Cat Head Butts Are About Trust, Not Food

Bunting, also known as head butts, is something all cat people love to experience. These terms come from other

Almost a match to my previous cat, Nubie.

Almost a match to my previous cat, Nubie. He did great head butts.

activities: bunting = baseball, or a type of cloth material. Butts = a term used by wrestlers and maybe, goats. But, cat lovers have hijacked the term to mean when  a kitty comes up to you and presents the top of her head and shoves it against your chin or hand.

It is sure to elicit an “Awww!” We like to think the cat is trying to tell us in their cat language that they love us. Okay, maybe. It’s nice to feel our pet has affection for us, after all the petting we do to them.

But what is really going on here? Being an amateur student of cat behavior, I felt compelled to find out.

Over on Vet Street they say felines are leaving pheromones on things they find safe in their environment. SO, kitty IS telling you, in a way she likes you. You are trusted. Safe.

Cats do this in varying amounts and intensities. It all depends on the cat.

This phenomenon has generated a Facebook page all about cat head butts. Really cute pictures there.

I love head butts because it feels like a loving communication from the cat that has nothing to do with “Feed me!” or “Clean my litter box!” As cat staff, we’ll take whatever recognition we can get. We certainly don’t earn higher pay for our efforts.

My cat, Sophie, doesn’t give head butts so much as she “presents” the top of her head to me to plant a kiss on it. Then she saunters away. Geesh. She must think good help is hard to find these days.

Please leave a comment about your cat giving you head butts. It is one of the cutest things they do! (And enough to make you forgive them for any misbehavior.)

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14 thoughts on “Cat Head Butts Are About Trust, Not Food

  1. Jobi Harris says:

    Not all cats will give headbutts, but if they would just try it once, I think the human’s reaction would spur them on to do it more often.

  2. Goodness my cat trouble can’t stop giving head butts and neck hickeys! haha

  3. Kitties Blue says:

    There are some serious head-butters among the eight. Misty May is the champion. She really puts a whole lot of force behind hers and can hit us in the face really, really hard. I’ve even bitten my lip when she’s done this. Sorry, it’s not Sophie’s “thing.” Janet

  4. Raani York says:

    Okay, here we go. Jake and Charlet are quite used by now that I love to “cuddle” with them and I love to “return” their headbutts. This means that Jake loves to hop onto my desk, strut up and down and bangs his head against my nose which makes me count all stars over Moscow… Holy crow that boy is strong! But then he sniffs on me, my nose, forehead, eyes, cheeks and places little kisses onto my face and softly gives me more head butts but carefully and tenderly and waits until I place a kiss between his ears. Then he jumps down.
    Charlet on the other side loves it to sleep on me when I’m on the couch watching TV. She gives me little head butts onto my cheeks and chin and sleeps with her face against my neck and purrs.
    Esme gets closer and closer but is not yet ready for head butts but she loves it to be pet. So far we’re on good path. :-)

  5. Sherri says:

    I learnt something today Bev! I knew that cat head butts meant affection but not that it actually means they feel safe with us! Love that as both my cats give us lots of head butts. Yet, neither of them are lap cats…go figure! I look forward to a post about that :-)

  6. Debbie Bowen says:

    My little black female, Spooky, is a real lover. Every night, whether I’m watching TV or working on the computer, she crawls into my arms and gives me kitty hugs. It’s like she is trying to wrap herself around my neck and can’t seem to get close enough. To me, it feels just like a kitty hug. I love it when she does it and she has never stopped purring since we got her about 10 years ago. She is a love!!

    She also will climb on the bed during the night and snuggle into the crook of my arm. I wake up in the morning and there she is, all snuggly and warm. I love that cat!!

    • I love the name — Spooky! And I can tell you love that cat. My previous cat, Nubie, used to snuggle into the crook of my arm, too. It’s just the best!! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, Debbie.

  7. […] down, my most read blog post over the long haul is Cat Head Butts Are About Trust, Not Food. This title shows up EVERY week in my stats. I don’t consider it to be an example of my most […]

  8. Christin says:

    I don’t suppose I really needed anyone to tell me this, but the confirmation is nice to have all the same. I have one who is a bunting addict. She head butts me every single chance she gets, which is quite often. And I love it almost every single time. When I’m reading a book or working at the computer, it can be annoying, but I still take what I can get. I’m really enjoying your page. Lots of great information!

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