Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Why Do Cats Tilt Their Heads? 6 Reasons for This Behavior

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

cat head tilting while looking at the bubbles

As cat parents, we like to think we understand why our cats do the things they do. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Cats are quirky,  adorable, unpredictable, and well, a bit sassy. The possibility of us mere humans truly understanding their moods and actions is simply implausible. From random purrs, cases of the zoomies, and even cute little head tilts, our feline friends are always doing something to make us notice them. The question is, why do they do the things they do?

When cat parents see their cat randomly tilt their head from side to side, most think it’s simply an adorable gesture. Did you know there are reasons behind these cute movements? Read on if you are a cat lover who wants to understand your cat better in this regard. We’ll discuss 6 of the main reasons your cat may tilt its head at you so you can understand your feline overlord a bit better.

Noticing When Head Tilts Happen Is Important

savannah kitten
Image Credit: Kolomenskaya Kseniya, Shutterstock

If you’re on a mission to understand your cat better, paying attention is the best starting point. When it comes to head tilting, what’s happening around your cat at the time may be an indicator as to why this action is taking place. Like with so many other things about your cat, giving them your attention when you see the cute head tilt is the perfect way to understand them and their needs better. It’s also the best way to determine which of the following six reasons is making your cat tilt its head randomly.

1. Your Cat Is Trying to Pinpoint the Source of a Noise

This is one of the most common reasons your cat may tilt its head. Whether you heard the sound or not, it’s always possible noises are happening in your home beyond the range of our measly human ears. That doesn’t mean your cat can’t hear it.

Cats have amazing hearing. Tilting their heads allows them to pinpoint the sounds they hear. This is especially true if the sound is hard for them to distinguish. Cats use their ears as a way of hearing danger, approaching enemies, or their prey. The head tilt alerts them to whether sounds in the distance are coming from above or below. This is something many cats struggle with. Noises from either side of them or straight ahead are much easier for them to distinguish. Tilting their heads lets their ears jump into action and help them determine the location of whatever they are hearing.

tabby cat tilting its head
Image Credit: Daga_Roszkowska, Unsplash

2. Your Cat Wants to Hear You Better

You may not believe it, but at times, your cat wants to hear what you’re saying. While cats are best known for ignoring their owners, at times, they are curious about us. If you’re speaking in an unusual tone or saying something new to them, your cat will try to understand. This is when you’ll see the familiar head tilt come into play.

A cat’s ears are very sensitive and used much like a satellite. If a sound is unfamiliar, important, or intriguing to your feline, they’ll immediately try to hone in and understand what’s happening around them. It’s simply in their nature. When it comes to their pet parents, however, even cats with the biggest attitudes use their ears to determine what is being said to them and the tone it’s being communicated in.

3. Remember, Cats Are Very Curious

There are times when cat owners shouldn’t read too much into the classic head tilt. When a cat is overly curious about something going on inside its territory, seeing its head tilt isn’t surprising. Just like us humans who bite our lips or involuntarily frown when we’re intrigued by something, cats do the same thing. If something grabs their attention, don’t be surprised if you see their heads tilting.

close up of a curios cat tilting its head
Image Credit: Free-Photos, Pixabay

4. Maybe Your Cat’s Nose Is in the Way

As humans, we don’t understand the aggravation of having a snout on our faces, but our cats and dogs do. Could your cat’s nose be getting in its way? This is a big possibility. Both cats and dogs will tilt their heads as they try to focus on something important and need their noses out of the way. If you see your cat staring at something while its head tilts side to side, they may be trying to see without their snout interfering.

5. Your Cat Is Trying to Make You Happy

Yes, a cat going above and beyond to make its owner happy is a long shot, but it has been known to happen.  Over time, while your cat has been tilting its head to hear something in the distance, owners have deemed this action as cute. Often, when it happens, they will offer their cats treats and praise for doing it.

Cats are extremely intelligent creatures. Thanks to the fuss made when they tilt their heads, it isn’t far-fetched to think your cat is now doing it on purpose. Even with all the attitude a cat possesses, they still love it when their owners are happy. If a cute head tilt brings out the best in you, don’t be shocked if your cat does it more often to see that you’re pleased with its actions.

red cat sitting on the floor while tilting its head
Image Credit: Kristina Yadykina, Unsplash

6. Your Cat Could Be Sick

Unfortunately, illness is also a possibility when your cat is tilting its head. No cat owner wants to think something is wrong with their furry friend, but it happens from time to time. Some experts feel that if a cat is tilting its head for long periods, this could be an indication that your cat is feeling off-balance.

Imbalance, falling, and head tilting are signs of Idiopathic vestibular disease. This disorder attacks the inner ear and causes severe infection. The inner ear is responsible for providing your cat’s body with the information required to keep the animal upright and moving properly. Luckily, there are treatments for this disease and in most cases, your cat will recover and live a normal life.

The Head Tilt May Still Be a Mystery

Although no one can pinpoint the exact reason a particular cat is tilting its head, all of these reasons could be the answer. Whether your cat is trying to hear you, see you, or make you happy, take their initiation of love as an opportunity to spend time with your feline friend. If you notice continuous tilting, reach out to a veterinarian to ensure your cat stays happy and healthy by avoiding infections.

Related Reads:

Featured Image Credit: Mikhail Vasilyev, Unsplash

Related Articles

Further reading

Vet Articles

Latest vet answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database

join our newsletter today

And get our latest articles, food recall alerts, exclusive content, insider pricing, care guides, sale alerts & more for free!