“Why does my cat headbutt me in the morning?”

If you’re wondering what’s behind this funny cat behavior, keep reading for the10 most likely reasons.

We’ll also highlight the differences between a cat headbutting and head pressing and give you some tips on how to react when your cat is bunting.

Are you ready? Let’s dive right in!

Why Is My Cat Headbutting Me In The Morning?

First, let’s put any fears you may have to rest. There’s nothing aggressive or unnatural about those AM headbutting sessions.

For the most part, a cat bunt is just your cat’s way of saying “hi” to you. It’s normal and not a sign that something is wrong with your pet. 

tiger cat headbutt

But as you’re going to learn, cat headbutting can have several meanings, depending on your feline’s overall body language. 

So, let’s take a closer look at why your cat keeps headbutting you and discover 10 in-depth reasons what it means when a cat headbutts you. 

But first, we should talk about what a cat’s head bunting looks like and how to tell it apart from cat head pressing.

What Is Bunting In Cats?

tiger cat doing cat headbutt to the man

According to Pam Johnson-Bennett, a renowned cat behavior expert, the habit that most cat owners refer to as headbutting is actually known as head bunting. 

So, what is it, and why do cats do it? Let’s find out.

Head bunting is where your cat gently rubs her forehead onto your cheek, chin, or another body part. 

As you’ve figured out, this mostly happens in the morning, but it can happen any time of the day.

You may also observe your cat headbutt objects, furniture, the wall, or other animals.

You see, cats have scent glands in several parts of their bodies, including their heads. So, every time they rub on to something, they leave their own scent behind.

When your cat is gently bunting your face, it’s simply a social interaction that involves her leaving her scent on you.

Scent-marking in cats is not just for marking their territory. Sometimes they do it to show that they trust you or as a sign of affection (more on this later).

Check this video:

What Is The Difference Between Pressing And Bunting?

While you may mistake headbutting and head pressing, they’re two different habits.

As mentioned earlier, cat bunting involves gentle rubs. On the other hand, head pressing involves your cat pushing hard on a surface. It could be a wall, a tree, a piece of furniture, or any other hard object.

While bunting is often a sign of affection, head pressing is caused by pain, neurological problems, and certain diseases. 

Below are some of the reasons your cat may be head pressing;

  • Head trauma
  • Liver disease
  • Brain tumors
  • Poisoning
  • Metabolic disorder
  • Central nervous system infections
  • Brain inflammation

If you own an aging cat, they may be suffering from CDS (Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome). This condition makes them lack basic cognitive skills such as maneuvering around objects.

So an elderly pet may be pressing against an object because they’re stuck and don’t know how to go around it.

Besides head pressing, your cat could also exhibit odd behaviors, such as:

  • Pacing
  • Disorientation
  • Abnormal vocalization
  • Staring
  • Seizures
  • Running in circles
  • Drooling
  • A lack of balance
  • A lack of appetite

As you can see, head pressing can be the result of a serious health issue.

So if you notice this behavior, accompanied by the symptoms we’ve just listed, it’s best to contact your vet for diagnosis and treatment.

Don’t try to treat cat head pressing at home, and avoid using human medication such as aspirin, even if you think your cat has a headache.

According to the British Veterinary Journal, aspirin could lead to loss of appetite, depression, or even worse, death. 

10 Reasons For Bunting In Cats

Now let’s see why your cat wakes you up with a headbutt every morning or occasionally.

#1 Sign Of Affection

a cute cat lying on top of her owner's chest after headbutting her

Cats have different sleeping patterns than humans and are most active before dawn.

So while you want to lazy around in bed in the morning, your cat is already up. He/she is just waiting for you to wake up.

Imagine the following situation. 

Your cat climbs up to your bed and gives you a nudge by rubbing your chin. She/he purrs loudly and keeps head bunting you until you wake up to pet him/her.

It’s obvious what’s going on. Your cat is trying to express affection and show how much they have missed you during the night. 

Cats have a reputation of being aloof, but some breeds are attached to their human companions. These cats can be as enthusiastic as dogs when it comes to expressing their feelings. 

While it’s not pleasant to wake early in the morning, you should cuddle or speak to your cat gently. She/he is doing nothing wrong, so there’s no need to yell.

