Someone asked, ‘Why does my cat head butt me, then meow, before placing her paws on my lap while I’m computing, but never jumps up?’ The answer is that she is greeting you in a very friendly way and reinforcing the friendship (bonding). Not jumping up probably means that she is greeting you but has no intention of settling on your lap. Is she not a lap cat?
Here is a head butt by a gorgeous F1 Savannah cat at a store in the US:
Head butting is called head bunting by some ‘experts’. You probably won’t find the phrase ‘head butting’ in the classy books on cat behavior strangely. And yet it is mentioned all the time between cat lovers.
Head butting deposits scent on the object with which it comes into contact. It is therefore scent marking and scent exchange but when it is done to us on our leg, hand or face, common sense tells us that it is a very strong, direct sign of friendship and bonding.
I equate it to two people hugging each other when they meet and they might say some nice words and also shake hands. Head butting you, meowing and placing her paw on your lap is the feline equivalent.
What you see and feel is what it actually means. It has friendship and bonding written all over it.
The meow in this instance is really a hello. It’s a greeting. Meows can and often do mean a request from cat to human i.e. for food or to open a door.
In this instance an alternative reason for the meow by this cat might be that she wants something from you such as food or to be picked up and placed on your lap. It is said that the meow has evolved due to cat domestication and feral cats don’t use it:
You’ll see cats head butting each other too – a lot (click on this link to see an excellent example). You’ll see cats who are friendly with each other walking along and head butting each other. They’ll make contact in other ways such as their tails becoming intertwined and their flanks touching each other.
The cat-to-human head butt looks a bit different to the cat-to-cat head butt. This is because we are a lot bigger. The cat sometimes has to force his head upwards towards ours or do it against our legs or outstretched hands. All these modifications are due to size difference.
A head butting cat has a friendly demeanour. There is no question of anything other warmth and companionship being given by the cat to her human guardian.