Why Do Cats Bob Their Heads? (8 Interesting Reasons)

Last updated on November 1st, 2022

Have you ever wondered why cats nod their heads at you?

Kittens go to the extreme when they are ready to seek attention, and they just love how we notice their naughty little actions. Such behaviors are generally characterized by a head bob and stretching.

But apart from attention-grabbing attitudes, cat owners may also have seen their pets bob their heads right before a jump. It can be a massive pounce over an unfortunate mouse or a simple jump on a high perch or table.

child playing with cat at home

Head bobbing in cats is a gesture for communication. Cats bob their heads when they’re happy to see you or want to engage in play since it is a sign of friendliness. Also, cats bob their heads because it’s a way of stretching their jaw and getting rid of any built-up tension in their muscles. 

Cat’s head bobbing is also a sign that prey has caught their eyes and they’re about to pounce. This reflex is common in kittens, but as cats age, it slows down. 

This reflex also works with a laser pointer. Some cats will bob their heads when they’re about to pounce on you for a belly rub and the easiest way to tell if your cat is about to do that is to see whether their ears are moving back and forth.

Let’s discuss more of the different reasons why cats bob their heads.

Reasons Why Cats Bob Their Heads

You may have often seen your feline friend jump over the same surface every day, such as a rack or shelf.

Even though the height of the object remains the same from the ground, your cat will still bob its head right and left, or high and low.

One of the reasons why cats bob their heads is to focus on something better, especially before jumping on prey or a high-level object.

They may even bob their heads to measure the distance before jumping while assessing a target object or prey in front of them.

New pet owners may see this as a very weird behavior, but cats must have the ability to bob their heads to jump on a surface successfully.

Head bobbing may also be a habit seen commonly during a cat’s playtime.

However, there are certain health conditions to consider when a cat bobs its head.

Although it’s not quite common, the head bobbing seen in some feline animals may be a sign of some neurological disorders or brain issues. Yet others may bob their heads due to an ear infection.

Whenever you notice any abnormal behavior, consult a veterinarian in your area to check if everything’s alright.

1. Cats Bob Their Head When They’re Curious

Cats are always curious and anxious about something – be it a mouse they are planning to pounce on or an unknown object they see in front of them.

After all, it’s this inquisitive nature of these cute little feline creatures that gave rise to the phrase, “the curious cat”!

When cats are curious, head bobbing is almost a predictable thing cat owners see.

While looking at something, cats will usually go for the head up and down bob. This kind of head-bobbing allows the cat to view and have a proper perception of an object from different angles.

Sometimes, when a cat is hunting or eyeing a mouse, the head bobbing will take place closer to the ground while in a prowling posture.

In this kind of head bob, your cat will look like they are planning its hunting strategies to jump on the prey appropriately, without missing the target.

This kind of body posture also helps your cat to focus on the subject and gain some potential energy before the giant leap!

Sounds like the hunting patterns of a tiger or lion, right? Well, that’s why they all belong to the same family (Felidae).

2. Cats Bob Their Head to Measure the Distance of Objects

Cats bob their head to measure the distance of an object they want to get or assess how high the surface is, such as the top of a cupboard, counter, shelf, wall, etc.

Feline creatures would generally bob their heads right before the jump, especially when the surface is taller than themselves.

Besides, they may also want to check to see if there’s anything situated on the surface to jump on.

By bobbing their head up and down or left and right, they will ensure that the surface is free of any substances they may bump into.

It’s obvious that cats won’t be able to see what’s there on high surfaces.

Let’s say you’ve kept a beautiful aquarium or a cup set on the tabletop, and the cat is aiming to jump to reach that height.

If they don’t have an idea of what’s kept there, they may knock it over and even hurt themselves.

Head bobbing simply helps them to remain cautious and safe.

Head bobbing also enables cats to better assess their surroundings, especially when they’re searching for more comfortable places to hide or relax.

3. Cats Bob Their Heads To Grab Someone’s Attention

This is one of those weird cat behaviors when they are trying to get a response or reaction from someone.

