Cat Head Pressing While Sleeping: What Does it Mean?

Cats love to sleep and do lots of it. They sleep in many locations in our homes and in just about every physical position. Let’s look at some common questions cat lovers have about their cat’s sleep patterns and we will review causes of cat head pressing while sleeping.

What is Normal Cat Sleep Behavior?

How much do cats sleep? Experts estimate that the average cat will sleep 13 to 15 hours per day with some cats sleeping as much as 20 hours a day.

When are cats awake vs. sleep? Cats are “crepuscular” which means their activity levels peak at twilight which is at both dawn and dusk. Why is this? Because twilight is the time when their prey is most active. So in-between, cats sleep. Although your cat may be indoors and domesticated, these instincts remain. Cat lovers recognize this as their cats run around the house in the wee hours of the morning, sometimes knocking things over, or pouncing on moving toes while they are trying to sleep. So during our waking hours, we see our cats sleep.

Where Do Cats Sleep? What is a normal location for cats to sleep? Cats love to sleep where they feel safe and comfortable. Cats love to sleep high on perches or beds where they can monitor their environments for threats from a safe height. Cats also love to sleep in boxes, cubbyholes, or hidden on dining room chairs. Small hiding spot spaces are often warm, cozy, and out of reach or sight of predators. Some cats also love to find a slice of sunshine and enjoy the warmth as they take their catnap.

Are Cats Deep or Light Sleepers? Cats are known to be light sleepers, always being on alert to attacks based on their nature of survival. Cats can go from a full sleep to fully alert and running in no time.

What Positions Do Normal Cats Sleep in? Every cat is a little different as far as what position they sleep in. Cats sleep curled up in balls, sprawled out on the back of the sofa, on their backs in the middle of the floor, or even to appear curled into a position that appears to be cat head pressing while sleeping. Some cats will cover their eyes with their paws while sleeping as if to block out the light.

The vast majority of cats sleep curled up in balls with their chin on their chest and their tail tucked gracefully besides them up the length of their body. This posture is to help them retain their body heat. Cats curl up with their face between paws or covering their faces as another way retain their body heat and minimize heat loss. Some of these positions will appear as head pressing while sleeping which can be a normal cat behavior and they do this because this is a comfortable position for them. During this time your cat’s body is relaxed.

Why a Cat Might Press Her Head Against Something While Sleeping

Some owners worry about their cat head pressing while sleeping. Is this normal behavior? Or is this a symptom of a serious neurologic problem? Learn more about What is Head Pressing in Cats?

Some cats will perform a head pressing behavior as they curl up to go to sleep to mark their territory. Cats have scent glands on their checks and this head rubbing behavior allows them to mark their territory and take ownership.

How to Know the Difference Between Signs of Disease or Just Odd Behavior

When should you be concerned about if your cat’s head pressing is normal or abnormal, consider the following. If your cat is eating, drinking, playful or having otherwise normal behavior, then it is unlikely that that the symptoms are of concern.

When it comes to head pressing, if you will see your cat doing this against walls while sitting or while awake as though your cat doesn’t know what he or she is doing, that can be abnormal. It can be a medical problem if they press their head up against something with an unrelaxed posture. Learn more about the medical problems that can cause head pressing in this article: Cat Head Pressing: What You Need to Know

Additional signs of medical problems seen in cats that are also cat head pressing while sleeping may include:

  • Behavior changes or changes in learned behavior
  • Circling and walking in one direction
  • Decreased appetite or weight loss
  • Eye changes such as unequal pupil sizes or inability to blink
  • Head tilt
  • Incoordination or falling over when walking
  • Less engaged with family or with normal activities
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Restlessness and pacing
  • Seizures
  • Sleeping more
  • Stuporous behavior
  • Weakness

If your cat is showing any of the above signs and seems to be head pressing, please see your veterinarian immediately. There may be a serious underlying cause that requires urgent veterinary care.

When You Should Be Concerned About Cat Head Pressing While Sleeping

You should be concerned if your cat is head pressing and showing any of the clinical signs listed above. If you have any concern that your cat’s head pressing or sleeping behavior is not normal, the safest thing to do is to please see your veterinarian.

  • Your vet will likely perform a physical examination including a complete neurological examination. They will look at overall attitude, alertness, pupil size and responsiveness to light, ability to blink, head and neck movements, coordination, body posture, gait, and reflexes.
  • Any abnormality above may be cause for concern leading to the recommendation for diagnostic testing that may include:
  • Basic blood work and urinalysis are recommended to evaluate for systemic disease. Tests include a complete blood count (CBC) may be within normal limits, but an elevated white blood cell count may be present if there is also secondary infection. A biochemical profile and urinalysis may be unremarkable unless an underlying or concurrent disease is present.
  • Radiographs of the chest and abdomen are an important part of any baseline work-up. They may be within normal limits or can reveal signs of cancer or concurrent disease.
  • Abdominal ultrasound is recommended in most cases suspect of cancer or concurrent disease.
  • Computed tomography (CT scan or CAT scan) is a special X-ray technique that provides serial images of the brain using enhanced computer processing.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic test that uses powerful magnetic fields to generate detailed images of body organs.
  • If your cat is showing abnormal neurological signs in addition to cat head pressing while sleeping, your vet may refer you to a veterinary neurologist for a second opinion and additional advanced diagnostics such as the CT scan or MRI.

 

Reference Articles about Hypernatremia and Hyponatremia in Cats

What is Hyponatremia and Hypernatremia in Cats

Hyponatremia and hypernatremia in cats are disorders of blood sodium levels. The term hyponatremia is used to describe low concentrations of sodium in the blood and hypernatremia is used to describe high concentrations of sodium in the blood. These conditions have different causes and treatments.

Sodium is critical to all body functions including blood pressure maintenance, acid/base balance, and preservation of blood volume.

Below, we will provide information about the symptoms of, diagnostic tests for, causes and treatment of hyponatremia and hypernatremia in cats.

