Cat bunting: what is it? Feline behavior explained

Cats are curious creatures that have many behaviors that we need to study to understand because they are not natural in humans. One of these behaviors is what is called cat bunting. In short, cat bunting is when a cat poses or headbutts a human, object, or other animal.. They often end their behavior by rubbing their forehead and cheeks on the subject of the bunting.

So, what exactly is cat bunting and why do cats participate in such behavior? These are great questions that we want to answer for you here. Continue reading!

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What exactly is Cat Bunting?

Cat bunting is a common action among all cat breeds. You know when your cat is “drizzling” if she presses her forehead against your body (usually your own head), then carefully rubs her forehead and cheeks against you. Cats are also known to decay other cats and dogs in their household, as well as objects like furniture and walls. There are several reasons for this behavior, all of which have to do with nature and instincts.

Now, a little anatomy lesson. Cats have scent glands on various parts of their bodies, including the top of their head, cheeks, lips, and tail. These scent glands secrete pheromones which are natural messengers to other cats and animals. Pheromones can be used to create a calming sensation, convey identifying information, and claim territory or individuals. These scent glands are one of the main components of the cat bunting.

cat butt stuck in the hole of a scratching post
Image credit: Lightspruch, Shutterstock

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Reasons Why Cats Practice Head Bunting

There are multiple reasons why cats “bow” their heads and rub their cheeks against people, animals, and objects. None of them are harmful or aggressive. On the contrary, the reasons are interesting and even endearing.

1. Binding

Cats will adopt bunting behavior to bond with their companions. Rather, it is a behavior intended to let you know that you have been accepted as a member of your cat’s group or “feline family.” It’s a connection in one sense, but it goes deeper than that. Once you become part of the trusted family, you have the responsibility to participate in the various natural behaviors in the feline kingdom – or at least, your cat thinks you do!

cat on woman's shoulder by head bitten hair
Image credit: lenina11only, Shutterstock

2. Social ranking

Cats tend to smother members of their group in order to create a social hierarchy. The dominant cat in the group will give the other cats a cavity to spread its pheromones to the entire group. This helps create a group scent, so all other animals around know that all cats in the group belong, work, and protect each other together. Bunting also makes sure that all the cats in the group know who the “boss” is. Other cats in the group can antagonize each other to create a functional social ranking that helps keep the peace and avoid serious confrontations.

3. Marking Behavior

Another reason a cat may engage in bunting is to mark its territory. They usually do this with items like furniture and clothing. They try to make sure other animals know they’ve been there and indicate to the cats and humans in their group that the area is safe. It’s not so much about marking objects territorially, but rather about leaving behind “news” that the cat who made the banner has been there. This is a way of spreading their pheromones and making sure others get wind of them every time they come near them.

a tabby cat licks its owner's head
Image credit: Caterina Trimarchi, Shutterstock

4. Sharing scents

Cats suffocate their human and animal companions share their scent. They hope that their scent will spread and be shared with other beings in the surrounding area. This helps create a sense of community and balance for all group members involved and helps fend off other groups who might try to encroach on their territory. Scent sharing is common in multi-cat households and in communal settings such as boarding schools and humane societies.

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How should you respond to your cat’s head bunting?

You can react to your cat’s head rustling in different ways, but you should never do it in a negative way. You can gently “cushion” your cat, give it some pets, or pick it up and cuddle it. Maybe playing a game is the answer your cat is looking for. Whatever response you choose, pay attention to how your cat responds in return.

Once you determine which responses your cat prefers, you can react that way every time the bunting comes into play. Always pay attention to how other animals react to a cat’s bunting, especially when dogs do the object of such behavior. If aggression is the answer, it is important to take steps to train animals to how to interact with each other or separate animals if necessary, especially when they are unsupervised.

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Cat bunting is generally not a harmful or aggressive behavior. If your cat is bullying you, it’s likely that he’s just letting you know that you’re accepted as a member of his group, or that he’s doing it. I’m trying to communicate with you. Whatever the reason for your cat’s bunting behavior, there should be no cause for concern unless it causes problems with other animals in your home.

Featured image credit: Sari ONeal, Shutterstock


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