It's All In Her Head: Normal And Abnormal Head-Related Behaviors In Cats

6 March 2015
 Categories: , Blog

Imagine this: your cat vigorously scratches her ear, bumps her head against yours, and then presses her head against a wall. Do you know which of these behaviors are perfectly normal and which could indicate that she has a serious health problem? This guide will help to illuminate whether your cat is displaying a common cat behavior or a serious warning sign with her head.

Bunting & Marking

Humans often hug to greet friends, but cats perform a greeting called bunting instead. Bunting, also known as giving face or affectionate head-butting, is a behavior cats display when they come into contact with a cat or person they're affectionate towards. Your cat will bump her forehead against yours, which simultaneously says hello and marks you with her scent, indicating to other cats that you're part of her clan.

Your cat may also rub her cheeks against you and objects around the house to mark those things as her territory, as well. Cat's cheeks are packed with scent glands that she can use to leave her trademark scent behind, which acts as a warning to other animals that she's claiming domain over what she marked.

Head Pressing

Head pressing is a behavior that can easily be mistaken for bunting or facially marking territory, but it's actually a warning sign of a serious problem. Cats who approach walls, doors or other flat objects and press their faces against them, unmoving, may have a neurological problem.

If your cat simply rubs up against the wall or briefly glides her cheek up against it, there's nothing to worry about: she's simply marking her turf. If she rests her head against the wall and stays that way, however, it may indicate that she could be suffering from brain trauma, a brain tumor, or the after effects of a stroke. Additionally, untreated liver disease can cause toxic substances to build up in the blood, which can affect your cat neurologically, resulting in head pressing.

Head Shaking

Every cat will shake their head or scratch their ears from time to time, but incessantly performing either of these behaviors can potentially cause ruptured eardrums, hearing damage or create a blood clot in the ear.

If your cat scratches or shakes her head obsessively, it's probably because something is persistently irritating her ears. The cause could be anything from an ear infection to a foreign body like a weed being lodged in the canal to a more serious problem like a tumor. The root problem may cause serious health issues, but her reaction will only make it worse. Blood clots that develop due to obsessive scratching, and head shaking, for example, can even cause deformity of the ear.

Cats can be mysterious and difficult to understand at times, so knowing how to recognize whether your cat is having a problem with her head is integral to protecting her health. If your cat is obsessively shaking her head, scratching, or head pressing, immediately take her to a veterinarian like the Animal Medical Center of Deer Valley.