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.“. 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 includes:
Hydrocephalus (water on the brain)
Tumors in the brain
Strokes or vascular accidents in the brain
Inflammatory and infectious types of meningitis and encephalitis
Any kind of trauma to the head or brain can potentially cause head pressing
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. There is no age restriction on head pressing.
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“:
Now here are some pictures of actual head pressing: