Does this sound familiar?
Your cat jumps into your lap, and instead of getting cozy, she bops her head against your chin, cheek, or forehead. Sometimes she includes a quick rub (doing her best to get fur all in your mouth), and sometimes she hits so hard it actually hurts. The encounter lasts only a few seconds, and then she’s probably purring in your lap. What’s the deal?
If a human ever headbutts you in the face, you better get out of their way. But with your cat, things are different. Cats headbutt other cats, furniture, and their favorite humans.
Here’s a quick rundown explaining why cats headbutt and what it means.
When Cats Headbutt Other Animals
Technically, the cat headbutt we’re so familiar with is called head bunting. Bunting is a behavior associated with social bonding, and even big cats do it with their friends and family. Lions like to headbutt other members of their pride as a way of recognizing their family dynamic. According to cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennet, putting their head so close to another is a sign of trust and friendliness.
Cats also headbutt as a way to mark and exchange scents. Felines have scent glands all over their bodies. When they rub their head on another cat, they create a group scent that signifies a close bond.
When Cats Headbutt Furniture
While cat headbutting can signify a social bond, what does it mean when your cat headbutts your sofa? Are they saying they’re best friends with your furniture?
While some behaviorists say headbutting an inanimate object can be a cat’s way of recognizing that object’s familiarity, it’s more likely to do with scents and territory. Cats use the scent glands located on their cheeks to mark their territory. It lets other animals know that territory has already been claimed, and it also makes the area seem more safe and comforting to the cat.
It’s important to never confuse headbutting with head pressing. If your cat is consistently pressing their head against the wall, floor, or furniture, it could be a sign of a serious neurological disorder.
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When Cats Headbutt Humans
Cats headbutt humans for the same reasons they headbutt other animals and even the furniture. It’s their way of expressing a familial relationship and using scent as a marker. Marking you with her own scent makes your cat feel even safer around you than she did before.
Super friendly cats might feel confident enough to headbutt just about anyone they meet, but most cats reserve bunting for their favorite humans..Consider it your cat’s way of saying, “We’re in this together, pal.”
There’s also the chance that your cat’s headbutting is a way to seek attention. She knows you can’t ignore her when her face is pressed up against yours. It’s an excellent way to solicit scratches.
Should You Headbutt Your Cat?
If you know your cat likes to put their head close to yours, go ahead and try out your own headbutt. Keep it slow and gentle and see how your cat reacts. She’ll most likely return the gesture and headbutt you back.
Your cat knows you don’t speak the same language, but understanding feline body language is a great way to communicate. You can tell your cat how you feel about her in a way she’ll fully understand.