If you’re new to cat ownership, you might be surprised at how often cats head butt people, which is actually a good thing! Let’s learn about cat headbutting, what it is, what it means, and other similar cat behaviors.
Feline headbutting, also known as headbutting, is when the cat rests its forehead against you and rubs its face along your body.
Cats often use head bumps to show affection, to scent mark, or to get your attention.
Cats sometimes nibble lightly or playfully after a headbutt, which is not meant to hurt, but rather a show of love.
What is a cat head butt?
A cat head butt, also known as a headbutt, is when the cat rests its forehead against you and rubs its face along some part of your body, usually from the side of your face to your ear. They often repeat this action over and over, pressing their heads and kneading with their paws while gurgling. But why would they do this? What does it mean?
Why do cats head butt people?
1. They are scent markers
Cats have scent glands all over their bodies, with the largest number on the face, lips, paws, and base of the tail. When they rub your face against you, they are transferring their unique pheromones onto you. The scent lets other cats know you’re theirs while also making you smell familiar, which reassures them.
This exchange of scents also occurs in the wild, where cats use their group scents to communicate with each other.
Also read: How Do Cats Mark Their Territory?
2. You are their favorite
Cats usually choose a person they like or like. These are usually family members, as they have spent the longest time and had the closest relationship with these individuals. The cat’s favorite person gets the most love, snuggles, and affectionate headbutts.
Also read: 5 Reasons Why Cats Love Shoes So Much
3. They are expressing love
People who aren’t “cat lovers” often seem to think cats are aloof and independent and don’t like to show affection. However, as our readers know, this is not the case.
Cats show affection in a number of ways, and while it might not sound affectionate, a head bump is a great way for cats to show affection. Feral cats will also headbutt each other to show respect and divert their own scent to mix with the group scent.
Also read: 13 of the cutest felines that love to cuddle
4. They feel safe
Cats don’t head butt anyone, it’s just a behavior they do when they feel safe. After all, if they feel threatened, it’s unlikely they’ll want to turn their backs on any potential predator to give you a quick kiss! So if they decide to bunt, it means they feel safe around you and are willing to be vulnerable because they trust you.
Also read: Why is my cat not cute?
5. They want attention or hugs
Bunting is sometimes an attention-seeking act. So it could mean that your cat wants you to put down your laptop or the book you’re reading and focus on them for a while.
If your cat is lonely or just wants a cuddle, they may get close to you and start head butting you. This usually encourages you to pet them and make them fuss.
Also read: Why is my cat so annoying?Explaining Cats’ Attention-Seeking Behavior
6. They want food
If your cat is feeling a bit hungry, they will let you know in a number of ways. They might try meowing loudly to make a request, but sometimes a more subtle approach is needed. Winning you over with some affection might make you reach for cat food! If it’s a method that usually works for them, you may find that they try it often at mealtimes!
Also read: Why does my cat crave attention so much?ten reasons
7. They miss you
If you’ve been out working all day, or out late into the night, you may find your cat jumping on your lap and immediately starts bunting when you get home. It could just mean they miss you. If you must leave them alone often, make sure you have plenty of toys and activities for them to use and that they are not showing signs of separation anxiety.
Also read: Why does my cat protect me when I go to the bathroom?
What other cat behaviors are signs of love?
Bunting isn’t the only way cats show affection. There are plenty of other affectionate cat behaviors:
1. Knead the dough
When cats pad up and down, stepping on one paw and then the other, like kneading dough, it’s usually because they’re content. Stuffing and clawing in this way releases their scent and allows them to mark their territory. If they do this on or near you, it’s a great compliment because it means they have a strong connection with you.
Also read: Why do cats rub and bite blankets?
While not always a positive behavior, purring is often a sign that your cat is happy and relaxed. If they do this in your company, it means that you have satisfied them. However, purring can also be a sign of illness, pain or anxiety.
Also read: Why does my cat keep purring?
3. Rubbing you
When cats rub against their owners, they cover them with their own scent. This lets other cats know you are their property and means you smell familiar and safe to them. Rubbing against you is also a great way to get your attention, since it’s hard to ignore a cat wandering at your feet.
Also read: Why is my cat licking my hair?veterinarian explained
4. Gnaw you
We all know cats bite sometimes, and usually not affectionately! However, if your cat headbutts you and then nibbles (gently!) on your ear or jaw, it’s a sign that they care about you. Think of it as the feline equivalent of a peck on the cheek.
Also read: Why do cats put their ass in your face?veterinarian explained
5. follow you
If your cat enjoys spending time with you and following you around throughout the day, it probably means they enjoy your company and enjoy watching you go about your daily tasks. It could also mean they feel safer when you’re around. However, clinging can also be a sign of illness, pain, or stress, so if your cat has become more clingy recently, have it checked out by your veterinarian.
Also read: What Pain Relief Medication Can You Give Your Cat? 6 Veterinarian-Recommended Options
6. Sleep on you
When cats are sleeping, they are at their most vulnerable. For this reason, they rarely fall into deep sleep so they can react quickly to threats. If your cat sleeps on you, they may find your warmth and the sound of your breathing comforting. However, they likely also trust you to keep an eye out for predators and keep them safe!
Also read: Why is my cat sleeping on my head?
Can you stop your cat from headbutting people?
It’s not easy to stop your cat from trying to head butt you unless you choose to never sit near them. But why are you doing this? Bunting is a natural behavior of cats, and as a cat owner, it is very important to give your cat ample opportunities to express normal behavior and body language.
Getting your cat treated for parasites in a timely manner is very important to prevent any risks to your health, and you should wash them frequently afterwards. If your cat has bad breath, drooling, or has other reasons that prevent you from being close to them, it could mean they have an underlying medical problem, so talk to your veterinarian.
Also read: Do cats have scent glands in their paws?
The term headbutting might sound aggressive, but to cats, it’s a show of affection. Most cats have soft heads so it doesn’t hurt, remember even if they bite you lightly they are just letting you know you are special!
Also read: Why Do Cats Arch Their Backs? 8 reasons
frequently asked questions
Do cats show affection with headbutts?
Cats often use head bumps to show affection, to scent mark, or to get your attention. Headbutting to indicate a health problem is uncommon, but any sudden change in a cat’s behavior is worth checking out.
Why does my cat head butt me and then bite me?
Cats sometimes give a light or playful bite when they headbutt your ear or your jaw. This is not meant to hurt, but an expression of affection. However, if they get a little too enthusiastic, you can always try redirecting them to a toy for some rough play.
How do you know if a cat loves you or not?
If your cat loves you, they may purr in your company and seek out your lap or something close to you when they rest. They may also show their love by bunting, kneading, or giving you a tender loving bite.
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Specifically, my research investigates how the configuration and composition of landscapes influence the movement and population dynamics of forest birds. Both natural and human-derived fragmenting of habitat can influence where birds settle, how they access the resources they need to survive and reproduce, and these factors in turn affect population demographics. Most recently, I have been studying the ability of individuals to move through and utilize forested areas which have been modified through timber harvest as they seek out resources for the breeding and postfledging phases. As well I am working in collaboration with Parks Canada scientists to examine in the influence of high density moose populations on forest bird communities in Gros Morne National Park. Many of my projects are conducted in collaboration or consultation with representatives of industry and government agencies, seeking to improve the management and sustainability of natural resource extraction.
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