Veterinarian-written / veterinarian-approved articles for your cat.

If Your Cat Does This Strange Thing, Don't Ignore It

If your cat is head pressing, it is an emergency.

Head pressing is when a cat pushes her head up against an object. Walls, chairs, and couches are commonly used.

Sometimes, the kitty will press her head against a movable object and push it along until it stops against something else, where she'll continue to press into it.

What Is the Difference Between Head Pressing and Head Butting?

Head pressing is not the same as face rubbing or head butting, which are normal feline behaviors. Face rubbing is meant to mark territory, as scent glands in the cat's cheeks release pheromones. Head butting is usually done to a person or another animal, and it's also a normal gesture meant to communicate love and happiness. Face rubbing and head butting are often associated with purring and other happy body language.

With head pressing, by contrast, the top or front of the head is usually used. The behavior may begin suddenly and is compulsive.

Should You Be Concerned About Head Pressing?

Head pressing is a sign of a serious neurological problem in a cat. If your cat begins doing this strange behavior, contact your veterinarian or go to an emergency veterinary clinic immediately.

The doctor will need to do a thorough physical examination, including an eye exam, blood pressure, blood work, and possible referral for a CT scan of the brain.

What Causes Feline Head Pressing?

Head pressing in cats is caused by something that interferes with the proper functioning of the brain. Possible causes include:

  • Infection (bacterial, viral, fungal, parasitic, or tick-borne)
  • Toxin exposure
  • Trauma
  • Brain tumor
  • Stroke
  • Metabolic disease
  • Liver failure

Treatment of Head Pressing in Cats

Your cat's treatment will depend on the cause of the head pressing. A diagnosis must be made before treatment can be successful. Depending on the cat's overall condition, hospitalization may be necessary to provide supportive care and monitoring.

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