Hyponatremia in Cats

Sodium is an essential component of a fluid makeup and is extremely important in its relationship with fluid balance. A common line used to help veterinary students understand the interaction of sodium on body fluids is “Where sodium goes…water follows”. Normal sodium blood levels is critical to maintaining a normal body fluid balance.

Changes in sodium levels can occur slowly or quickly which can cause a variety of life-threatening symptoms. The faster the change in sodium levels the more severe the clinical signs because the body has not had time to adjust.

Hyponatremia is a symptom and many diseases can result in low sodium levels. Hyponatremia has various effects throughout the body. Hyponatremia can affect any age, breed or sex of cat.

Causes of Hyponatremia in Cats

Causes of hyponatremia in cats may include:

  • Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels can cause increased blood sodium levels)
  • Dehydration
  • Medication administration such as from mannitol
  • Specific types of intravenous fluids administration such as hypotonic fluids
  • Fluid overload (too much fluid in the body)
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Sodium losses from such vomiting, diarrhea, excessive urinations
  • Polydipsia which is a disease of excessive thirst
  • Liver failure

Symptoms of Hyponatremia in Cats

Signs of a low blood sodium levels in cats may include:

  • Coma
  • Confusion
  • Diarrhea
  • Dullness
  • Head pressing Cat Head Pressing: What You Need to Know
  • Head tremors
  • Inappropriate behavior
  • Labored respirations (dyspnea)
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Weakness
  • Severe neurological signs may occur when the serum sodium level falls below 110 to 115 mEq/L in cats.

Diagnostic Test for Hyponatremia in Cats

Blood tests will diagnose low blood sodium levels.

  • The biochemical profile reveals low blood sodium levels which confirms the diagnosis of hyponatremia.
  • Other abnormalities may also be detected such as kidney failure, diabetes or other diseases.
  • The complete blood count may be normal or reveal abnormalities from the primary problem.
  • The urinalysis may reveal dilute urine associated with kidney failure.

Once a low blood sodium is detected, it is critical to determine the underlying cause to provide the most effective treatment.

Treatment of Hyponatremia in Cats

Treatment will vary depending on the severity of the clinical signs, the degree of hyponatremia, and the underlying cause.

  • Cats dehydrated with low blood sodium may be treated with intravenous fluids therapy that contains sodium.
  • Cats with excessive fluid in the blood can be treated with diuretic medications and restriction of sodium (salt). Rapid intravenous administration can lead to severe electrolyte disturbances and may result in death.
  • Careful monitoring of hydration status and sodium concentrations is important to avoid overcorrection.
  • If the low sodium is severe, cats are hospitalized and given therapy over the source of hours to days. Cats often also require treatment for the underlying cause of the hyponatremia. Many cats respond favorably within 2 to 5 days but complete recovery may take several weeks.

Prevention of Hyponatremia in Cats

Cats with hyponatremia should be monitored for relapse or development of other signs. Many cats have underlying disease, such as kidney failure, and may need additional treatment.

Hypernatremia in Cats

Sodium is an essential component of a fluid makeup and is extremely important in its relationship with fluid balance. Changes in sodium levels can occur slowly or quickly which can cause a variety of life-threatening symptoms. Sodium is often associated with chloride and abnormalities in sodium levels often also causes abnormalities in chloride blood levels. Hypernatremia can affect any age, breed or sex of cat. Hypernatremia is defined by serum sodium concentrations over 165 mEq/L in cats.

Hypernatremia can be caused by loss of water through the kidneys or gastrointestinal tract or from low water intake.

Symptoms of Hypernatremia in Cats

Signs of high blood sodium levels may include:

Diagnostic Test for Hypernatremia in Cats

Blood tests will diagnose high blood sodium levels.

  • The biochemical profile reveals high blood sodium levels and confirms the diagnosis. Other
  • abnormalities may also be detected such as kidney failure, diabetes or other diseases.
  • The complete blood count may be normal or reveal abnormalities from the primary problem.
  • The urinalysis may reveal dilute urine associated with diabetes and a potential secondary infection.

Causes of Hypernatremia in Cats

Causes of high blood sodium may include:

  • Decreased water intake
  • High sodium intake
  • Increased urinations causing water loss (such as with diabetes)
  • Intravenous fluid therapy containing high levels of sodium
  • Losses of sodium through vomiting and/or diarrhea

Treatment of Hypernatremia in Cats

Treatment will vary depending on the severity of the clinical signs, the degree of hypernatremia, and the underlying cause. Once diagnosed, cats are treated with intravenous fluids therapy balanced to provide hydration but lower levels of sodium. The fluid chosen will depend on if the cat is also dehydrated. Fluid options may include Lactated Ringers Solution (LRS), Normal Saline (0.9% NS), or 5% dextrose (D5%W). Learn more about Fluid Therapy.

What is Prosencephalon Disease in Cats?

The prosencephalon in cats is another term for the forebrain which is the anterior part of the brain. To help you better understand the prosencephalon, we will review some basic information about the cat brain.

The physical structure of the cat brain is very similar to our brains. The brain is part of the neurological system and located within the skull. It is a soft mass of pinkish gray nerve tissue. The other major portion of the nervous system is the spinal cord which attaches to the base of the brain. Together the brain and spinal cord make up the central nervous system. Nerves found throughout the rest of the body make up the peripheral nervous system.

The brain is divided into three compartments: the brain stem, cerebrum and cerebellum.

  • Brainstem – is the area at the base of the brain that controls basic life functions. The brainstem is connected to the cerebellum and the spinal cord.
  • Cerebrum – is the area that forms the bulk of the brain that controls conscious decision-making. It is divided into two parts – the right and left cerebral hemispheres.
  • Cerebellum – is the back part of the brain that controls movement and posture.

The brain, spinal cord, and nerves transmit signals throughout the body that allow cats (and us) to learn, think, walk, run, and even breathe. Nerve impulses transmit signals to our organs that control function. The brain also controls sensory impulses such as taste, smell, hearing, vision and pain.

