Why Do Cats Headbutt You? Is It Love Or Attention?

Why do cats headbutt you, you ask? Cat headbutts are a sign of affection or greeting and recognizing that you are part of his group. Your cat needs to put his scent onto you, to make it clear that you are part of his group. It is security for him. He needs to mark his territory.

A cat headbutt can happen at any time of the day and is always a nice surprise.

two white cats headbutting each other
Cats headbutting each other!

Cats Headbutting Each Other!

In a group of cats, headbutting or head bunts is a great sign of affection and trust. Cats tend to headbutt each other to exchange scents and create a group scent, also known as a colony scent.

This behavior is not limited to domestic cats, even wild cats engage in headbutting with fellow felines.

If you watched Tiger King (didn’t everyone?) the big cats did head butt each other, so it is not just our domestic cats that display this behavior. Lions also headbutt as a way of social bonding with other members of their pride

If you also have a pet dog, your kitty cat may even try to give the dog a head butt. This just makes the dog a bit confused.

cat headbutting a dog
Keep calm and say nothing! Less trouble that way!

The Cat Is Marking His Territory When headbutting

All animals mark their territory in some way.

Cats have a sophisticated sense of smell, about 200 times stronger than ours. This strong sense of smell forms an integral part of the way in which cats learn to deal with the world about them.

Cats engage in headbutting to exchange scents and mark things with their own scent.

Cats have scent glands in the head area that release pheromones and they use them to leave their mark or pheromones on us and objects, for example pieces of furniture or even walls.

The scent glands of the cat are activated in the head area that release pheromones which are then transferred to your skin and clothing.

The cat headbutts are also showing you lots of loving affection at the same time.

When your cat gives you a head butt, the cat is marking his territory and creating a sense of familiarity and safety and makes it feel more comfortable in its surroundings.

Marking territory with scent is always obvious when visiting another household that has a cat. The new cat will usually engage in some sniffing and checking out the smell associated with you.

Likewise on your return home, your cat will be most interested in the smell you have brought home with you.

Pinterest image - Why do cats like to headbutt you

Do Some Cats Headbutt More Than Others?

Confident cats tend to give cat headbutts more often than shy cats, as they feel confident and safe in their environment.

Cats headbutt as a self-soothing behavior that can help them feel calm and relaxed.

When a cat trusts someone, the cat may headbutt or rub its head close to that person’s body part.

This affection is a great sign that the cat likes and feels lucky to have that person as its favorite human.

There isn’t any scientific evidence to suggest that certain cat breeds give head butts more than others.

However, as mentioned earlier, confident cats tend to headbutt more often than shy cats.

Therefore, it is possible that certain cat breeds may have a more confident personality than other cats and may be more likely to headbutt.

Cats have individual personalities that are shaped by their genetics and environment.

It is more accurate to say that individual cats have their own preferences for head butts rather than certain breeds.

Some cats headbutt more often because they enjoy the social interaction with their owners, while others may prefer to keep to themselves and not engage in headbutting as much.

cat headbutting female owner

At what age does headbutting begin in a cat?

Some people say that that their kittens had not yet developed headbutting behavior.

It is possible that headbutting behavior may vary among individual cats and may not necessarily have a specific age of onset.

Are male or female cats more likely to headbutt?

There doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus on whether male cats or female cats are more likely to headbutt.

Should I Headbutt My Cat?

Cat headbutting or cat bunting is a form of affection in terms of marking territory from the cat but what is cat headbutting all about in reverse?

Is it safe or okay for you to headbutt your cat? Often the cat will lower its head and turn it slightly when head butting and it is then that we respond by giving the cat tickle or rub on the chin area or top of the head.

The cat becomes used to that stimulus and it is repeated often. We are naturally just responding in an affectionate way, to the attention from the cat.

If you feel the need to headbutt your cat, this would be the best time. If it feels as though it comes naturally the best advice would to do it gently. Have you had a cat headbutt?

Don’t force it in any way and see how the cat responds. It is another way of communicating with your cat and if you get a favourable reaction from giving a cat headbutt that will strengthen the bond.

Cat headbutts are playful, there is no strength attached.

Video Showing Headbutting!

This is a great video which shows the meaning of a cat head butt (also called head bunt, bunting and head bumping). The actions speak for themselves. This is a joyful short video guaranteed to bring out the awwhs.

For those wondering about headbutting the cat, the video shows that it does work.

Why Does My Cat Headbutt Me In The Morning?

Cats headbutt at any time of the day however many cats are morning head butters and love to wake their owners with some playful cat headbutts, often accompanied by some playful purring thrown in for good measure.

Your cat may reach out his paw to you also.

It is usually enough to arouse cat owners to get going for the day with cat related duties such as providing food.

cat rubbing the side of his face on a fence
That feels so good and everyone knows – I have been here!

Why Do Cats Rub The Side Of Their Faces On Things?

Similar to head butting by a cat but a little different is chinning. Chinning is when cats run the sides of their face or jowls along objects.

When your kitty rubs the side of his face along objects, or items like pieces of furniture and in my case, my shoes while I am wearing them, he leaves a scent behind.

As previously mentioned, cats have scent glands in their body and multiple glands in the head area. This is often referred to as chinning and when kitty is chinning he is using the scent glands along his lips and chin.

What he is doing is leaving his scent behind. The cat’s scent glands release pheromones, this scent marks his territory and makes him feel secure. It feels and smells like home.

Observe Your Cat Chinning And Head Butting

Observe your cat to see where he likes to chin and when he headbutts. Sometimes we are so accustomed to seeing it that it does not really register.

Observing where your cat likes to chin and headbutt can help you learn more about its behavior and preferences.

Some cats have favorite humans that they headbutt or rub their faces on, while others may headbutt inanimate objects or mark things with their own scent.

Our kitty definitely has favorite spots that he has claimed for rubbing the side of his face, one being the edge of a particular kitchen cabinet, a place that he frequently passes.

He also repeatedly rubs the side of his face along any shoes I am wearing, while I am sitting with legs crossed – just at the right height for kitty.

cat having a chin scratch
All kitties like a head scratch!

Giving Kitty A Head Scratch

Cats love having a head scratch. When our kitty gets a scratch in the jowls area, he is in immediate heaven.

Where the jaw connects to the chin is a favorite spot for kitty and he will jut his chin out to ask for more.

Cats also loves a gentle scratch between the ears on the top of the head, a gentle scratch.

It’s not an area that kitty can easily groom himself although cats do use their front paws to groom this area.

Use the cues your kitty gives you as to whether he wants more. He may just decide to leave anyway.

What about your cat kneading you? It is not quite the same as headbutting but falls into the same arena as the cat interacting with you. Do you like it or is it annoying?

What Is The Difference Between Head Bunting And Head Pressing?

Cat headbutting is always gentle even if sometimes quite firm. It is not aggressive.

If your cat is pressing his head into a wall or any other inanimate surface with some force, for no reason you can discern or it looks unnatural, it is definitely time to go the the vet for testing and diagnosis. It may be that it is a sign of neurological issues or high blood pressure.

Head pressing is not followed by the wipe along the chin or turn of head associated with head bunting.

Head pressing is accompanied by excessive meowing and strange noises. This would not be usual behavior and if your hunch is that something is wrong it is always wise to seek the advice of a professional.

Overall, headbutting is a great way for cats to seek attention and create a safe space for themselves.

By exchanging scents and creating a group through scent communication, cats can form a strong bond and feel confident in their surroundings.

You may also like to read…

vector - two cats reading
Headbutting is our favorite way to say ‘hello’ and catch up on the goss!

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