Why Do Cats Bump Their Heads Against You?

Whether you know your cat’s seemingly odd behavior as head bumping, butting, bunting or bonking, your cat is just trying to tell you something.

Why do cats bump their heads on you?
Why do cats bump their heads against you?

You’re stretched back in your recliner, relaxing after a hard day at the office. Just as you are about to drift into sleep, you feel something nudging against your cheek. Slowly opening your eyes, you see that the “nuzzler” is none other than your precious kitty. “What in the world are you doing?” you might ask.

Why do cats bump their heads against you? Well, that unexpected butting of her head is commonly called head bunting, and there’s a perfectly good reason for it.

This feline behavior is, at heart, your kitty’s way of bonding. She may head bunt with you as well as with other humans — or even dogs or other cats. Bunting is a cat’s communication method of showing affection for others. By rubbing this body part against one of yours, she is identifying you as one of her friends.

It’s a Scent Thing Too

Cats’ sense of smell is an important tool in their day-by-day living. They use this sense for social interaction, marking territories and communicating. And get this: Scent glands are located on many parts of the feline body — forehead, tail, cheeks, chin skin, lips and paw pads.

Scent communication is not only kitty’s way of marking her territory — it also provides her with  a comforting familiarity to her surroundings. Cats often scent-mark things that are most important to them. For example, if your kitty head bunts your face, she is letting you know that she trusts you completely. After all, she is placing herself in a rather vulnerable position, not sure of what your reaction will be. Scent communication is a large part of bonding and expressing emotion for cats.

Bunting spreads the cat’s unique odor “signature” upon whatever she rubs. Sharing this scent quickly identifies you, other family members and objects with a familiar odor. Congratulations, you’re a member of her club.

Check out this video of a 12-pound cat named Matty who just won’t rest until every inch of 4-pound Mo is covered in her scent. Mo is not impressed:

Leaving a scent mark is retained for social bonding as well as for friendly and comforting purposes. Now let’s talk about touch…

Right Down to a Cellular Level

Touch also plays an significant role in cats’ lives. Their bodies are blanketed by pain and pressure sensory cells that are highly sensitive to even the slightest touch. Pressure on any hair is relayed to sensory cells down in the hair follicle, then sent directly to the brain. (Whiskers are even more sensitive.) When caressed, the sensual cat feels pleasure from the touch, making this sense an important key to the relationship between cats and their owners.

So when you decide to remove yourself from your recliner and wander into the kitchen to get a snack, don’t become annoyed when your kitty practically trips you, trying to head bunt your ankles. Remember that as with the “slow blink” or even cat drooling, it is all in the name of love.

Whether you know her seemingly odd behavior as head bumping, butting, bunting or bonking, your cat is just trying to tell you that she thinks you are purr-fect!

I’ve written a few other articles about cats that you might enjoy. You can find out why cats always sit on paper, what a slow blink from a cat might mean, and why some cats drool when they purr. Also, you can learn why they like laser pointers so much, why they chirp at bugs, and how the cat brain stacks up against the human brain. Whew! Cats are fascinating, aren’t they?

Additional Resources

Photo: andreavallejos/Flickr

Gayle Hickman

View posts by Gayle Hickman
Gayle Hickman has been researching and writing about pet behaviors since 2011. In addition to Petful, her articles have appeared on Reader's Digest, Yahoo Shine and WebVet, to name a few.

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