Owners would often say that their kittens seek their attention by bobbing their heads.

Apart from their owners, these feline animals may also seek attention from other animal species through head bobbing, such as stalking or chasing a bird or a mouse.

In this way, they would like to gain someone’s attention. It may seem odd, but it just works for them!

For instance, every time my kitten starts nodding her head vigorously, I would take a look to see what she wants! See, it worked!

4. Cats May Bob Their Heads Due to Neurological Problems

Not all head nods are done purposely, unfortunately, it may be due to some neurological disorders the cat may suffer from. You need to watch out for abnormal behaviors like:

  • Lack of coordination
  • Loss of balance
  • Frequent or occasional seizures, tremors
  • Numbness
  • Pain
  • Paralysis or weakness in one or more limbs
  • Behavioral changes
  • Hyperactive reflexes
  • Walking in circles
  • Blindness
  • Coma
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Pacing

Such issues need immediate attention, and you must see a veterinarian in your area at once.

5. Cats May Bob Their Heads Due to an Ear Infection

Another health hazard often associated with a head shake or head bobbing in cats is some kind of ear infection.

Besides head bobbing, some other symptoms of ear infections in cats include:

  • Wax buildup in and around the ear canal
  • Hearing loss
  • Pain or discomfort in the ears
  • Yellowish or blackish discharge from ears
  • Swelling or redness of the ear canal or the ear flap (usually caused due to inflammation in the ear)
  • Strong odor
  • Disorientation or Loss of balance

Another sign of a possible ear infection in kittens is frequent pawing at one or both ears.

Cats may scratch or rub their ears or shake their heads in an attempt to remove fluid or debris from the ear canal.

Whenever you notice these signs, consult your vet for immediate treatment.

While some ear infections are temporary and go away on their own, you should never wait because there may be serious issues at times, often permanent ones, such as hearing loss.

Never delay treatment because each second counts! It’s important for cat owners to know what’s causing the problem.

While some of the above instances of head bobs are intentional, others like the ones related to health conditions are unintentional and even unconscious.

There’s also a difference between head shaking and head bobbing.

Head shaking is often associated with some serious brain disorders, in which case, you should see a vet as soon as possible.

6. Cats Bob Their Heads While Listening to Music

Do you know that cats can bob their heads while enjoying human music? We all have seen those viral videos of cats dancing and nodding their heads to good music.

Yes, they too enjoy a song and move their body to the rhythm.

I literally had this video on loop and played it about ten times before I stopped and realized I had work to finish off.

This is a natural phenomenon, and you can literally feel their pulse during this act.

So, the next time you listen to music, watch how your feline friend enjoys it too by bobbing or nodding their head along with the song.

They may not like every song or music you play, but those they do will give you good opportunities to capture for a social media post!

In fact, I have an entire playlist of the songs that my kitty enjoys.

I have noticed that my cat enjoys those songs that have higher sound pitches, such as those sounding like wildlife or more natural sounds.

7. Cats Bob Their Heads While Playing or Hunting

Cat Ready to Pounce

When feline animals are excited about something, such as while hunting for prey or playing, you can see their beautiful head nod or bob.

During their playtime, cats may also crouch down close to the ground with wide-open eyes while bobbing their heads.

This is the time when a cat is watching a toy or even another cat.

As mentioned above, this head-bobbing behavior is important for the cat to have an estimate of how far the toy is.

Interestingly, when I swing or wave a toy in front of my little kitty, she would show more of her head bobs.

It may be because the moving object confuses her even more in confirming the distance of the toy.

8. Cats Bob Their Heads While You Are Talking to Them

When you talk to your cat, it would generally nod or tilt its head out of curiosity.

Most of us have the habit of talking to our cats in a baby voice, especially after they tilt their heads, but this would make them all the more curious.

You may not notice that your feline pet tilts its head every time you talk to them.

It’s not quite known as to why adult cats are attracted to their owners’ voices.

Maybe they find it appealing, even if it’s your normal regular speaking voice.

But it’s good to know that pet parents always have an eager audience and a good listeners!

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