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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Rebeca Dematos
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Rebeca Dematos
My cat, after seeming totally fine and normal, today after snacks, which is just wet food for cats…. She came and bonded with me as I was in conversation with another… then she moved to her spot on the bed that happens to be the corner edge, between the wall and tv stand…. I saw her head pressed. She never had done this before, I panicked immediently. I found this post… and after my last few moths, feeling like the only meaning in my life is in extreme danger… I broke down. … I need to be educated please so I’m not so confused, or have to many in certain feelings that cause more panic. I noticed a slight change in her persona, enough to guarantee it was bad… my friend said it was nothing but my terror. I knew, I spend all my days with this cat, because I’m… Read more »
Dorothy
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Dorothy

My cat pushes his head against my thigh like this. Can I assume it’s affection? Please don’t share my email address or send “updates.” Thank you for answering my question.

Bianca Petrescu
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Bianca Petrescu

My 19 year old cat has been doing this for a few months, no other strange behaviour occured. However, he had a seizure in April last year. Is this head pressing thing something to worry about?

moosish
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moosish

My 7-year-old male cat has ALWAYS liked pressing his face into my hand, and I could tell he was fine. However, all of a sudden, for about a week now, his position while at rest is different; he is laying with his front paws under his body, and his head is on its side, pressing down into the bed or chair. Should I be concerned?

Sheryl Wallace
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Sheryl Wallace

Hi, my 12 year old male cat was just seen at the vet for circling to the left, pacing, meowing deeply, and staring at walls. He gave him an exam and I told him that it looked like blood coming out of his eye and he said he was concerned. He also noticed ear discharge. What he said next upset me greatly. He told me my cat should have an MRI because it looks like a brain lesion. I can’t afford a 2000.00 MRI and I’m looking at cat charities to see if I can get help. In the meantime he gave me Prednisone and ZydaClin in case my cat has an infection. I don’t know what to do but cry for most part of the day. Please help.

Paulina Rittscher
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Paulina Rittscher

I’m reading this, right now. Can you please let me know the status of your pet, if you still have it

Sheryl Wallace
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Sheryl Wallace

He doesn’t circle much anymore but still yowls loudly, paces and gets stuck in corners. He goes outside litter box. He doesn’t groom himself or purr. But he still comes to me and wants to be petted. His last dose of Prednisone is today.

Elspeth Sharps Morgan
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Elspeth Sharps Morgan
Very glad to find this article and pictures. My cat decided to adopt me by sneaking into my house and having five kittens when I had never had a cat nor knew anything about cats. She was mostly feral but once I got her adjusted to people, she became my perfect snuggle cat. I’ve had her a little over a year so she keep surprising me with new things. In the past week or two, she’s started finding some solid object (the back of a chair, the couch arm, my leg, the bed, etc.), mushing her face into it and going to sleep. Sometimes she just faceplants, which she’d never done before. I looked it up and of course, immediately found head pressing and got worried. After looking at your pictures, though, I’m pretty sure she’s just being a dorky cat, especially since nothing else seems to be wrong with… Read more »
Joseph Phillips
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Joseph Phillips

Take this seriously. My 18 year old kitty started doing this three or four days before she passed away. She was pressing her head into me very hard. I thought she was just being her neurotic lovable self. Until on the fourth day she tried walking and her hind legs quit working. All she could do was fall over and cry. The vet said that she had had possibly been having small strokes and then had a massive stroke. We had to put her to sleep as a result. The vet said it was a sign of inter-cranial pressure. Her ears were red as cherries. If you notice this behavior please talk to a vet.

Rick Smith
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Rick Smith

One of our cats does this all the time. He sits with his head against a table leg. Usually only for a few minutes, then he’s off doing his thing. He’s normal in every other way. Running, playing with the other two cats. Diet has never changed. No other behavior strange in any way.
Let’s see. If I have a headache, I COULD have a brain tumor, or cancer, or God knows what?
Better run to the ER and get an MRI done. After $10,000, they probably discover I just had a headache.

Gabrielle
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Gabrielle

My 14 year old cat sleeps with her head pressing down on the sofa but sometimes it looks like she has the hiccups or is burping at the same time. This is usually after meals, but she is often sleeping when she does it. This is something she has only started doing this the last six months. Previously she was diabetic but I managed to put her in remission after six months. I still check her blood and she hasn’t been diabetic for over a year now. She seems happy and she eats and plays but she is heavier than she was.

stephanielynnbutler
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stephanielynnbutler

my new rescue cat sits beside me and presses her head against my arm and can do this for a long period of time. Is this normal. I had 2 cats before her and another new rescue and have only had these cats rub their faces along my arm, legs, feet face etc. Thank you.

Bree Bisshop
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Bree Bisshop

My cat does not head press but lately sleeps with his head very close to a wall but not touching… What could it be

Melissa
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Melissa

I have a kitty who does this when she has a “headache”….What I call a “headache” is when she is extremely tired, cold (sneezing), not enough to eat/drink (I monitor–I have 3 kitties right now and make sure they all eat), “chats less”, etc. If your kitty has never done this before, acts in pain or is doing other “odd” behaviours, my suggestion is call your vet. You know your baby best, so trust your instincts….Purrs and Headbutts to all 😀

Alexa Nelson
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Alexa Nelson

So my cat has been acting really weird lately. When she comes into my room, she jumps right to my pillow and bites it in one spot then she rubs her face against it. I know when she’s in heat she rubs her head on the males of the family but I’m a single female so there shouldn’t be any cause from that. I’ve tried washing my pillow when she started but it didn’t change anything. Everyone’s saying not to think about it but it’s making me a little nervous. I tried talking to her and she was breathing really heavy when she looked at me. Any ideas? Thanks!!

Amy
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Amy

Hi, I have a 5 year old cat who likes to sleep with his head against the wall or up against the side of the cat bed however he doesn’t do it all the time. Should I be concerned? Thanks.

Amy
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Amy

Hi, I have a 5 year old cat who likes to sleep with his head against the wall or up against the side of the cat bed however he doesn’t do it all the time. Should I be concerned? Thanks.

Karen
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Karen

I have a cat that is 20 years old, almost 21. She is losing muscle in her hind quarters and also keeps trying to eat the ashes from the fireplace. I’ve seen her acuople times eat her litter. What could be going on?

Lisa
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Lisa

Very helpful…I adopted a 3 year old calico that came forme an abused home. She is very fearful of running water and sudden movement’s but doesn’t mind hair dryers or vacuum cleaners. She presses her head on me every chance she gets especially my face. I’m mostly the only one she’s like that with. We share a love of peace and quiet!

Ennay
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Ennay

Thank you so much for this info! The comments really helped me out too. My cat (4 years old) started pressing her head against me (nothing else) about 6 months after I got her when she was 1. I thought it was just affection then someone recently told me it’s a bad sign. She doesn’t sleep like that, she’s just purring super loud and getting comfortable then relaxes on me. I was getting concerned with everything else I read, but it seems from reading here that it really is just affection. Phew. Thank you for this info!!

Hannah
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Hannah

hey! my cat comes and sits on my lap and just rests her head on my stomach (an extended headbutt of sorts) during this her back is arched, are these symptoms and is she in any danger?

Cat Man
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Cat Man

Wow, did not know this!

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