By Dr. Katy Nelson, DVM
If you’ve noticed your cat exhibiting a behavior called head pressing, it’s important to visit your veterinarian immediately to determine the underlying cause of the problem.
Head pressing is the compulsive act of pressing the head against a wall or other surface relentlessly, for no apparent reason. It is different than head butting, a perfectly normal behavior where a cat rubs or bumps its head against a human or inanimate object as a sign of affection. Head pressing is generally a sign of damage to the nervous system, which may result from a number of underlying problems.
- Medication, Surgery or Diet: The method of treatment for this behavior is dependent on the veterinarian’s diagnosis of the underlying cause of the behavior. Treatment should not be performed until a diagnosis has been reached.
What to Expect at the Vet’s Office
In order to determine the underlying cause of the head pressing behavior, your veterinarian will likely perform a fundic examination of the retina (the layer of the eye that receives and processes images) and other structures in the back of the eye. This may reveal irregularities in the brain, or infectious or inflammatory diseases.
Other helpful tests include blood pressure (the amount of pressure applied by the blood on the arteries) measurements to determine if your cat has high blood pressure, and computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of the brain.
Your veterinarian will also perform bloodwork and a urinalysis, which could reveal a problem with the metabolic system, or help determine if there are any toxins in the system.