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Why Do Cats Headbutt Me? 4 Reasons for This Behavior

Written by: Emma Stenhouse

Last Updated on January 8, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Girl butting heads with her ginger cat

Why Do Cats Headbutt Me? 4 Reasons for This Behavior

If your cat loves to headbutt you, you might wonder exactly what this means. Does your cat like you, or are they annoyed about something and trying to tell you in their own way?

The good news is that a cat headbutt is usually seen as a sign of affection. Even if your cat jumps up and headbutts you so hard that your cup of coffee goes flying or your glasses fall off your face, you can be sure your cat is happy to see you.

There can be a few different reasons for a cat headbutt, so let’s take a closer look at this behavior and find out exactly why your cat might be doing it.

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What Is a Cat Headbutt?

The technical term for cat headbutting is bunting, or facial marking. You may have seen your cat rubbing their face on the arm of your couch or the side of your bed, which is one way cats mark their territory.

A headbutt can look like anything from a brief and gentle contact to a full rub of your cat’s head and cheeks all over a particular surface—and, in some cases, you!

Some cats will only headbutt occasionally, and others might not do it at all. So, don’t be offended if your cat doesn’t carry out this behavior.

man's hand on cat's head
Image Credit: Piqsels

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The 4 Possible Reasons Why Cats Headbutt You


1. Your cat is scent-marking you

Cats have quite a few different scent glands on their bodies, but those around the face come into play when your cat headbutts you. These scent glands can be found on their outer ear flaps, temples, cheeks, corners of the mouth, and under the jaw.

As your cat headbutts and rubs against you, they leave pheromones behind that mark you as “theirs.” If you live with multiple cats, they will all scent mark certain objects to create a colony scent familiar to them all. They may also headbutt each other, leaving traces of pheromones.

2. They see you as a safe space

Headbutting is used as a form of tactile communication by cats to create affiliate bonds with other cats and humans. Other forms of affiliative touch communication include rubbing, kneading, nose touching, and mutual grooming.

Cats that headbutt and scent-mark their humans keep track of the things they consider safe. Outside, your cat might mark certain locations in their territory to help them find their way back home.

Pheromones create a feeling of comfort and familiarity for cats, helping them feel safe in their environment. If you move to a new house, you can replicate this safe space feeling by using diffusers or sprays that release synthetic pheromones.

Credit: Impact Photography, Shutterstock

3. They may be asking for attention

Once a cat is satisfied that they’ve scent-marked you as theirs, they may also headbutt you when they’re asking for something. If you haven’t given them any attention after you got home from work or their empty food bowl, you might find your cat headbutting your legs and requesting attention.

4. Your cat trusts you

For your cat to headbutt you, on your face, or anywhere else, it shows they’re bonded with you. A cat getting this close shows that they trust you and want to show that they respect you. Depending on your cat’s personality, they may quickly come and say hello to a new person or be shy when strangers come around.

Most cats will spend some time getting to know someone before giving them a headbutt, so if you get one, feel honored!

cat rubbing its face to owner
Image Credit: Piqsels

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The Difference Between Head Pressing and Headbutting

If you see your cat pressing their head against the wall or other solid item, this is not the same as headbutting. Head pressing is usually a sign that something is wrong with your cat’s central nervous system, and they’ll need urgent veterinary attention to help figure out the exact problem.

Head pressing will last much longer than a headbutt and may be accompanied by strange behavior like your cat circling or seeming disoriented.

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Wrapping It Up

Now we know a few reasons your cat might headbutt you, and it’s all to do with them feeling comfortable and safe and wanting to mark their territory. They might sometimes give you a little headbutt when they want something, but they’re only likely to do this to people they already know and trust.

So, while your cat’s headbutt might be soft and gentle or strong enough to knock your glasses off, it’s a sure sign of affection from your furry friend.

Featured Image: Sari ONeal, Shutterstock

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