What Does the Cat Prosencephalon Do?

The prosencephalon, also known as the forebrain, is the part of the brain in the front of the skull that consists of the cerebrum, thalamus and the hypothalamus. A normally functioning prosencephalon allows your cat to behave normally, recognize you, walk, react, and respond to stimuli in the environment.

Signs of Prosencephalon Disease or Abnormalities in Cats

Symptoms of prosencephalon disease in cats may include any or all of the following depending on the exact part of the brain affected.

  • Head pressing can be an important symptom of prosencephalon disease of cats. Learn more about other possible causes of Head Pressing in Cats.
  • Abnormal behavior or mentation including:
  • Demented (abnormal behavior such as perceived memory impairment, changes in vocalization, changes in behavior, inappropriate behavior)
  • Obtunded mentation – which is a decreased sensitivity or dullness
  • Coma – non-responsive to normal stimuli
  • Stupor – decreased responsiveness to normal environmental stimuli
  • Gait – cats with abnormalities of the prosencephalon generally have a normal gait unless there is concurrent disease with other parts of the brain. Some cats will have diminished postural reactions.
  • Reflexes – reflexes can be normal or increased
  • Eye or vision changes
  • Blindness – cats with prosencephalon disease may be blind due to impact to cranial nerve II that is responsible for vision. This can occur in one or both eyes.
  • Abnormal pupil sizes – cats with forebrain disease may have decreased pupillary light reflexes which can causes either large pupils or a difference in pupil sizes from one eye to the other depending on the part of the prosencephalon involved.
  • Circling or head tilt
  • Circling or head turns can occur with prosencephalon disease. Generally the cat may circle or turn toward the side of the brain lesion.

Diagnostic Tests to Determine Prosencephalon Disease in Cats

Basic diagnostic tests to evaluate abnormalities of the prosencephalon may include:

  • A complete physical exam including a thorough neurological examination. This exam includes testing of reflexes, will provide valuable information on the function of the brain and spinal cord.
  • Basic blood work and urinalysis are recommended to evaluate for systemic disease. The complete blood count (CBC) may be within normal limits, but an elevated white blood cell count may be present if there is also secondary infection. A biochemical profile and urinalysis may be unremarkable depending on concurrent medical problems.
  • Radiographs of the chest and abdomen are an important part of any baseline work-up. Abdominal radiographs (X-rays) may be within normal limits or can reveal signs of cancer or concurrent disease.
  • Abdominal ultrasound is recommended to evaluate for signs of cancer or concurrent disease. This is a noninvasive procedure that often necessitates the expertise of a specialist in a referral hospital.
  • Skull radiographs may provide information about the bony skull around the brain, and the vertebrae that surround the spinal cord. This is most commonly recommended when there has been a history of trauma.

Advanced diagnostic tests are important methods to evaluate abnormalities of the prosencephalon. The most important are computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Tests may include:

  • Computed tomography (CT scan or CAT scan) is a special X-ray technique that provides serial images of the brain using enhanced computer processing. CT is a good way to assess fractures of the skull or tumors involving the bone.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic test in which powerful magnetic fields generate detailed images of body organs. MRI is a very useful tool in evaluating the soft tissue of the brain.
  • Brain stem auditory evoked response (BAER) is an electrodiagnostic test to detect hearing abnormalities (deafness).
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG) is an electrodiagnostic test used to detect peripheral nerve function and abnormalities in brain activity such as with seizure disorders.
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) Tap in Cats is a test that involves collecting cerebrospinal fluid that is found in the space surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The analysis often provides valuable information as to the presence of infection, inflammation, and other abnormalities.

Possible Diseases of the Prosencephalon in Cats

There are various diseases that affect the forebrain of cats. They include:

  • Arachnoid cysts – can form and squeeze the prosencephalon in cats. They can be removed surgically.
  • Bartonella henselae – is a bacteria responsible for cat-scratch fever that can also infect humans. Infection can cause meningoencephalitis in cats. Antibiotics are the treatment of choice.
  • Choroid Plexus Tumors – are uncommon tumors but can occur in cats. They can be difficult to remove surgically and can metastasize.
  • Coccidioides immitis – is a fungal infection most common in the Southwest United States. It is found in the soil and can infect the lungs, bone, eye, skin and nervous systems of cats. Antifungal drugs are the mainstay of treatment.
  • Cryptococcus neoformans – is a fungal infection that can infect the central nervous system of cats. Cats are exposed to the organism from access to the bark or soil that can spread to the lungs and brain.
  • Antifungal drugs are the mainstay of treatment.
  • Cuterebra – can lay eggs near the burrows of animals, attach to the skin, and the larvae migrate into the skin. These larvae can eventually migrate to the brains of cats. There are various treatment options that include steroids therapy, antibiotics, antihistamines and ivermectin therapy.
  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) – is a disease caused by a retrovirus and most commonly spread from bite wounds in outdoor male cats. FIV can cause inflammation in the brain. No effective treatment has been defined.
  • Feline Infectious Peritonitis Virus (FIP) – is a disease resulting from coronavirus that can occur most commonly in young cats but can also occur in older cats. Inflammation develops in the brain that can cause mild to severe clinical signs. In addition to neurological signs, there are often additional signs of illness that may include fever, weight loss, and/or decreased appetite. No successful treatment has been documented when FIP spreads to the brain.
  • Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) – is a disease resulting from a retrovirus that can directly affect the nervous system of cats. Treatment involves minimizing the chance of secondary infections and immunomodulation therapy.
  • Glioma – is another type of brain tumor that can affect the prosencephalon of cats. They are often aggressive tumors and can be challenging to treat with surgery, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy.
  • Granulomatous Meningoencephalomyelitis (GME) – is an inflammatory disease that occurs in the brain tissue. The underlying cause is unclear, theories that may include immune-medicated, viral, and cancer as possibilities. Treatment often focuses on steroids for immunosuppression and immunomodulator drug therapy.
  • Hydrocephalus – is an abnormal accumulation of CSF within the cranium. It can occur from obstruction of CSF or from loss of brain tissue. It is most common in toy-breed dogs and is considered rare in cats.
  • Lymphoma – is a type of cancer that can develop in the brain or metastasize to the brain from another location. Some tumors respond to radiotherapy or chemotherapy but the prognosis is generally considered to be poor.
  • Meningioma – is brain tumor that can affects senior pets. Treatment may include surgery depending on the location of the tumor. Radiation therapy or medical therapy such as with steroids can help decrease swelling around the tumor.
  • Metastatic tumors – are tumors that develop in some primary location in the body and metastasize to the brain. Sources may include hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma, prostatic cancer, and melanoma.
  • Pituitary tumors – such as or macroadenomas can occur but are more common in older dogs than cats. These are generally slow growing tumors that can respond well to radiotherapy.
  • Toxoplasma gondii – can infect the lung, nervous system, liver and muscle of cats. Antibiotics are the treatment of choice.

