Cats are interesting creatures, and they show their affection in a variety of ways. The head butt is just one way they show their love.

Cat's head butt to show affection.
Cats, like Toast, head butt to show affection.
Photo by Beth A. Freely Rauch.

Picture this: you’re sitting down to write, to watch television, to play a video game, and here comes your cat on soft toe beans looking sleepy. You reach out to pet him or her and suddenly find your arm, hand, leg, pick a body part, being bumped with their head. Repeatedly. Why does a cat head butt?

A Head Butt is How a Cat Bonds With You

A head butt from your cat is more important than you think. It is a gesture that they typically reserve for members of their colony. As a member of your cat’s staff, you are part of their colony and they are leaving their scent on you so other cats know who you belong to.

Cats recognize other members of their community by scent, so when they head butt against you or rub their faces against you, they release pheromones. They are helping you smell more like them and less like a human.

The Dominant Cat in the Colony Gives the Head Butt

Do you have more than one cat in your household? If so, pay attention to who is giving out the head butts. The dominant cat with the higher social ranking in the house will be the one butting your body.

This is the confidant cat who loves everyone in the house. He or she is trying to make sure you are well-groomed and smell like everyone else.

Don’t mistake a head butt as territory marking. It is not. It is their way of giving you the equivalent of a hug… while trying to make you smell like a cat.

a head butt is how they bond
Peanut Butter is the master head butter in this house.
Photo by Beth A. Freely Rauch.

A Head Butt Means “I Love You”

Right before your cat attacks you with head butts, you’ll see them walking towards you with purpose. They could be purring. They might flop onto the floor and lay there for a few moments before they contact you.

Pay attention to their face. You’ll notice that they are relaxed, that their face takes on a softness. This is their way of saying that they love you, that you are their favorite person. It’s the kitty way of expressing friendship and affection.

Respond to the Head Butt

Take the time to acknowledge your cat and the sign of affection they have given you. A head butt session is an excellent way to build the bond between you. Give them a good head scratch, a cuddle session if they like that, talk to them softly, and even head butt them back if you’d like.

They will only head butt you when they are feeling happy and secure. Make sure you have a good relationship with your kitty and a bond of trust before responding to them. The better the relationship, the more kitty will head butt you.

There is a Difference Between a Head Butt and Head Pressing

If you notice your cat pressing their head against the wall or other hard surface, that is a cause for concern. Cats will press their head against a wall and possibly howl if there are in distress with some type of hypertension, brain tumor, or other neurological problem.

Get your cat to the vet right away. This is an emergency. If you pay attention to your cat’s behavior daily, you will easily know when something is wrong. For more information on head pressing, read this PetMD article.