Cats often bury their heads into their owners – in fact it’s a very common form of feline communication.
The behavior is part of a wider scent-marking ritual that allows cats to spread their scent via glands on their forehead, mouth and chin.
When a cat rubs his head against you (head bunting), it likely means that your cat is showing affection and possibly attention seeking.
Cats have all kinds of ways of showing affection, from biting (sometimes) to, well, rubbing their heads against us!
By doing this, cats are able to transfer their scent which can help to establish or reaffirm a social bond.
According to some experts, bunting tends to take place in the most secure area of a cat’s territory.
So this is a strong indicator that your cat feels comfortable and secure in his environment.
During a bunting or head-burying ritual, your cat may also walk back and forth rubbing against you.
This is similar to allorubbing – a behaviour in which cats rub their flanks against each other.
This is a common component of social communication among familiar cats that helps them to reinforce their place within a group.
It’s Not About Marking Territory
A lot of online sources suggest that bunting relates to territorial marking.
But head bunting is more about social bonding than anything else.
In fact, there’s an actual social system behind it.
For example, a more dominant feline with a higher social rank is usually the one to initiate the bunting.
Instinctively, he’ll spread the scent of his colony while also grooming its members. This also includes us owners!
Bunting is also an attention-seeking behavior that house cats employ when they’re in the mood for a good scratch or some petting.
Chances are that you’ve rewarded him before with affection. So naturally, your cat expects the same treatment!
Why Do Cats Push their Head Into Your Hand?
Cats aren’t all that particular about the part of our bodies on which they rub their heads, be it our legs, arms or shoulders.
If you’re petting your cat during a head-burying session, it stands to reason that the enraptured feline is going to push his head into your hand!
How to Respond to Head Bunting
Some owners respond to head bunting by returning the favour. This may not be the best option with regards hygiene though.
Bear in mind that cats often come into close contact with their own and other cat’s excrement. They also clean their faces with their own saliva!
To avoid contracting an unpleasant condition, scratching and general hand petting may be better alternatives.
Among felines, the forehead, cheek or chin tend to be the best places to reciprocate affection.
While petting, observe your cat’s response to your affections. All felines have their own sweet spots.
Should your cat walk away during a petting session, you might want to try a different spot next time.
What If My Cat Doesn’t Head Bunt?
Don’t take it personally if your cat doesn’t bury his head into you. Remember that cats can display their love and affection in different ways.
Not all felines use head bunting to exhibit their undying love.
Differences between breeds and previous life experiences may cause some to show their feelings in other ways.
To tell if your cat loves you, look out for slow blinks, licking (less common), kneading and especially an upright tail.
Indeed, understanding a cat’s tail position is an extremely effective way of determining its mood and emotional state.
Difference Between Head Bunting and Head Pressing
It’s really important here to note the difference between head bunting and head pressing.
In sharp contrast to bunting, head pressing is a sign of discomfort or a neurological issue.
If you’re worried that your cat is head pressing, you should look out for additional symptoms such as vocalization, disorientation and irritability.
Needless to say, contact your vet as soon as possible if you observe this kind of behavior.