"Head Pressing in Cats

"Head Pressing in Cats

Health & Safety

Head pressing is a strange condition that any cat can develop and it's when they start to press their heads against things for no apparent reason. Studies suggest that the reason why some cats do this is because they have suffered some sort of damage to their nervous systems and as such they would need to be examined by a vet earlier rather than later when they start head pressing so a correct diagnosis and treatment can be set in place sooner rather than later.

The Causes

As previously mentioned, when a cat starts head pressing, it is usually a sign their nervous systems have been negatively impacted by something and this could include for the following reasons:

  • Prosencephalon disease
  • Toxic poisoning which includes lead poisoning
  • A metabolic disorder which includes too much or not enough sodium in a cat's blood plasma which is referred to as hyper or hyponatremia
  • A tumour whether primary or secondary
  • An infection of the nervous system which includes a fungal infection
  • A trauma to the head which could include being hit by a car

The condition can affect any breed of cat at any time during their lives which includes both females and males.

Symptoms to Watch Out For

When cats start head pressing, it is one of the signs of them suffering from prosencephalon disease which is a condition that affects a cat's forebrain and the thalamus part of the brain. Other signs of there being a problem with a cat could include the following:

  • Pacing and circling which can lead to cats developing sores on their paw pads
  • A change in normal behaviour
  • Seizures
  • Compromised reflexes
  • Problems with sight
  • Injuries to the head and face which occurs because a cat’s constant need to press their heads against all sorts of things

Diagnosing the Problem

A vet would need to have a cat's full medical history and ideally know how the onset of the condition first presented itself. The vet would need to examine a cat's eyes which includes the structures found at the back of the eyes. This would help establish if a cat has developed an infectious or inflammatory disorder and would reveal any abnormalities in their brain. Other tests a vet would recommend carrying out could include the following:

  • Taking a cat's blood pressure
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • A urine analysis which would help establish whether a cat is suffering from a metabolic disorder
  • A blood test to establish blood lead concentrations

Treatment Options

Treatment options for a cat that has started head pressing depends on the underlying cause and the severity of their condition. If it is very severe, a cat would need to be hospitalised as a matter of urgency so they can be stabilised before a vet would be able to confirm a diagnosis and set a treatment plan in place to correct the problem.

Once a cat is allowed home, it's essential for them to be taken for follow-up visits to the vet so their condition can be closely monitored. A vet would be able to assess a cat's condition and establish whether a treatment is working properly. A cat would also need neurological check-ups to make sure no further issues are flaring up which could severely impact their general health and well-being.


The prognosis for a cat that started head pressing and was then treated depends on the underlying cause of why they first started doing this. With this said, providing a vet can successfully treat the underlying cause, the prognosis tends to be good for cats when they suffer from head pressing.

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