Cat headbutting another cat

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Cat parents are always wondering why their beloved feline friends do the things they do. Unfortunately, cat behavior can be difficult to understand. Every cat is different, but most use their behavior to tell you how they feel. 

Cat bunting is a common phenomenon that occurs when your cat headbutts you. It's completely normal behavior, and many cats engage in it with people and other animals in the household. Cat bunting is not an aggressive behavior; it's just one way cats communicate with you and each other. What is bunting in cats, and what does it mean? Let's take a closer look at this odd yet adorable cat behavior. 

What Is Cat Bunting?

Cat bunting is when your cat rubs their head against you. Experts believe they do this for the same reasons they cuddle, lick, and groom you—to mark you as theirs and show affection.1 

Cat bunting, or headbutting, transfers your cat’s pheromones and is a sign of affection

What Does It Mean When A Cat's Head Is Bunting?

Like kneading, tail wagging, and purring, cat head bunting is a common way cats show affection and interact with other pets and humans. When a cat rubs against you with their head or body, they mark their scent and invite you to be a part of their social structure.1 Common reasons for bunting in cats include the following: 

  • Scent mixing & marking: Cats use scent to communicate and mark familiar objects.2 You may see your cat rubbing their face against objects or even people because their cheeks emit pheromones. Ultimately, when your cat rubs against you, they mark you as part of their social circle. This scent exchange means your cat wants you to smell like them.
  • Self-soothing: Physical contact can be soothing for pets. Cats that rub their heads and faces against you are usually happy and relaxed, which may be because they enjoy their scent or get attention from you. Therefore, cat bunting can be a way for them to eliminate stress.2 Cats may also eliminate stress by kneading or licking you. 
  • Attention seeking: Bored cats might engage in various behaviors to get you to play with them. Cat head bunting is often an attention-seeking behavior because they know it gets your attention. You reinforce this behavior every time you talk to them, pet them, or give them toys and treats when they bunt you, so if you're trying to prevent your cat from bunting, be aware of how you react. 
  • Learning: A bunting cat might use this behavior to learn about a new person or pet. If you've recently adopted a cat or introduced your cat to a friend, you may notice them bunting as a form of communication to determine whether they like the other person or pet. 

Generally, a bunting cat is a happy cat trying to form or reinforce a meaningful bond with you. If a cat bunts you, they're likely trying to show you affection. That said, not all cats engage in this social behavior. Cats communicate in several ways, so if your cat hasn't bunted you, it may be showing you affection or asking for attention in another way. 

Since cat bunting is usually a sign a cat is content, you can look for other behaviors and body language to determine whether your cat is happy, such as slow blinking, grooming, or kneading your clothes. 

Head Bunting Vs. Head Pressing

Cat head bunting is a common behavior that's often mistaken as head pressing. However, they're not the same. Bunting cats usually rub their faces, cheeks, or head against you. Meanwhile, cats engaged in head pressing will hold their heads against an object for a considerable amount of time. If your cat is pressing its head, it could indicate an underlying health condition.2 

Cats who engage in head pressing will do it regularly for no apparent reason. It may signify nervous system problems caused by various underlying health conditions like a metabolic disorder, tumor, and infection.3 To determine if your cat is head bunting or pressing, consider their body language, other behaviors, and possible symptoms, such as pacing, drooling, and seizures.3 Meanwhile, cats bunting are usually calm and appear content. 

How Should You Respond To Cat Bunting?

Bunting in cats is most often your cat's way of showing you affection or asking for attention. However, every cat is different. For example, if you've recently adopted a new kitten, it might be your cat's way of learning about you. If your cat starts rubbing their head against you, cautiously return the affection while monitoring their body language and behavior. 

You can respond to your cat's bunting by petting them or gently pressing your head against theirs. When petting your cat, be careful because some cats are picky about where they'll allow you to touch them. You know your cat best, but it's generally safe to pet them on the back, under the chin, at the base of the ears, and between the eyes. 