Reference Articles That May Be of Interest About Prosencephalon Disease in Cats:

Cat Head Pressing: What You Need to Know

What is Cat Head Pressing?

Cat head pressing can be a normal marking behavior known as bunting or it can be a sign of a serious neurological problem. Learn more about the normal behavior in cats in this article What is Head Pressing in Cats?

When head pressing is abnormal, it can be a symptom of a brain disease. Below we will review symptoms of a brain problem in cats, share a list of possible diseases that can cause cat head pressing, review diagnostic tests that can help determine the underlying cause, and discuss treatment options.

Symptoms of Brain Disease in Cats

Signs of brain disorders in cats can depend on the underlying cause and the exact part of the brain affected. Signs of brain disease in cats may include any of the following:

  • Head pressing
  • Abnormalities in pupil size
  • Behavior changes
  • Blindness
  • Circling (walking in one direction)
  • Changes in learned behavior
  • Coma
  • Decreased or loss of appetite
  • Falling over
  • Head tilt
  • Inability or difficulty walking
  • Inability to blink the eyes
  • Incoordination
  • Less engaged with family activities
  • Lethargy or sleeping more
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Restlessness and pacing
  • Seizures
  • Sleeping in different locations
  • Stuporous behavior
  • Weakness
  • Weakness and incoordination

Diseases That Can Cause Cat Head Pressing

Disorders of the cat brain can be divided into the following causes:

  • Congenital abnormalities – are problems that cats can be born with. One cause is cerebellar hypoplasia which is the underdevelopment of the cerebellum. It is a congenital disorder, having occurred before birth. Cerebellar hypoplasia in cats is usually due to infection of the pregnant mother with the feline panleukopenia virus. Cerebellar hypoplasia results in difficulty or abnormal walking that often appears as incoordination in the kitten.
  • Infectious diseases – can cause cat head pressing. In cats it may be caused by viral diseases such as feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) virus, feline leukemia virus (FeLV) or rabies. Other causes may include parasitic infestations, protozoal infections (toxoplasmosis, encephalitozoonosis), numerous bacteria, and fungal infections (blastomycosis, cryptococcosis, histoplasmosis).
  • Metabolic disorders – such as low blood sugar, high or low blood sodium levels are possible causes for abnormal neurological signs.
  • Peripheral vestibular disease – is a condition that affects the brain and nerves that control balance. Signs of vestibular disease in cats include head tilt and falling over.
  • Seizures disorders – create abnormal brain activity that may result in convulsions that manifest as odd behaviors, tremors, muscles contractions, salivation and defecation. Seizures can occur from toxin exposure or from epilepsy. After a seizure many cats will have abnormal control of their bodies and unusual behavior which can include difficulty walking, balance problems, falling over, and/or head pressing. Learn more about Seizures in Cats.
  • Toxic conditions –such as rat or pesticides, antifreeze, mouse bait and flea and tick prevention medications can cause symptoms of brain disease such as cat head pressing.
  • Traumatic injuries- Head trauma can occur in cats from being in a blunt trauma (being hit in the head), penetrating injury (such as a pellet or bullet wound), hit by a car or by falls. This can cause bleeding in the brain or around the brain and swelling of tissues.
  • Tumors – or cancer of the brain can occur in cats. Brain tumors may be primary and arise from brain tissues, or they may be secondary and develop from either surrounding or distant tissues.

Diagnosis of Brain Disease or Injury in Cats

Diagnostic tests to evaluate brain injury may include various tests that may include:

  • Complete physical exam including a thorough neurological examination. The neurological exam can provide valuable information on the function of the brain and spinal cord.
  • Skull radiographs provide information about the bony skull around the brain, and the vertebrae that surround the spinal cord. The brain and spinal cord themselves do not show up well on X-rays, but a special procedure called a myelogram can help highlight various areas of the spine.
  • A complete blood count (CBC) may be within normal limits, but an elevated white blood cell count may be present if there is also secondary infection.
  • A biochemical profile may be within normal limits or reveal electrolyte such as high or low sodium levels, or evidence of concurrent disease.
  • A urinalysis is generally unremarkable unless concurrent disease is present.
  • Abdominal radiographs (X-rays) are an important part of any baseline work-up. Although they may be within normal limits it could reveal evidence of cancer.
  • Abdominal ultrasound is recommended in some cats with neurological disease to evaluate for concurrent diseases. Ultrasound is a noninvasive procedure that often requires the expertise of a specialist and/or referral hospital.
  • Blood pressure measurement is recommended for all cats with neurological disease.
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) Tap in Cats is a test that involves collecting cerebrospinal fluid that is found in the space surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The analysis often provides valuable information as to the presence of infection, inflammation, and other abnormalities.
  • Computed tomography (CT scan or CAT scan) is a special X-ray technique that provides serial images of the brain and spinal cord using enhanced computer processing.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses the properties of certain tissues subjected to extremely powerful magnetic fields to generate detailed images of body organs. MRI is a very useful tool in evaluating both the brain and spinal cord.
  • Various electrodiagnostic tests are available to assess different functions of the brain and spinal cord.
  • Tests may include brainstem auditory evoked response (BAER), the electroencephalogram (EEG), and nerve conduction velocity (NCV). These tests can help evaluate hearing, seizure activity, and nerve function.

