Love Hurts! Cats Sometimes Headbutt Their People for This Reason

Kori Williams - Author

Nov. 28 2023, Published 2:42 p.m. ET

An orange cat rubbing against someone's leg.
Source: iStock

The Gist:

  • Headbutts between people can be signs of aggression, but cats do this for their own reasons.
  • Cats commonly headbutt people and objects around them.
  • Headbutts from cats should not be confused with head presses, which could signify a serious medical condition.
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Cats can have any number of quirky personality traits. Some love to meow all the time, while others are quiet unless they need something. Others love physical affection and will rub against you and give you headbutts whenever they can.

You might have been understandably confused if you noticed your cat booping their heads against you or the furniture. So, why does your cat headbutt you? It turns out that there are a few reasons for this, and most of them are pretty adorable.

A cat snuggling with a little girl.
Source: iStock
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Why does my cat headbutt me?

Joey Lusvardi, a certified cat behavior consultant, spoke to Rover about cat headbutts. In the interview, he said that these forehead pats are a sign of affection. "So if you are on the receiving end of a bunt, you should take it as a huge compliment." These felines don't rub up against everyone. They have to truly trust you to want to bond this way.

Additionally, veterinarian Dr. Shannon Barrett told Rover that cats give headbutts because it helps them connect with you through their sense of smell. Kitties have particular scent glands on certain parts of their bodies, including their heads. These glands house their pheromones. So they rub up against you to release their pheromones on you.

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A cat rubbing against someone's leg.
Source: IStock

Unfortunately, we can't smell our cats' pheromones. But Dr. Barrett says, "It’s like a secret handshake but with their faces."

If you have more than one cat, you may see them headbutt each other. According to Argos Pet Insurance, that is either because they are showing respect to one another, or they are creating a "common colony scent."

However, you may notice that cats don't just headbutt people. They do it to different objects around their homes, too.

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Why do cats headbutt objects?

Argos Pet Insurance also says cats headbutt objects to leave their scent on them. They do this to mark their territory, let other cats know where they can be found, or note important locations.

However, it's important to keep in mind that headbutts are different than head presses. PetMD points out that if kitties boop their heads against a person or object, there's nothing to be concerned about. But head pressing is when these pets "compulsively push their head into the wall or corner and will typically not appear relaxed."

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A cat rubbing against the arm of a couch.
Source: iStock

In addition to head presses, cats may exhibit symptoms like pacing and changes in their vision. Catonsville Cat Clinic states cats may do this because they might have a serious neurological condition. Not only can cats hurt themselves while head pressing, but it can become much more dangerous for them without intervention. If you see them do this, it's important to take them to the vet ASAP.

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