Does your kitty like to bump heads with you? Have you ever wandered what it means when it does this? Is it love – or is it anger? After all, a human headbutting a human is definitely not a sign of love!
Find all the theories about what does it mean when a cat headbutts you in my post.
What Does it Mean When a Cat Headbutts you? The Science
Technically headbutting is really head bunting. This is a social bonding behaviour that is used by cats. It is often intended to show friendliness and trust.
Cats headbutt to create a colony scent. A cat headbutt is a great sign. It shows that your cat trusts you enough to be up close and personal with you.
Cats have scent glands all over their bodies. They use them to leave their mark on objects, including their humans. Cats have scent glands just above their eyes and below their ears. When they activate these glands whilst rubbing against you they will emit pheromones.
If you have several cats you may well find that each of them headbutts you. They may take it in turns or they may each take different days with you to stake their claim. They are hardwired to compete for your love and attention!
Why do Cats headbutt?
1. To Gain Affection
It is common to interpret a headbutt from your cat as a sign of affection. If that is the case why does your cat also headbutt the furniture or the wall? Does he love them to?
The reality is that your cat is headbutting you because they want to rub their scent onto you. Their scent on you will only be smelt by other cats (cats have a much stronger sense of smell than humans).
The good news is cats don’t want to be associated with just anyone. So a headbutt shows that your cat has a high regard for you. And the couch :-).
If your cat is purring whilst headbutting you then it is quite likely that they are looking for affection. Do try to return their affection. If your cat doesn’t receive affection back from you it could assume that you don’t want to be affectionate with it and may stop seeking this out.
2. To Mark Territory
This is part of the reason that your cat headbutts you. Scent is used by cats to mark territory as belonging to them but it is also used for them to mark areas and people who are judged to be safe by them. This is why cats often choose to headbutt furniture and other items in their home.
3. To Feel Safe
One of the main reasons that cats headbutt people and inanimate objects are to mark them as being safe. As cats have such a strong sense of smell marking safe places with scent makes more sense to them versus relying on their visual memory.
This is another reason why cats tend to save headbutts for their favourite humans. You will need to earn their trust. Yes there are a few kitties who will headbutt even the newest human acquaintance but most cats will wait until they have tested you out for a while before marking you as safe.
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4. To gain attention
It is quite hard to ignore a cat who has firmly slammed their face into yours. And let’s face it most of us find this behaviour quite endearing in our favourite felines so our kitty is likely to receive some cuddles and scratches when they exhibit this behaviour. Thus they learn headbutting often results in love and attention so why not use it next time they feel a little lonely?
Also, if your cat tends to tuck its head down or turn to the side after it has headbutted you then it is most likely that attention is its goal.
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5. To Dominate
Some cats may be looking to do more than mark their owners – they may be looking to demonstrate their power over you. This is not necessarily a problem. If your cat has no behavioural issues allowing them to feel a bit of power over you won’t normally result in them. It may help your cat to feel safe.
However, do keep an eye on any dominant behaviours from your cat. Cats who feel dominant can become demanding and even aggresive. They may become very bossy with demands for food and badly behaved if their demands aren’t met.
If your cat is beginning to demonstrate these behaviours they will need some training from you. The first step is to ignore them when they exhibit these behaviours. If they don’t get a reaction they are likely to stop. If this doesn’t work and things get sense do speak to your vet as you may potentially need a behavioural expert to help out.
Frequently asked Questions bout Cats and Headbutting
Why does my cat tend to headbutt me in the morning?
I don’t know about you but my alarm most mornings is my cat meowing outside my bedroom. We have a morning ritual when he comes in that involves me stroking and scratching him and it is probably our most mutually affectionate time of the day.
Your cat has most likely missed you overnight so they will be most keen to bond with you in the morning. Cats tend to be awake most of the night so he is probably also quite bored after wandering the house in the dark.
Also, your scent will have changed overnight. Any perfume you may have been wearing will have reduced and you will most likely have perspired during the night.
Your kitty is looking to cover your new smell with their pheromones. And by doing this first thing in the morning your cat is clearly marking you as his territory.
Remember cats like routine. If you generally have a morning ritual do try not to deviate from it as that my result in some extensive meowing and the potential revelation of claws.
Why do cats headbutt each other?
If you see your cat headbutting another cat does this mean that they really like them to? Well, headbutting between cats is a way to show respect or to align themselves with that cat eg if there are several cats in a household.
Headbutting also allows cats to exchange scents. The creation of a group scent amongst several cats is a sign of a strong bond.
As I mentioned earlier, head bunting is social animal behaviour and can be part of creating a stronger relationship between cats. And this behaviour can also take place between cats and dogs – not always mortal enemies!
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What if my cat doesn’t my headbutt me?
Now that you have read all of the above you may be worried if your cat doesn’t headbutt you – or does it infrequently. Don’t be concerned. Not every cat chooses headbutting as a way to communicate affection. Your kitty just may not be much of a headbutter and could prefer to show its affection for you in other ways.
Additionally, only the most confident cats tend to headbutt. So if your kitty is still new or tends to be quite quiet it is quite normal that their temperament wouldn’t be linked with headbutting.
Should You Headbutt Your Cat Back?
If your cat headbutts you frequently and keeps their head close to you for quite a while then you could try headbutting your kitty back. But do take it slowly and be very gentle. Those paws can move fast to mark you if your cat doesn’t want you to return the favour. However, it is most likely that your cat will headbutt you back.
If you enjoy your cat headbutting you then you can encourage the behaviour with some positive reinforcement. Try to use tickles and cuddles rather than treats or food.
And remember if you think your cat is headbutting you to exert its dominance just ignore it. Do go about the normal behaviours of clearing litter and providing food – just don’t react to the headbutting.
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Watch Out: Pressing vs Bumping
Do keep a close eye on whether your cat is headbutting your or pressing their head against you. A cat who is pressing their head against their owner is often trying to tell them that they are experiencing discomfort.
If your cat is pressing its head against you frequently then it is time for a visit to the vet. Head pressing in cats can be linked to high blood pressure or neurological problems in your cat.
If your cat likes to start your day with a headbutt this is normal behaviour and most likely a positive sign about the state of your relationship. If you enjoy a head snuggle with your favourite feline gently encourage the behaviour by tickles and pats in return. It’s one of my favourite ways to start the day!
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