Instead, encourage this behavior since it can strengthen the bond between you and your domestic cat. 

Yes, this will leave you with some fur in your mouth or chin, but bonding and gaining the trust of a pet comes at a cost.

Related: Why Do Cats Purr When You Stroke Them?

Other ways that felines show affection include:

  • Curling their tails around your legs
  • Purring when they’re around you
  • Cat bringing dead animals like critters, such as mice, frogs, or other gifts
  • Nibbling
  • Licking and grooming you
  • Kneading: Check our guide about why do cats knead.
  • Gurgling
  • Following you around

#2 Scent-Marking

a lady lying on the bed while reading beside her orange cat

As we already mentioned, cats have special glands on their cheeks.

When they rub and bunt things, cats release pheromones to mark their possessions and territory. 

It’s a subtle scent, which you can’t smell. But it’s an obvious sign for other felines that you belong to another cat, and they should stay away. 

So, that’s another likely cat headbutt meaning, especially if you have more than one cat and they’re vying for the position of the alpha cat. 

READ MORE: Why Do Cats Sleep With Their Owners?

#3 Showing Trust

lady petting her siamese cat

Cats don’t headbutt people they don’t like or trust. They also never head bunt rival cats, unfamiliar animals, or objects that make them nervous. 

So, if you’re the “victim” of frequent cat head butts, your feline friend is likely demonstrating how much they trust and respect you. 

It’s important not to break this trust by reacting negatively to your cat’s headbutting, or your cat might become shy around you. 

#4 Establishing Familiarity 

domestic cat doing cat headbutt

Besides marking their territory to warn other felines away, domestic cats mark people and objects to establish “safe” boundaries. 

The familiar scent comforts and calms your cat in times of stress and anxiety. That’s why your cat also cuddles with you at night or when they’re scared.

Think about yourself as a big, living security blanket. 

#5 You’re Part of the Clowder

kitty doing cat headbutt to his owner

If you have several cats, they may take turns to mark you with their scent. That’s not creepy or something you should worry about. 

Your kitties are just marking you as part of their clowder and welcoming you to their feline family. 

When cats head bunt one another, they create a group scent so that they can recognize members of the clowder.  

Group scent communication is vital because it strengthens the bond between multiple cats, prevents aggression in multi-pet households, and ensures peace. 

It’s a great show of trust and love if your cats take the time and effort to groom you, rub against your legs, or head bunt you to include your scent in the mix.   

#6 Seeking Attention

a tiger cat sitting on top of the lady

Have you forgotten to feed your kitty or skipped playtime?

Then you shouldn’t wonder, “Why does my cat headbutt me so hard?”

Your cat is trying to attract your attention and remind you of your duties. It’s best to listen and spend some time with your feline to appease them. 

Keep in mind that if head bunting doesn’t work, your cat may become more “aggressive” by scratching on the furniture, meowing continuously, or nibbling on your fingers.

Other behaviors of seeking attention include;

  • Circling your legs
  • Love biting
  • Jumping
  • Acting silly 

#4 Exerting Dominance

a fat cat looking grumpy beside the lady in black

Dominance is also one of the reasons why cats headbutt, especially in multi-cat households. 

Your cat may be trying to show its power over you and warn off the other cats from approaching you for petting and food.

Some spoiled cats may also head bunt you because you’ve allowed your pet to believe that they’re the boss of the house. In these cases, your kitty is making a demand and expecting you to comply as soon as possible.

Such behavior isn’t always a bad thing. However, it can escalate if your cat feels its dominant position is threatened. You might notice marking, biting, or inappropriate urination. 

It’s best to establish boundaries as soon as possible with your cats and show them what’s allowed and what’s not. Otherwise, you’ll have a hard time retraining your kitty.

And always introduce new members to the family slowly to avoid conflicts and territorial fights.  

#8 Communicating a Problem

cat headbutt

Are you worried about cat excessive bunting? Then your kitty may be trying to communicate a problem.

It can be something simple and easy to fix, such as an empty food or water bowl. However, your cat may be saying that they’re in pain, scared, or sick. 