Treatment of Brain Disease or Injury in Cats

  • Treatment of brain disease will depend on the underlying cause of the disease and the severity of the condition. Therapies for cat head pressing and brain disease may include:
  • Intravenous fluids to maintain hydration.
  • Dextrose may be added to fluids to treat hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
  • Hyperosmotic agents such as mannitol are often used in patients with elevated cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).
  • Steroid therapy may be recommended to treat inflammation or swelling.
  • Oxygen therapy may help reverse the cerebral (brain) edema and prevent the progression of brain damage.
  • Blood pressure medications to treat hypertension.
  • Heart medications to treat the underlying heart disease.
  • Thyroid medications to treat hyperthyroidism.
  • Medication to control seizures, such as diazepam (valium®) or phenobarbital. Appetite stimulants or anti-nausea medications to treat poor appetite or vomiting.
  • Elevation of the head may help decrease intracranial pressure and facilitate resorption of spinal fluid.
  • Careful consideration of nutritional needs and calorie intake to ensure adequate nutritional needs are met.
  • Nursing care as needed to keep the eyes lubricated, rotating pets that are not moving from side to side, constant cleaning of urine and feces, and/or warm environment to provide optimal comfort.
  • Administration of antidotes for known toxin ingestion.

Prognosis for Brain Disease or Injury in Cats

The prognosis for brain disease in cats depends on the underlying cause, severity of the clinical signs, and your cat’s response to treatment. The prognosis can vary from very good such as with some toxins to grave with conditions such as a brain tumor.

How Pet Insurance Can Help You Cover Brain Disease or Injury in Cats

Treatment for brain injuries depends on the underlying cause, other secondary or related conditions, and/or concurrent diseases. The cost of care can vary on these factors and the severity of the symptoms in your cat. For example, trauma to the brain can also result in broken limbs, skin lacerations that require additional diagnostic tests, treatments, surgery, and/or ongoing care.

What is Head Pressing in Cats?

Head pressing is a term used in veterinary medicine to describe a behavior where a cat (or dog) presses their head into something. This article will describe what is head pressing in cats and review the possible causes.

What Does Head Pressing in Cats Look Like?

When a cat head presses, they are generally standing close to a wall, flat surface, corner, or something else with their head facing and touching that surface. Head pressing can occur in age, sex, or breed of cat and has many different potential causes from normal to extremely serious.

When Head Pressing in Cats Can Be Normal

Head pressing in cats can be a normal behavior. Some cats will press their head against your arm or your forehead as a sign of communication. This behavior is commonly known by the name of bunting.
Cats have scent glands in various locations on their bodies and use them to communicate. The glands are located under their chin, corners of their mouth, forehead, ears, between the toes, and along their tails. The scent glands release pheromones. A pheromone is a chemical substance that is considered unique to each cat which can communicate information about their mood or demeanor, identity, sex, and even when the cat was there and potentially which direction he was heading.

Cats can bunt or head press against you, inanimate objects, other pets, as well as other cats using different parts of their body depending on the location, height of the object of interest, and what they want to communicate.

The bunting behavior leaves scent marking on you or objects to help them communicate pleasure or ownership or to other cats as a way to say “hello” in a peaceful manner. One way our cats may communicate their trust and vulnerability to you is to bunt, rub their head to your face, with their eyes open.

Medical Causes Head Pressing in Cats

Head pressing in cats can also be very abnormal. In these cases that head pressing can be against a wall or other surface for a persistent amount of time. Most often, the cat pressing appears to be without obvious enjoyment and sometimes the cat appears to be unaware of their surroundings or that they are doing it. It can also be associated with other clinical symptoms such as trouble walking, blindness, and/or seizures.

There are many possible serious diseases and disorders in cats that can cause head pressing in cats. They include:

  • Prosencephalon diseases – are problems affecting of the forebrain of cats. Learn more about What is
  • Prosencephalon Disease in Cats?
  • Liver shunt or liver failure – can cause head pressing in cats. A liver shunt can be due to a congenital, from a developed problem, or from liver failure.
  • Brain tumors – can cause head pressing in cats. Brain tumors may be primary arising from brain tissues or secondary developing from either surrounding or distant tissues. Some tumors can develop in other locations in the body and spread (metastasize) to the brain.
  • Metabolic disorders – such as from low blood sodium levels (hyponatremia) or high blood sodium (hypernatremia) can cause head pressing in cats.
  • Strokes -also known as a cerebral vascular accident, is caused by a disruption of blood supply to the brain that results in failure of nerve impulses to be transmitted from the brain to the rest of the body can cause head pressing.
  • Infections – of the nervous system can cause head pressing in cats. It can be caused by bacterial, viral (feline infectious peritonitis virus, feline leukemia virus, rabies), fungal infections (blastomycosis, cryptococcosis, histoplasmosis), parasitic infestations, and/or protozoal infections (toxoplasmosis, encephalitozoonosis).
  • Toxins – such as rat or mouse poison, pesticides, antifreeze, can cause symptoms of head pressing in cats.
  • Head trauma – can occur in cats such as from blunt trauma (being hit in the head), penetrating injury (such as a pellet or bullet wound), or by falls (cats falling from windows). This can cause bleeding into the brain or around the brain. In addition swelling of tissues can cause brain injury that leads to head pressing.

Prevention of Head Pressing in Cats

The best way to prevent head pressing in cats that is due to a medical problem may include:

  • Keep your cat indoors is the safest way to prevent your cat from trauma such as gunshot wounds or being hit by a car as well as exposure to infectious diseases such as rabies and feline leukemia virus (FeLV) or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).
  • Parasite control medications to prevent fleas and ticks should be formulated for cats and dosed to the correct weight of your cat. NEVER use dog medication on a cat without the approval of your veterinarian.
  • Keep vaccinations current to prevent infectious diseases such as distemper, feline leukemia virus, and rabies.
  • Prevent access to toxins such as rat poison, pesticides, and antifreeze.