Since your cat can't tell you when they're uncomfortable, you should always stay cautious when petting them. Overpetting or incorrectly petting your cat can cause stress. Therefore, you should pay attention to your cat's body language to ensure they won't become aggressive. For example, if your cat is head bunting and allows you to pet behind their ears, it's not an invitation to pet them on their tummy or feet. Instead, look for signs of stress like nose licking, freezing, or an overall stiff posture. 

If your cat displays any signs of stress, leave them alone to let them calm down and decide whether they want to continue interacting with you. 

Other Signs Of Comfort & Affection

Cats have a reputation for being independent and standoffish, but that doesn't mean your cat doesn't love you or enjoy spending time with you. Cat bunting is just one way your cat shows you affection. Other ways they may show you they love you include: 

  • Kneading: If your cat kneads your clothes or body, they're trying to show you affection. This behavior started when they were kittens with their mothers and can make them feel calm and happy.4
  • Grooming: Cats enjoy grooming themselves and their loved ones as a sign of affection. If your cat licks you, they're likely trying to groom you and mark you to establish a stronger bond.4
  • Bringing presents: Cats like to bring their pet parents presents to show affection. Unfortunately, this means your cat might present you with dead rodents or birds from outside.4 Indoor cats may give you toys or other objects since they can't hunt. In any case, giving you a gift means your cat is showing you affection, similar to how you give them treats and food. 
  • Following you: Cats are more like dogs than you might think. Your cat may show affection by following you when you walk around your home.4
  • Meowing: Slow, soft meowing can indicate that your cat is comfortable and content.4
  • Purring: One of the most common ways cats communicate their happiness is by purring.4 You may notice this calming sound when they're cuddling you on the couch or getting gently petted. 
  • C-shaped tail: Your cat's tail can tell you a lot about their feelings. If your cat is holding their tail in an upright C-position, it means they're happy.4 Content cats may also slowly wag their tails. 
  • Sleeping with you: If your cat enjoys stealing the covers at night, you’ll be happy to know it’s their way of showing that they feel safe.4 

Keep in mind that many of these signs can also be exhibited during times of stress. It’s important for pet parents to consider these signs as well as their cat’s body language and environmental circumstances. 


Is cat bunting a sign of affection?

Cat bunting is a sign of affection because it's one way your cat marks their scent. Cats typically headbutt the people and animals they love and trust. However, they may also use head bunting to self-soothe or learn about a new person or pet in the home. 

What does it mean when a cat headbutts you?

If a cat headbutts you, they may be trying to show you affection or learn more about you. Ultimately, any time a cat rubs their head on you, they're marking you with their scent, which can make them feel safe and happy. It's their way of reinforcing your relationship and showing you they love you. 

How do cats show affection?

Cats can show affection in several ways, including head bunting, grooming, licking, rolling over, and purring. However, every cat is different. For example, bunting in cats is common, but not all cats engage in this behavior. You know your cat best, so learning their basic behaviors and body language can help determine whether they're trying to get your attention, show affection, or tell you something. 

Cat headbutting young girl

Final Notes

Cat bunting is normal behavior, and it's just one way your cat communicates with you. Unfortunately, head bunting and head pressing can look similar, so if your cat is engaging in new behaviors, consult a vet to ensure they're not displaying signs of illness. 

While cat bunting is typically a sign of affection, it can be a way for an anxious cat to self-soothe. Consult a Dutch vet if your cat displays anxiety or stress. We can diagnose and treat anxiety in cats to prevent the need for self-soothing behaviors to ensure your cat lives a happy, healthy life. Try Dutch today. 



  1. Saulnier, Beth. "The Abcs of C-A-Ts - Cornellians: Cornell University." Cornellians | Cornell University, 29 Sept. 2022,

  2. "Why Does My Cat Headbutt Me?" PetMD,

  3. "Head Pressing in Cats." PetMD,

  4. "Does My Cat Love Me?" PetMD,

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