The Cat Headbutt. What Does It Mean?

Find out more about one of the cutest cat body language behaviours – the head butt.

We’ve all been there. A cat wanders past and gently headbutts your ankles, or you lean down to say hello to them (in baby voice of course) and they lean up and head butt your nose.

A cat head butt, or ‘head boop’ as it can sometimes feel, feels as though your cat loves you. Like it isn’t a hugger, but, this is the cats version of a hug. You know?

Of course, it is easy to anthropomorphize cats (and sometimes necessary during an affection drought) but, it’s good to have an idea of what their behaviours actually mean. Is a cat headbutt meaning bad? Should I headbutt my cat? Like, why does my cat headbutt me?! I need to know!

To gain some ground on this cute little floofer boop behavior, let’s take a closer look at it:

What A Cat Headbutt Looks Like

A cat headbutt is also known as bunting and you can see a great video example of it here.

A cat headbutt is literally a cat using their head to touch you or contact your body. They will butt you with the top of their head, their nose, their cheek, and then rub along the body part they have made contact with. They may follow the headbutt through with a rub all the way along their shoulder and along to their butt and tail. You may have seen your cat headbutt furniture, other pets, books, laptops and anything else that takes their fancy.

Why Does My Cat Headbutt Me?

The reason a cat headbutts is a good thing! They do it to scent, but not in a stinky-to-humans way as per pee scenting (thank god). It’s the way they spread the scent from their scent glands (which are in their cheeks, paw pads, lips, forehead, flanks, tail and anus) to create a colony scent. This scent may be spread all the way across the territory of a domestic cat, which can be up to 4.9 acres!

The scent is like a secret eau de parfum only other kitties and animals smell, so, by doing it on you, they’re making you part of their territory. They trust you and see you as ‘safe’ and comfortable.

Can A Cat Headbutt Be Affectionate?

It is definitely a sign they have some good feelings towards you and see you as safe. However, it isn’t likely to be affection as you know it, hence them also headbutting walls, chairs and other items. Your cat doesn’t love the walls, chairs and you, but rather they feel comfortable with these things, and see them as part of their safe place.

Why Does My Cat Headbutt Other Cats?

2 cats headbutt

Your cat headbutts other cats in the house to spread the colony scent further, again to signify those cats being part of the safe place. In some instances a cat may headbutt another cat as a sign of respect as well.

My Cat Hasn’t Headbutt Me In A While…

Don’t worry! This is probably just because they are showing their affection in other ways. You’ll probably see that next time they want attention or feel particularly good, they will be raining head boops on you once again.

“There are few things in life more heartwarming than to be welcomed by a cat.” – Tay Hohoff

Kitty headbutts are great, and definitely a sign that they see you as their people. Know that if they choose to give you a little head boop, they see you, the chairs, the sofa, the tables and the walls as safe and comfortable – one of the highest honours a cat can bestow upon any mere human or inanimate object.

About Anneka Dalrymple

I am a writer of 6 years, and I’m a total animal nerd. I love wildlife, but none so much as my own tiny lion, April. She’s a 10 year old floofer who adopted us, and we’re so much happier for that. I have also grown up with animals and at one point we had 6 cats, 2 dogs and 2 rabbits. Pets are a total gift.

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