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“.


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. 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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Kelly g
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Kelly g

Hello,
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

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

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

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.