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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Caitlin
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Caitlin

My cat is 6 years old a boy and he often sleeps or lays not sure wether he’s asleep with his head facing something, and recently with his head resting on the alarm clock (rectangle shaped upwards)

Valkriesmurf
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Valkriesmurf

The past few weeks my 6 year old cat Alvin has been behaving strangely. He’ll spend all night sitting on the bathroom counter just staring at himself in the mirror. He’s also been spending a large part of his day sleeping with his face toward the wall. Not pressing, though. But not rested either. He’s in a loaf position with his face about a centimeter away from the wall. He seems to be eating and drinking, but I’m not sure if I should be concerned with these new behaviors. Thanks.

Alvin
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Alvin

My cat suddenly started dropping its head down and it’s almost 2 hours it’s still like that. She drops her head walking as well. HELP ME

Alvin
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Alvin

She cant keep her head straight or normal

Abby Sanger
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Abby Sanger

Yesterday, my cat was sitting on a chair, and all of the sudden, she pressed her head on the chair. I have never seen her do that before, so it was very strange. She only did it for a few seconds. Is that a bad sign?

rosemary ferraco
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rosemary ferraco

My cat had surgery about 3 months ago she had a tumor on the side of her chest under her are. It was cancer but the vet said as long as she is eating, drinking and going in the litter box she should be ok for a time. I can’t afford chem or any thing like that and I love our baby . She likes to sleep on the top of the back of a chair but all of a sudden she is pressing her head on the back she does not to it for hours and then she will… Read more »

Jennifer
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Jennifer

Hello, I had read this article not even a month ago and have never seen this before and I have always had cats. Today I saw my kitty laying on the window sill will his head against the wall and my son took a picture of him but I can’t attach it. He thought it was weird looking. I don’t know if he was asleep or not! Is there anyway you can email me so I can send the pic to see if I need to take him to the vet! I am a single mom and every penny is… Read more »

Jay
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Jay

Hi Jennifer, you can send a picture us via the contact form here: https://purrfectlove.net/contact/
Just upload your picture here: https://imgur.com/ and send the link to us. Alternatively, reply to this comment with the image link.

Theresa
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Theresa

My cat did this also, should I be worried. She only does this when I am in the chair and she is on my lap

Andrew
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Andrew

Should I be worried that my cat sometimes does this? https://photos.app.goo.gl/kYx4rZ8Zo22Ps8JWA

Andrew
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Andrew

My cat sometimes presses the side of his face against the window. Should I be worried?

Ellie
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Ellie

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
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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