If you notice other worrisome symptoms or odd behaviors, you should speak to your vet as soon as possible. 

READ MORE: Why Do Cats Sleep on Your Head?

#9 Showing Respect

an affectionate cat headbutting the lady

We already explain why headbutting is a measure of deep truth and affection. But a head butt from a cat can also show respect.

Your cats might not listen to you all the time or ignore you when you call their name. But if they headbutt you often, your feline companions are saying that they respect and appreciate what you do for them.

#10 No Reason At All

tiger cat headbutting his owner

Sometimes cats do things for mysterious reasons. We can only guess why they’re staring at the wall, sitting in the bread loaf position, or kneading our heads.

It may amuse your cat to watch as you try to figure out what head bunts mean. Or your cat simply likes to “hit” objects, and you’re the closest one. 

Moreover, kittens and cats often do silly things because they like the extra attention.

What To Do When Your Cat Headbutts You

The best way to respond to a cat headbutting is to try and find out why they are doing it.

If they’re seeking your attention, you can pet them, talk to them, cuddle, feed them, bond, and show them that what they’re doing is okay.

But not everyone enjoys being headbutted every morning or when they’re working on something important. So what do you do to stop your cat from headbutting you? 

  • If you realize your cat is exerting dominance or seeking extra attention, ignore the behavior. When your kitty realizes that it’s not working, she/he will stop bugging you. 
  • Avoid yelling or hitting your pet since this will damage your bond and make your cat fearful. Instead, redirect your cat to another activity or a toy. 
  • You can also let out a soft “ouch” when your cat head bunts you to show “pain.” If your cat thinks they’re hurting you, the headbutting should stop.
  • Consult a feline behaviorist to find why your cat keeps headbutting your face. 

Should I Headbutt My Cat Back?

Yes, you can, as long as your cat is okay with it.

Since they can’t understand what you’re saying, nor can you understand what they’re saying, you headbutting them will be a unique way of communication.

Be gentle and observe your cat’s reaction.

Some cats will like it, but other cats will think you’re attacking them, and you do not want to be on the receiving end of a defensive cat.

Why Does My Cat Headbutt Me in the Morning FAQs

WHY DO SOME CATS HEADBUTT AND OTHERS DON’T?

Cats all have different personalities, and they may express affection to their owners and other animals differently. Headbutting is only one of their ways of showing affection. If your cat doesn’t bunt you, it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t love or trust you.

DO CATS HEADBUTT OTHER CATS AS WELL AS PEOPLE?

Yes. Cats that trust each other will bunt each other occasionally. When they headbutt, they share scent, which is a method of building a positive bond and identifying each other as members of a family.

Do Cats Headbutt to Show Affection?

an affectionate cat headbutting the lady

When cats headbutt you in the face, affection is one of the possible reasons. However, it can also mean that your cat is seeking protection or marking you. 
You have to consider your cat’s whole body language to interrupt their behavior in the right way. 

DO CATS HEADBUTT TO MARK TERRITORY?

Yes, they do. But marking their territory is not only the reason that cats rub their scent onto people or objects. They can also headbutt/spray scent to mark the areas as “safe,” warn other cats, draw out mating companions, or sign friendship with other cats.

Why Does My Cat Headbutt Me Then Bite?

Cat headbutting and biting are common in overly enthusiast cats who are eager to show their affection and get carried away at the moment.
Such behavior can also mean that you’re ignoring your cat. Your feline companion is just taking drastic measures to communicate their problem. 

How Do I HeadButt My Cat?

If you decide to return the gesture, you should gently bunt your cat’s forehead. Some cats might not like it, so be careful not to get scratched. 

Wrapping Up

The next time your cat bunts you in the morning, don’t scold or punish her/him. 

Your kitty is likely saying how much they miss the moments you spend together. Or they want you to get up and fill the bowl with food. 

However, don’t confuse head bunting with head pressing. Headbutting is harmless, but head pressing is often a result of an underlying health issue. 

So, make sure you have your vet check your cat if you’re worried about excessive head butting/head pressing. 

Cat bunting a woman with text "why does my cat headbutt me in the morning?"

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Peter W
Peter W

Peter is a cat dad who loves sharing his experience with other cat parents.
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