Head Pressing in Cats – Know The Difference

I have seen this all over the web and while it should be taken very seriously with dogs, it’s not so straightforward for cats. Cats are known for sleeping in weird positions, from sideways to upside down. Knowing the difference between head pressing and normal cat behavior will help you better care for your cat.

What Is Head Pressing?

Let’s touch on this for a minute if you don’t know. “Head pressing is a condition characterized by the compulsive act of pressing the head against a wall or other object for no apparent reason“ – petMD

There are many conditions that can cause this to happen but the most widely recognized is hepatic encephalopathy. This is the result of the liver not functioning correctly so toxins are left in the bloodstream causing nerve damage.

Other causes of head pressing include:

  • Hydrocephalus (water on the brain)
  • Tumors in the brain
  • Strokes or vascular accidents in the brain
  • Head trauma
  • Inflammatory and infectious types of meningitis and encephalitis
  • Any kind of trauma to the head or brain can potentially cause head pressing
head pressing cat
Hepatic encephalopathy is the most common cause

What's the Difference?

Cats who are sleeping with their face down, this is normal cat behavior. Some cats are just most comfortable like this. 

When it comes to head pressing, you will see your cat doing this against walls while sitting, and while awake. They will press their head up against something, unrelaxed. 

You must know your cat’s behavior and when to have cause for concern, and be aware that this can happen at any age. Seek medical help for your cat if it is sleeping/sitting like this with diet changes (eating less/more), disoriented behavior, walking in circles, walking into walls, sudden drooling, crying when being picked up, and depression.

Below are five pictures of my cat, Joey, sleeping in a “head pressing” position. This is considered “normal cat behavior“ and you can see that he is relaxed.

Now here are some pictures of actual head pressing, you can see the difference! These cats are not relaxed at all, this is when to be concerned.

I hope this clears up any confusion and concerns you may have had. If you have a question about your cat head pressing, leave a comment below!

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My cat head presses when he’s sitting on my lap. He’ll turn to me and rest the crown of his head on my chest or arm pit region. Is this an affectionate behavior or one I should be concerned?

Debbie Baker
Debbie Baker

I am a Lil concerned, only because he is almost 3 yrs old and never did this position of sleeping before, I am trying to find how to post a picture

Nicole J.
Nicole J.

My cat is almost 16. She will sometimes sit down like a loaf or lay down in a circle so her body faces one way but then turns her head the complete opposite way, putting her face up against the couch. She has also recently started snoring, if that means anything. Should I be concerned? She acts normal otherwise, eats and goes to the bathroom normally. It just looks really uncomfortable. I think she is asleep when she does it, but it is somewhat of a new behavior…

Kelly g
Kelly g

Tonight I noticed something different from pressing. She laid on me (not uncommon at all, pretty much all night) for about two hours but I could feel her bones (I noticed that yesterday ), and she wouldn’t lay her head down, it felt stiff actually. Her body temp felt cold as well.

Any thoughts would be helpful


my cat was doing this a while ago but i only just learnt about the problems with it now so am getting super worried.
it only happened once and i believe it was caused by a very stressful situation for her. she was in the corner with her head in a very uncomfortable position for hours. is this even head pressing or something else? should i take her to the vet? it’s been almost a year since it’s happened and she hasn’t done it again