Why Do Cats Head Bump with You?

You can go crazy trying to understand why cats exhibit certain behaviors. Why do they invite affection, only to greet it with a flash of claws and teeth? Why do they like to hang out in sinks? And why do cats like to bump heads with their human companions in a human version of a fist bump?

Unlike many cat habits, head bumping, or as scientists prefer to call it, head bunting has a pretty clear explanation. Cats have scent glands on their foreheads that release pheromones. Since cats use scents to recognize friendly life forms, a cat rapping its head on yours transfers those pheromones to you, essentially signaling that you’re part of the pack.

Cats only have so many ways to communicate with us. The meow is almost exclusively used to talk to humans, but it isn’t the only message system our kitties use. Among them is head bunting. It can often be used as an attention-getting behavior. Figuring out the actual message is up to you. Your cat could be asking for scratches and a rub down. He could be asking for food or snacks. Or he might be asking for some playtime. 

It’s also a sign of affection and trust. For many of us, our kitty will approach with a deep purr and press gently against our face and forehead. Sometimes they’ll even rub their face, from cheek to chin, along our face. For others, head bunting is more like a skull-to-skull headbutt. Either way, it’s a recognized gesture that shows we are an accepted member of the feline family. While you might perceive it as somewhat negative—that a cat is marking you as its territory—it’s more affectionate than that. Cats tend to bunt only when they like their target. You can bunt back or pet them to return the affection.

Cats only have so many ways to communicate with us. The meow is almost exclusively used to talk to humans, but it isn’t the only method our kitties use. Among them is head bunting. It can often be used as an attention-getting behavior. Figuring out the actual message is up to you. Your cat could be asking for a rub down. Maybe kitty could be asking for food or snacks or some playtime.

Keep in mind a bunt is different from a cat resting its head on you, which may be a sign of discomfort and could warrant a visit to the vet.

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