Head Pressing In Cats: What Every Cat Owner Needs To Know

Scrolling through Facebook, you may have seen memes with a cat pressing their head against a wall stating things like “how I feel about work on a Monday.” You may have chuckled at it, liked it, and shared it. But what you may not have known is that the cat in the picture pressing their head against the wall is dealing with a serious illness. This is not a laughing matter. And every cat owner needs to know what it means when cats perform this behavior.

head pressing in cats

What exactly is head pressing?

Head pressing is a behavior cats exhibit by pressing their head against an inanimate object such as a wall, a chair or a corner. When they are doing this, cats are completely awake and conscious – not to be mistaken with a kitty sleeping with their head propped up by the wall. A cat that is head pressing may even slide their head against the wall until they reach a corner and lock their head into a specific place. If you see your cat exhibit this strange behavior, you need to contact a veterinarian right away! Head pressing is a sign of neurological problems.


What causes head pressing?

The strange behavior is caused by damage to the nervous system. Head pressing can be caused by a number of life-threatening medical conditions such as a brain tumor, encephalitis (brain swelling), stroke, toxic poisoning, a liver shunt or a metabolic condition. Other symptoms of damage to the nervous system can include:

  • Seizures
  • Head tilt
  • Abnormal vocalizing
  • Walking unbalanced
  • Pacing compulsively or walking in circles
  • Poor reflexes.

Dogs can also exhibit head pressing behavior…

what is head pressing

 Just like in humans, any neurologic symptoms are life-threatening and need to taken as an emergency.

What should I do if my cat starts head pressing?

Since head pressing can be a sign of a life-threatening emergency, if you observe your cat exhibiting this behavior you should contact your veterinarian immediately. In any case of emergency, you should know how to take your cat’s vitals and notice important details to tell your veterinarian.

  • Check capillary refill time: gums should be a healthy pink and if you press down on the gums above the canine, the color should return in less than 2 seconds.
  • Check their pulse and respiratory rate: Cup their chest in your hand to feel a heartbeat. A cat’s normal heart rate is between 140 and 220 beats per minute. Watch their chest rise and fall for a respiratory rate. At a resting state, it is 20 to 30 breaths per minute.
  • You can also take a rectal temperature: The temperature should be under 102.5.

head pressing in cats

When taking your cat to the veterinarian, you should be prepared to give them a detailed history that will include what they eat and if they are an outdoor or indoor kitty. Your veterinarian will also want to check blood pressure and draw blood to check their liver and kidney function as well as their white blood cell and platelet count. The veterinarian will also want to do an exam of the back of your cat’s eye, which can tell them any abnormalities with the brain.

Head pressing is a behavior that shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you observe the behavior, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Sources: [1], [2]

About the Author

Dani Buckley is a small-town resident in Montana. She is a veterinary technician manager and mom of eight four-legged kids – 5 dogs, 1 cat, and 2 horses. When she moved back home to Montana, her horses and her dogs moved with her (Carbon and Milo). The pack grew by three when she moved in with her boyfriend, Cody. Altogether there is a German Shepard (Lupay), a Border Collie (Missy), a Blue Heeler (Taz) and her two adorable mutts.

Was this article helpful?