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Why Do Cats Shake Their Heads? 4 Reasons

While it may have surpassed you, if you’ve recently fitted your kitty with a shiny collar bell, you’ll suddenly notice how often your cat shakes their head. It’s cat culture to shake during some questionable times — like 2 am or in the middle of a crucial line of a TV show… but that’s beyond any human’s knowledge. So why do cats shake their heads?

It’s no secret that cats can act very peculiarly. But, often, there is a good reason for their actions. As a cat owner, it’s good to know a bit about cat behavior. After all, understanding your cat is the best way to ensure both of you are happy.

Communicating without words can be challenging. But, there is so much to learn about your cat through their quirky behaviors.

Let’s look at a few reasons why your cat shakes their head.

sleepy-cat-scratching why do cats shake their heads

Image by Ludemeula Fernandes from Unsplash


Why Do Cats Shake their Heads?

It can be alarming to see your cat frequently shaking their head. But before you make an unnecessary visit to the vet, here are a few things you should know about why cats shake their heads.

1. They Are Arranging Their Fur

Every cat owner agrees that cats can be very particular about pretty much everything. They know what they want, and that’s what makes them wonderful pets that are relatively easy to care for. 

Cats spend a lot of their time meticulously grooming themselves; that’s a lot of the reason why cats smell good all the time. But, it also helps them to maintain their fur and prevent dry skin.

You might catch your kitty shaking its head after you’ve given them some loving pets, which can feel like a blow on bad days. Don’t worry. They’re not shaking you off. Most of the time, shaking is just a quick way for cats to rearrange their fur. 

When your cat shakes their head, it allows the fur to arrange itself naturally. Properly positioned fur helps with things like water resistance. Cats also communicate with their fur; lifted fur can be a sign of stress or discomfort.

You might enjoy reading my article on Why do Cats Yawn?


Image by Eric Han from Unsplash

2. They Aren’t in the Mood 

In some instances, cats can signal that they aren’t in the mood for affection by shaking their heads. A cat’s mood can change quickly, and you may find that they will sometimes suddenly reject love. 

Animals are much more reliant on feeling than humans, especially animals that are considered predators in the wild. Cats’ reliance on their sense of feeling is why they can quickly become over-stimulated. Shaking their heads is one of the ways they communicate this. 

If you’re spending some quality time with your kitty and find them shaking their head, the best thing to do is to stop petting them for a minute or two. If your cat headbutts you, it means they’d like more attention, and the shake was probably just an itch.


Image by Yerlin Matu from Unsplash

3. They’re a Little Itchy

Like humans, sometimes there’s an itch you just have to scratch. Animals are also prone to allergies that can make their noses and ears itchy. A quick shake often provides cats relief from allergies or just regular itchiness. 

While it isn’t something to be too concerned about, if your cat frequently shakes their head, it could be a sign that your cat is suffering from allergies. Cats with allergies will also scratch around their ears, sneeze, or have runny eyes.

Ginger cat scratching itself using its back paw.

4. They May Have an Ear Infection

Ear infections are more severe than chronic allergies, especially in animals, because they can’t communicate their discomfort. Frequent head shaking coupled with scratching behind and around the ears can signify that your cat has an ear infection. 

It’s always important to do a quick home check-up on your kitty between regular visits to the vet. Owners often miss ear infections until the later stages, usually when there’s gross discharge or a nasty smell. Bacteria or dreaded ear mites can cause ear infections, also known as otitis.

Ear infections in cats can be treated easily if caught in time. If left too long, the infection can spread and even cause deafness. To avoid that, pay attention to how much your fur babies usually shake their heads, so you’ll notice when something is a little off.


Image by Cong H from Unsplash

What to Do About Excessive Head Shaking

The first protocol is observation. Head shaking in cats can be as simple as a reaction to seasonal change or a little bit of itchiness. As much as we love our furballs and always want to ensure they’re okay, regular vet visits can be expensive. 

Looking out for when and how often your cat shakes its head is the best first step. It’s safe to monitor your cat for a day or two after you’ve first noticed the shaking. If your cat shakes their head more frequently or starts scratching their ears often, it might be a good idea to call the vet. 


Image by Oleg Ivanov from Unsplash

Why Do Cats Shake Their Heads? – In Summary

Body language is the ideal form of communication where words aren’t an option. Your cat shaking their head could mean many things. The best way to understand your cat’s body language is by paying close attention to when and where they shake their head. 

Ultimately, the most common reason cats shake their heads is that they feel over-stimulated or itchy. Make sure to give your kitty some space so you can watch out for any alarming developments.

Observation will tell you if your cat is experiencing something as serious as an ear infection or ear mites which a quick visit to the vet and ear drops can solve. 

Woman cuddling a ginger cat why do cats smell good

Want to know more about cat communication? Here’s why cats rub against you.

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