Your Cat Does Not Headbutt You?

Are you disheartened that your feline friend is not head bunting you? Well, there is no cause for concern. Your cat may not be much of a head bunter and might prefer to show affection in other ways like:

  • Purring: Not all purring is “I love you” purring, though. Sometimes your cat will purr when they want you to feed them.
  • It is showing you its tummy: This is a huge sign of trust. However, as tempting as it might be to reach out and give some belly rubs, most cats do not like to be touched around the tummy area.
  • Twitching its tail at the tip or curling it around your leg: This shows that it feels confident and happy in your presence

Additionally, only the pretty much confident cats head bunt. The intensity and frequency of the head bunt also vary between different cats. This, however, does not make your cat any less adorable or lovable.

Does Social Rank Determine Which Cats Head Bunts?

Cats mark locations and territories in many ways. They mark with the scent gland on their face, cheeks, feet, tails, and also with their urine. Head bunting, however, ranks higher than urine marking and is, therefore, only performed by the cat with a higher social rank to avoid conflict. Having said that, this only applies in a household with more than one cat, where every cat fights to be the alpha cat.

What if You Don’t Want Your Cat to Head Bunt You?

Certainly, no one doesn’t want their cat to love them. Surprisingly enough, some people don’t want hair stuck to their lips, or your cat is bunting to the extreme, and you want to put this to an end. Fortunately, there is something you can do about it. Read on to find out.

Remove the Opportunity for the Behavior to Happen

Most likely, your cat has specific times that they like to head bunt you. Probably in the morning before you head out or when you get back home in the evening. One can solve this by showering your cat with affection before they get the chance to head bunt you.

Let Your Cat Express Themselves in Other Ways

As much as head bunting might not be your thing, it would be best if you allowed your cat to express their feelings. Fortunately, as we had previously established, head bunting is not the only way your cat can express their affection for you. Allow your feline friend to express their love for you in other ways.

Don’t Let Your Cat Near Your Face

Another trick to curb head bunting is to keep your cat off your face. You can do this by keeping your cat on your lap or your chest. This way, every time they try to get near your face, you gently push them back to your lap then give them lots of pets. If the urge to head bunt persists, you can allow them to bunt onto your chest or your leg. Cats are notorious for making us work pretty hard to earn their attention. Therefore, you should feel honored if your cat is fulsome about expressing their feelings to you by occasionally giving you a friendly head bunt. Nonetheless, it is also important to tell the difference between a head bunt and a heat press. Thankfully, now you know how to.

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