Additional Articles Related to Head Pressing in Cats

What Are Cat Colonies?

Feral cats prefer to live their lives without any direct interaction with humans. Feral cats will avoid direct human contact. They may live anywhere there is a supply of food, water and shelter. These free-roaming cats have reverted to their wild ways for survival. They take care of themselves in a world that is often hostile and dangerous for them, and their life expectancy is low. If a feral makes it past kittenhood but lives on his own, his life expectancy is about two years. If the feral cat lives in a cat colony with a regular caretaker, he may live to be as much as ten years old.

Some feral cats live in cat colonies that loosely resemble lion prides. A cat colony consists of a group of usually related female cats and their offspring. The size of the cat colonies depend upon the availability of food and other resources. Adult male cats do not live in cat colonies, but friendly behavior between females and males can occur, especially when familiarity exists.

Within cat colonies, female cats, known as queens, will share many activities together such as raising kittens and guarding the cat colony from intruders. The queen cats will nurse, groom and guard each other’s kittens, and they will teach the kittens appropriate behaviors. The queens in cat colonies will often band together to repel other animals, including lone cats and cats from other cat colonies that encroach on their territory. Sometimes a stray cat may eventually be allowed into the cat colony after a number of interactions.

The one activity cats do not share is hunting. Each cat will hunt on its own in its own territory. Territories may overlap, but there is no cooperation between cats in catching prey.

Members of cat colonies will groom each other and rub their bodies up against one another to reinforce their group identity by transferring scents. Inter-cat aggression is not common in cat colonies since the strong familiarity among females helps keep aggression to a minimum. In-group fighting can occur, but this is more likely to happen when resources are scarce.

What Is a Cat Colony?

The living arrangements of free-living domestic cats can be divided into those in which females form small groups or cat colonies, loosely resembling a pride of lions, and those that remain solitary with individual territories.

Since cats are a species of essentially solitary hunters, it is important for cats to establish a hunting territory and that it is defined in such a way as to generally avoid conflict with other cats. This is necessary for the survival of the species. So cats mark their territories using scent from facial glands, urine, feces and anal glands. This territorial marking, together with an extremely sensitive sense of smell, helps cats to communicate effectively and to minimize direct conflicts. In the wild, territories may overlap with neutral areas where cats may greet and interact with each other. If a strange cat encroaches into another cat’s territory, it will normally provoke an aggressive interaction to chase off the cat through staring, hissing and growling. If that is not effective, there will be a short, noisy, violent attack.

Feral cats can and will form small cat colonies based around available food resources. This does not inevitably happen and some will choose to live singly, but it is not uncommon for small groups of cooperating females and kittens to develop. While there may be a very loose dominance hierarchy in these groups, the relationships are complex. They do not form an interdependent hierarchy as would occur with dogs. Relationships in cat colonies are complex, with stronger affiliations between some cats and less affiliation with others. This may be influenced in part by how they are related, age, etc. But they do not develop a social survival strategy nor a pack mentality and they continue to be solitary hunters. So cats are not pack animals, but they have the ability to adapt to form social groups.

Cat colonies appear to only work well when the members of the colony are familiar and when there is no competition over food or other resources. Cats can form strong social relationships with familiar individuals. In feral cat colonies, kittens may often be nursed by more than one lactating queen. There may be a larger central cat colony of females associated with the major food source and smaller peripheral groups that develop around the central colony that have poorer access to the food source, poorer health and poorer reproductive performance.

How to Build a Winter Cat Shelter

Community cats or feral cats are well-suited to outdoor living, and they can survive winter on their own. But there are some things that you can do to make winter life more comfortable for them. One way that you can help is by building a winter cat shelter.

Building a winter cat shelter can be simple and inexpensive. The two preferred styles used for a winter cat shelter are styrofoam bins and Rubbermaid plastic storage bins with removable lids. (Make sure that the brand is Rubbermaid. Other brands may crack in the cold temperatures.)

When building your winter cat shelter, smaller is better. A smaller interior means that less heat is needed to keep the cat warm. A small shelter can be heated by one or two cats. A large shelter with only one or two cats inside will remain cold, so two smaller shelters are better than one large winter cat shelter.

The placement of your winter cat shelter is important to help keep cats safe from predators. If there are dogs in the area, place the winter cat shelter behind a fence where dogs can’t get in. Another good idea is to have the entrance face a wall so only the cat will be able to get in and out.

Be sure that the winter cat shelter is weighted down and hard to move. Cut only a small cat-size doorway to help keep larger predators from getting in and to keep more heat inside. Cats only need an opening of about five and a half or six inches in diameter. Cut the doorway several inches above the bottom of the bin to help keep the weather out.

Build Options for a Winter Cat Shelter You Can Put Near Your Home

A foam cooler has about two inches of thickness and makes the perfect winter cat shelter. It is waterproof and insulated and you can easily create a doorway with a knife or box cutter. Cut the doorway a few inches above the bottom of the bin to help keep winter elements outside. Use duct tape around the opening to keep the cats from scratching.

Don’t place the winter cat shelter directly on the cold ground. Use two 2x4s or other materials to lift it off the ground. Also, raising the rear of the winter cat shelter slightly higher than the front will help to keep rain from pooling inside and snow from piling up on the roof. You may want to drill a little hole into the side of the winter cat shelter to allow water to drain out should rain blow into the front door.

The winter cat shelter should be weighted down to help keep it secure from the wind. Try putting a couple of 5 or 10-pound barbell weights on the floor of the shelter underneath the bedding, or you may use bricks or flat, heavy rocks.

Insulate the winter cat shelter to increase the comfort and warmth of the cats. Use insulating materials in which the cats can burrow. Blankets, towels and newspaper should not be used as they will retain wetness. Straw is a very good insulating material to use because it can absorb more moisture and is less susceptible to rot or mold.

