The areas on a cat’s head between their eyes and ears contain temporal glands which produce fatty secretions. This area usually has a thinner covering of fur than the rest of the cat.
Head bunting involves a cat rubbing its head area containing the temporal glands on another cat, an animal including humans or a prominent object such as furniture within the home. Head bunting often looks as if the cat is attempting to head-butt the animal or object but actually involves the rubbing of a small patch of the head on the recipient animal/object. Head bunting can occur at different intensities in terms of the pressure used in the bunting and in terms of the frequency with which it is displayed. In addition, the action can look slightly different depending on the height of the target item (animal or object) in relation to the cat. If the item is at cat head height or below, the cat may rub their head from forehead to ears along it rotating their head in a direction to place the area in front of the ears in direct contact with the target. This can cause one side of the head to have greater contact with the target than the other. However, when the target is higher than the cat at a height that is unable to be reached from a standing position, they often assume a rapid rearing position to head bunt. Such a movement often causes the head bunt to occur at a greater pressure than it would when the target is within easy reach.
In general, entire adult male cats are the demographic that head bunt the most frequently, more often than juveniles or females. However, as with tail wrapping, female cats seem to show an increase in head bunting when beginning and during oestrus. It is also common to see cats head bunt on a site they have already rubbed on, or on a site that another cat has rubbed on. Similarly cats may spray urine on a site that has been rubbed on, or rub on a site that has been urine sprayed (by themselves or by another cat). Following this, cats may also be seen to flehmen before or after sniffing or head bunting a site where other cats have rubbed or sprayed.
As with other types of rubbing, when a cat head bunts another, it may be reciprocated. Rubbing involving the temporal glands is associated more often with social interactions than with marking objects object marking is more commonly performed by using the cheeks, chin and lips (see facial marking). Head bunting can also sometimes precede the cat body rubbing an object, cat, person or other animal.
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