Why Does My Cat Keep Headbutting Me?

Updated on April 16, 2023

The cat headbutt, or head bunt as it’s more accurately known, is probably something you’ve seen before if you’re a cat parent. Headbutts are often seen as cute, and one study even found that cats at shelters who headbutted potential adopters were more likely to be adopted.

Then why do cats sometimes headbutt people? What exactly does this mean, if anything?

What Are Cat Headbutts?

Pheromones are produced in glands on a cat’s face, specifically in the cheeks, forehead, and chin. Animals use scent signals known as pheromones to communicate with one another. Cats rub their pheromones all over you when they headbutt you. In front of a cat’s ears are glands that secrete the pheromone that is released when the animal headbutts another cat.

Though we humans are unable to detect these pheromones, a cat will consider you to be permanently marked. Cats leave behind pheromones that alert other cats to the presence of a feline.

Cats’ headbutts can range from mild to violent. Intensely jarring experiences can occur when a cat clunks your head against something. A headbutt from some cats is nothing more than a light touch from another. However, you will be permanently marked with their facial pheromone if you use either method.

Cat Headbutting vs. Head Pressing

However, headbutting in cats is distinct from a related behaviour known as head pressing. In the condition known as “head pressing,” the feline will repeatedly press its head against a wall or corner, despite the fact that it is clearly not at ease.

Symptoms of head pressing can include pacing, altered vision, and self-inflicted injuries. A serious neurologic condition may be the cause of your cat’s head pressing or other symptoms. In this case, you should take your cat to the vet right away.

Why Do Cats Headbutt?

Cats’ facial pheromones are calming and reassuring, so when your cat gives you a headbutt, you can rest assured that he or she is extremely happy. A cat may purr, have its eyes partially closed, or flop over in a relaxed manner before or during a headbutt.

Also, a cat you don’t know well or at all might give you a headbutt when it wants to sniff you or get to know you better.

Some of the most frequent triggers for a cat headbutt are listed below.

Marking Familiar Surroundings

It’s normal for cats to rub their faces and heads against furniture and cat trees. When cats do this, they are using the glands in their cheek to leave a scent mark.

A territory is claimed as safe and secure through this positive marking behaviour. Instead of marking territory like other cats would by urinating or spraying, your cat is simply making their space feel more like home.

Creating a Colony Scent

Cats have a reputation for being antisocial, but this is not always the case.

When cats bond with one another, they show it through a behaviour known as headbutting. Headbutts between cats in a colony help blend their individual scents into a shared one. This one-of-a-kind aroma is then used to scent the entire colony’s cats.

Marking Their People or Bonding

Just as they do with furniture and other household items, cats will mark familiar people. To be headbutted and marked by a cat is to be welcomed into the inner circle of a cat’s social hierarchy.

Marking is a form of communication between cats, and it helps them feel more comfortable around you. Cats have an excellent sense of smell, which they use extensively for communicating via environmental scents. In addition, your cat finds great comfort in the fact that you smell like them, even if you can’t.


Purring, contentment, and relaxation are the natural results of a rubbing of the face by a cat. They appear to take great pleasure in releasing their pheromones by headbutting and rubbing their faces against various objects.

Therefore, it is possible that when cats rub their faces together in private, they are trying to calm themselves or keep their emotions under control. There are other ways in which cats accomplish this, such as by kneading (or “making biscuits”) with their paws.

Seeking Attention

Cats will headbutt you to mark you with their pheromones and to show their affection. However, headbutting is sometimes used by cats as a method of attracting human attention. If a cat presents its head to you, it may simply be seeking some affection in the form of a good scratch under the chin or anywhere else on the head.

Providing a cat with attention after it has headbutted may encourage the behaviour. The more affectionately you headbutt your cat, the more your cat will seek out headbutts from you as a means of bonding and gaining your attention.

Checking Out a New Person

Headbutting from a strange or newly adopted cat could be nothing more than curiosity. Take things slowly and assess the situation before acting. In order to gauge the feline’s reaction, you could put your head out for a sniff. Perhaps give them a gentle headbutt of your own if they seem interested in giving you another one. Cats, on the other hand, may prefer head scratches if they’re not on board (after a brief hand sniff, of course).

Are Cat Headbutts a Sign of Affection?

Headbutting is a cat’s way of expressing affection for a particular person. To a cat, then, a headbutt marks you as someone apart. So, if a cat thinks you’re great enough to warrant a headbutt, take it as the highest compliment and undeniable proof of their love for you.

It’s great if you can give your cat what it wants when it headbutts you back, if that’s what your cat likes. A headbutt or chin scratch could win them over if you know that’s what they really enjoy.

Cats will show their affection for other pets in the home by giving them a headbutt. Although a dog or rabbit might be confused, other cats will understand the message of goodwill even if they don’t appreciate it.

Do All Cats Headbutt?

Cats, as individuals, exhibit a wide range of characteristics. Headbutts are more common and more forceful among cats who are self-assured. The most confident feline is also the most likely to be the alpha feline in a household with more than one cat. If there are multiple cats in a colony, the dominant cat is responsible for spreading the colony scent to each of them.

Accordingly, you need not worry if your cat does not engage in headbutting behaviour. In addition to headbutts, cats have other ways of displaying their love for one another. Not only do cats have the ability to purr, but also to flop, knead, slow-blink, and sleep cosily by your side.

If your cat used to enjoy headbutting but no longer does so, it may be a sign that he or she isn’t feeling well, especially if you also notice other symptoms like lethargy or grumpiness. Get in touch with your vet if this occurs.







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