A Rubbermaid bin is another good option. (Make sure that the brand is Rubbermaid so that they will not crack in the cold.) These winter cat shelters should be double-insulated. You’ll also need an 8×2-foot sheet of one-inch thick hard styrofoam, a yardstick, a box cutter and straw for insulation.

Here are some instructions from Alley Cat Advocates on how to assemble your winter cat shelter from Rubbermaid containers:

  • Cut the doorway six inches by six inches in one of the long sides of the bin towards the corner. Cut the opening so that the bottom of the doorway is several inches above the ground to prevent flooding.
  • Line the floor of the bin with a piece of styrofoam, using the yardstick and box cutter to cut the piece. It doesn’t have to be an exact fit, but the closer the better.
  • In a similar fashion, line each of the four interior walls of the bin with a piece of the styrofoam. Leave a cap of three inches between the top of these styrofoam wall pieces and the upper lip of the bin.
  • Cut out a doorway in the styrofoam interior wall where the doorway has already been cut out in the storage bin.
  • Measure the length and width of the interior space and place a second smaller-size bin into the open interior. This bin should fit as snugly as possible against the styrofoam wall pieces. Cut a doorway into this bin where the doorways have been cut into the styrofoam and outer bin.
  • Stuff the bottom of the interior bin with straw to provide both insulation and a comfortable spot to lie down.
  • Cut out a styrofoam roof to rest on top of the styrofoam wall pieces.
  • Cover the bin with its lid.

What to Put In Your Winter Cat Shelter

You should line your winter cat shelter with straw to help keep the area warm and dry. Towels, blankets and newspaper should not be used as they will soak up wetness. Cats like materials like straw because they can burrow into them to stay warm.

What Is Trap Neuter Release?

Trap neuter release, or TNR as it is known, is a program that has been used in the United States for decades after its success in Europe. It is the humane approach to controlling feral cat overpopulation. In trap neuter release, the feral cats are trapped, neutered or spayed, and then returned to the very same spot where they were first caught.

Trap neuter release is a community based program in which concerned citizens like you trap free roaming cats in your neighborhood and bring them into a clinic to get them spayed or neutered. The cats’ ears are “tipped” to designate that this particular cat has already been treated. The cats are then returned to the exact same location so they can live out the rest of their natural lives. In an ideal situation, a caregiver will also provide food, water and shelter for these cats.

Before the trap neuter release program, feral cats were captured and turned into animal shelters where they were killed. This practice still exists in many areas. Catch and kill may temporarily reduce the numbers of feral cats, but it doesn’t solve the problem in the long term. Cats are living in a certain area because there is an available food source and some sort of shelter. These feral cats breed prolifically, and more cats will move in to take advantage of the natural resources and shelter available in this location. So trap and remove doesn’t work to curb the number of feral cats in a community.

About the Trap Neuter Release Program

Trap neuter release programs are successful at decreasing the feral cat populations. These programs succeed at the least cost to the public and they provide the best possible outcomes for the cats.

How Trap Neuter Release Helps Local Cat Populations

Trap neuter release is practiced successfully in hundreds of communities and in every setting. These cats are humanely trapped and taken to a veterinarian to be spayed or neutered and vaccinated for rabies. The cats’ ear is also “tipped” to show that this particular cat has already undergone treatment. After their recovery, the cats are then returned to their home, the outdoor colony. (Kittens or cats who are friendly and socialized to humans may be adopted into homes, but the vast majority of these cats are returned to their outdoor communities.)

By stabilizing the cat population, the cats will naturally have more space, shelter and food, as well as fewer risks of disease. After they are spayed or neutered, cats living in outdoor colonies tend to gain weight and live healthier lives. Spayed cats are less likely to develop breast cancer and will not be at risk for ovarian or uterine cancer. Neutered males will not get testicular cancer. Neutering male cats can also reduce the risk of injury and infection, since intact males have a natural instinct to fight with other cats. Spaying also means that female cats do not go into heat. That means they attract fewer tom cats to the area, which reduces fighting.

Trap neuter release helps local cat populations by stopping the breeding cycle of cats. It improves the lives of the cats while preventing reproduction. TNR provides a life-saving and effective solution for feral cat colonies. Here’s how TNR can help:

  • Stabilizes feral cat colonies – Colonies involved in trap neuter release diminish in size over time. TNR stabilizes feral cat populations by ending reproduction and by removing socialized cats from the colony.
  • Improves the lives of the cats – Cats live healthier, more peaceful lives after TNR. It relieves cats of the constant stresses of mating and pregnancy. Mating behaviors like roaming, yowling, spraying and fighting cease. The cats’ physical health improves. The cats are vaccinated against rabies, so they are less susceptible to infectious diseases. Through trap neuter release, cats live long, healthy lives.
  • Meets the needs of the community – When residents understand that something is being done to control the cat population, they usually embrace having a TNR program. The cat population stabilizes so there are no new kittens. The cats become quieter and become better neighbors.
  • Protects the lives of the cats – The number one cause of death for cats in America is being killed in shelters. When cats are neutered, vaccinated and returned to their colonies, they can live out their natural lives.
  • Works where other methods fail – Catch and kill doesn’t work because the community cats just keep having more kittens, and new cats move in when others are removed. Adoption is not an option for most feral cats since they cannot socially interact with humans. Relocation is also ineffective for the same reason as catch and kill doesn’t work.

What You Can Do to Make an Impact

A feral cat community needs a caretaker. This is an individual or group of individuals who manages the feral cat community. The caretaker keeps watch over the cats, providing food, water and shelter for the cats. The caretaker also provides spaying or neutering and emergency medical care through the trap neuter release program. Some shelters and rescue groups even give out free or low-cost spay or neuter coupons to colony caretakers.

