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

  • 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. 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:

Have any questions or concerns about head pressing? Share them in the comments!

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dil
Guest
dil

hi
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

Ademharb
Guest
Ademharb

Is this wepsite reliable?

Jay
Admin
Jay

We are not a source for professional medical advice, but we are cat owners for almost 30 years. This website documents our knowledge and findings, and also combines other sources of information.

Ademharb
Guest
Ademharb

Thank you
Sorry for asking but this is important
are you one of the wepsite owners ?

Jay
Admin
Jay

Yes, 1 of 2.

Ademharb
Guest
Ademharb

Okay
Thank you

Ademharb
Guest
Ademharb

I need to know fast plz

Roxy
Guest
Roxy

My cat Gizmo just sits facing the wall. She doesn’t put her head on it, just faces it. Should I be concerned?

JeffK
Guest
JeffK

I have a 8 year old Tuxedo cat who likes to sleep with his head in the palm of my hand. I always thought his behaviour was cute, but this has me a little concerned. He never appears to be in discomfort and purrs until he falls asleep, so not sure if I should be worried.

Claudia
Guest
Claudia

Hello! I recently rescued a stray cat that presses his head to me really hard but only when I pet him. When he walks away from me he doesn’t do it against any other objects or walls. If I’m not petting him he does the normal stuff of just rubbing up against corners of furniture or my laptop and he doesn’t sleep with his head pressed anywhere. Should I be concerned if it’s only when I pet him? I have zero reference of past behavior because I just rescued him but I do know he’s an older cat.

Andrea
Guest
Andrea

How interesting! I now realize that a friend’s cat from years and years ago must have had this.. poor kitty =( Is this particular or more common to certain breeds? I have a Himalayan that I rescued 4 years ago, I don’t know much about his medical history before we got him, he seems to have a thing for sleeping with his face flat against the side of his scratching post… and if I scratch him between his eyes on the bridge of his nose he really leans into it like “more! scratch harder!” He has no other behaviours tho.. ..well, apart from the vocalizing but I always figured that was the Siamese in him.

Barbara Keith
Guest
Barbara Keith

I dont know if it is considered head pressing but I have an old cat, and she goes in our window seal, sits up, and puts her nose against the wood, pointed up. She continues to do this for hours on end but seems to be fine. When we call her when she’s like that, she comes. (And so on) my mom started getting concerned and we aren’t sure why she does that. If anyone has any idea why a cat would do this, please contact me at the given email below. This may be her way of getting or being comfortable, I don’t know, none of my other cats do this.

Thank you,
Barbara k. ♥

charlene bracher
Guest
charlene bracher

My 16 year old diabetic cat sleeps in the bathroom with her nose up against the bathtub or the laundry baskets. I don’t think it’s her forehead I’m pretty sure it’s just her nose. she does cry sometimes when she wakes up but that is only when she’s in the bathroom. Could this be a bad thing?

Jaimee @ CAT VETERAN
Member
Jaimee @ CAT VETERAN

Head pressing looks so sad! Thank you for this informational post – I honestly had never heard of this before! 😮
My cat likes to lay in the “normal” position with her head down. It’s really helpful to know, if she starts going this head pressing, I know now what it can mean and not just to brush it off as a funny action. I’m sure most people do think it’s just a bit strange but may not think anything else of it – I had no idea it could mean such serious things.
Thanks for spreading this knowledge! (Your cat is very cute, by the way!)

Jillian Leary
Guest
Jillian Leary

My cat is named Angelica. We got her since 2012. I love to hold and cuddle up to her. She sometimes presses her head. And she sometimes gets hot spots which kinda Worries me. Last year my mom took her to the vet where they gave her A cast for her hot spot and it went away 4 days. So if your cat gets hot spots. Take them to the vet and they’ll help your cats hot spot go away as soon as it can