What Cat Owners Should Know About Head Pressing

When your cat displays a behavior known as "head pressing," it's usually a sign of a neurological problem that requires the care of a veterinarian. However, it's important to understand the signs of head pressing, how your vet diagnoses the underlying condition behind head pressing, and what causes head pressing. Here is more information so you can keep your feline friend healthy as possible.

About Head Pressing

Head pressing is usually a sign of an underlying neurological problem. The actual act of head pressing is hard to miss. Your cat will begin to compulsively press its head into walls or other objects repeatedly, and for sometimes very long periods of time. It's a compulsive behavior and most owners can tell something is wrong.

Cats also participate in head butting, but this is a behavior cats like to partake in when they want to show affection, and usually involves them rubbing up against a leg or inanimate object in a way that shows pleasure. However, the constant nature of head pressing looks a lot different. An affected cat will do it for no apparent reason and in a compulsive manner. 

Reasons Behind Head Pressing

There can be a number of reasons why head pressing occurs. Here are some of the most common:

  • Medication – There are a number of medications that can lead to neurological damage. That's why it's important you let your vet know what medications your cat is taking.
  • Diet – If your cat has a poor diet where it's lacking certain key vitamins, then neurological problems can develop. However, more often the cat has an underlying disorder that makes processing nutrients more difficult. 
  • Certain disorders – Often, cats with metabolic disorders like hyper or hypnoatremia, which is defined as too much or too little sodium in the body, can develop head pressing. Infections from rabies or fungi can also lead to head pressing.
  • Chemical exposure – Certain toxic chemicals like lead can damage the brain and nervous system, leading to head pressing.
  • Injury – If your cat suffered a head injury, it may participate in head pressing if there was damage to the brain or other parts of the nervous system.

Seeking A Diagnosis And Treatment

If you notice head pressing, it's important to bring your cat to a vet as soon as possible. It's important to share as much information with your vet as you can, such as any accidents your cat has had or any other symptoms, such as frequent vomiting, that might be connected to the head pressing.

Your vet, like one from Berlin Township Animal Hospital, will likely perform a series of blood tests to help pinpoint the underlying cause of the head pressing, and even perform a computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of your cat's brain. A retina examination is also commonly performed, which can give away clues about brain inflammation. A urinalysis and other hormonal tests will help determine if a hormone imbalance or lead poisoning is the reason behind the head pressing.

Treatment will greatly depend on what the diagnosis is, which means proper testing is perhaps the most important step for finding the right treatment for head pressing.