Why You Should Use Cat Traps for Your Local Strays

Cat traps are a painless and humane method for safely capturing cats. Don’t try to pick the cat up to put it in a carrier. Use humane cat traps to ensure the safety of the cats and you.

Cat traps come in different styles, like a box trap or a drop trap. In some areas, you may be able to borrow a cat trap from a local animal shelter, or they may be able to teach you how to work with a cat trap. If you cannot borrow a cat trap, you can purchase a humane cat trap.

Before trapping begins, you should have a warm, dry, secure holding place ready to house the cat or cats that you trap. You must have your spay or neuter appointments scheduled before you trap. You must purchase or borrow your traps before you are ready to begin trapping, and you should have transportation ready to transport the trapped cats.

What Cat Traps Are Used For

Cat traps are a safe and humane method for catching a cat. You may decide to use a cat trap to catch a neighborhood stray, or you may use cat traps to safely Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) community cats. Cat traps may be purchased, or sometimes they may be borrowed from local rescue organizations.

The normal trap used for TNR is a box trap. To use the box trap, bait (food) is placed in the rear of the trap. The cat enters the trap through the front. On its way to eat the food the cat steps on a trip plate which triggers the front door to shut behind the cat.

After the cat is captured the box trap will double as a cage to house and transport the animal.

How to Attract Cats to Your Trap

If you plan to trap a cat, the first step is to get the cat on a regular feeding schedule. Cats are much easier to trap once they have been trained to eat on a predictable schedule. Once you know when and where the cats will turn up, you will know the best time and place to set your cat traps. Most feral and stray cats come out in the evening. Set the food out after dinner but before dusk, and never leave the food out overnight. This method will get the cat to return at the same time every day.

The day before you plan to capture the cat, feed it only half as much food or withhold food altogether. This is to help to ensure that the cat is hungry on trapping day.

To attract the cats to the cat traps, you must first bait and set the trap. Place a small amount of food on a paper plate and place it behind the trap’s step plate. Use tuna, mackerel, sardines or a food with a strong odor. Set your trap and wait until the cat returns for its regular feeding. Hopefully, it will walk into the cat trap, setting it off.

Once you trap the cat, cover it immediately to help calm the cat. The cat will begin to panic after being trapped. To calm the cat, place a sheet or towel over the trap.

Where to Take a Cat After You Catch It

Before you try to trap the cat, contact a no-kill shelter and ask about the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs in your area. These programs will not find a home for the cat. Instead, they will neuter or spay the cat and clip one of their ears (for easy identification of a cat that has been treated through the TNR program), and they will return them to where they were found. Never try to relocate the animal as it will be disoriented and will likely die. Return the cat to the same area where you found it.

You may also contact your local Humane Society for help in handling the situation.

For more information about rescuing stray and feral cats, read our article Stray Cat Rescue: How to Help Your Community.

To learn more about feral cats, go to What Is a Feral Cat?

Stray Cat Rescue: How to Help Your Community

According to the ASPCA, the number of community cats in the United States is estimated to be in the tens of millions. A community cat is a cat that is born and raised in the wild, or a cat who has been abandoned and who has turned to wild ways in order to survive. A community cat is primarily raised in the wild or it has adopted community life.

A stray cat, on the other hand, is usually someone’s pet that has become lost or who has been abandoned. Unlike community cats, a stray cat is usually tame and comfortable around humans. These cats will try to make a home near humans. They are not able to cope with life in the wild and are completely reliant on humans for food.

When it comes to stray cat rescue, you may want to feed a stray cat, but you may not want to capture it. These stray cats have a much better chance of reuniting with their owner when they’re left in the area where they are found, so stray cat rescue is not always the best option. According to the Animal Humane Society, less than five percent of stray cats that are brought to shelters are ever reclaimed by their owners. That’s why stray cat rescue is not a good idea. It is best to leave healthy, friendly cats where you discovered them.

A stray cat may be friendly and approach you, or it may be too scared to let you get close, however it will usually eat as soon as you put food down. If you want to try to help a stray cat, see if the cat has identification and contact the owner. If you are able to safely get the cat into a carrier, take it to the veterinarian or to an animal shelter and have the cat scanned for a microchip. Contact animal shelters, rescue groups and veterinarians to let them know you have found the cat – someone may have filed a missing cat report that matches your description. Ask your neighbors if they know the cat. Post signs in the neighborhood. While you search for the cat’s owner it is helpful if you can provide shelter for the cat. If the owner cannot be found, you may decide to adopt the cat yourself or try to find it a good home. (If you take the cat home with you, have it examined by a veterinarian before introducing it to your other cats.)

For community cats, stray cat rescue is not recommended. A humane method called Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is used to manage cat communities. With this method, the cat is trapped, spayed or neutered and vaccinated against rabies, and then returned to its colony to live out its life.

Why You Should Use Cat Traps for Your Local Strays

Cat traps are a painless and humane method for safely capturing cats. Don’t try to pick the cat up to put it in a carrier. Use humane cat traps to ensure the safety of the cats and you.

Cat traps come in different styles, like a box trap or a drop trap. In some areas, you may be able to borrow a cat trap from a local animal shelter, or they may be able to teach you how to work with a cat trap. If you cannot borrow a cat trap, you can purchase a humane cat trap.

Before trapping begins, you should have a warm, dry, secure holding place ready to house the cat or cats that you trap. You must have your spay or neuter appointments scheduled before you trap. You must purchase or borrow your traps before you are ready to begin trapping, and you should have transportation ready to transport the trapped cats.

You may decide to use a cat trap to catch a neighborhood stray, or you may use cat traps to safely Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) community cats. Cat traps may be purchased, or sometimes they may be borrowed from local rescue organizations.

To learn more, read our article Why You Should Use Cat Traps for Your Local Strays.

What Is Trap Neuter Release?

Trap neuter release, or TNR as it is known, is a program that has been used in the United States for decades after its success in Europe. It is the humane approach to controlling feral cat overpopulation. In trap neuter release, the feral cats are trapped, neutered or spayed, and then returned to the very same spot where they were first caught.