Why do cats shake their heads when they eat? The answer will surprise you

As a cat owner, have you ever noticed your furry friend shaking their head while eating? You might wonder why they do that, and whether it’s a sign of a health issue. In this article, we will examine the reasons behind this behavior and clear up any confusion you may have about it.

Theories behind head-shaking behavior

There are various reasons why cats shake their heads when eating. Here are some of the most common theories:

Getting rid of food debris

When cats eat, food can get stuck in their teeth or mouth. As a result, they may shake their head to dislodge any food particles that are bothering them. This behavior is similar to how we humans might floss or rinse our mouth after eating.

Stimulating the taste buds

Cats have a very strong sense of smell, and they rely heavily on their sense of taste to determine the quality of their food. Some experts suggest that head-shaking behavior might be a way of stimulating their taste buds to make sure that they are getting the most flavor out of their food.

Satisfaction indicator

Another theory is that head-shaking behavior might indicate that a cat is satisfied with their meal. When cats eat, their cheeks and jaw muscles work hard to chew and swallow, and this can cause their head to shake involuntarily. Some vets and animal behaviorists believe that this involuntary head shaking might indicate a sense of satisfaction and fullness.

Types of head-shaking behavior in cats

Not all head shaking is created equal! Different types of head shaking might indicate different things, so it’s important to pay attention to your cat’s specific behavior. Here are some of the most common types of head-shaking behavior in cats:

Ear scratching

Some cats might shake their head while eating because they are trying to scratch their ears. If your cat has ear mites or another ear infection, they may try to alleviate the itchiness by shaking their head.

Food texture issues

If you notice that your cat only shakes their head while eating certain types of food, it might be a sign that they are having trouble with the texture. For example, some cats might shake their head while eating dry kibble but not wet food. This could be a sign that the dry kibble is irritating their mouths or teeth.

Mouth pain

In some cases, head-shaking behavior might be a sign of pain in the mouth or teeth. If your cat has a dental issue such as a cavity or gum disease, they may shake their head as a response to the discomfort.

When to seek veterinary help

In most cases, head-shaking behavior in cats is not a cause for concern. However, if you notice any of the following signs alongside head shaking, it may be time to seek veterinary help:

  • Bloody or discolored gums
  • Excessive drooling
  • Lack of appetite
  • Breath smelling foul
  • Crying or vocalizing while eating
  • Head-shaking occurring frequently or painfully

If you notice any of the above symptoms, it’s important to take your cat to the vet as soon as possible. They may need a dental exam, medication, or further testing to determine the underlying issue.

Preventing head-shaking behavior in cats

If you want to prevent head-shaking behavior in cats, there are a few steps you can take. Here are some strategies that cat owners have found helpful:

Switching to wet food

If your cat seems to have trouble with the texture of dry food, try switching them to wet food. Wet food is softer and easier to chew, which might reduce irritation in the mouth and discourage head shaking.

Regular dental cleanings

To prevent dental issues that might cause head-shaking behavior, it’s important to get your cat regular dental cleanings. Your vet can recommend a schedule based on your cat’s specific needs.

Placing water bowls away from food

Cats are known for being picky about their water sources. If your cat is consistently shaking their head while eating, it might be because they are trying to drink water at the same time. To avoid this, try placing their water bowl in a separate location from their food bowl.


Whether your cat is shaking their head due to food texture issues or trying to dislodge stuck food particles, it’s important to pay attention to their specific behavior to determine the underlying cause. In most cases, head-shaking behavior is perfectly normal and not a cause for concern. However, if you notice any pain or other symptoms, it’s always best to consult with your veterinarian to determine the best course of action.

Common Q&As about cats’ head-shaking behavior

  • Why do cats shake their heads when eating? There are several theories, including dislodging food particles from teeth, stimulating taste buds or indicating satisfaction with their meal.
  • Is it normal for cats to shake their heads while eating? Yes, it’s usually normal, but if it happens too often, or it’s painful, it’s best to consult a vet.
  • When should I take my cat to the vet for head-shaking behavior? If your cat shows any signs of pain or discomfort, including lack of appetite, drooling, or bad breath, it’s time to seek veterinary care.
  • Can I prevent head-shaking behavior in cats? Switching to wet food or placing water bowls in a separate location, and getting regular dental cleanings can help prevent head-shaking behavior.

Written by [Your name] | References:

  1. https://www.petmd.com/cat/general-health/why-do-cats-shake-their-heads
  2. https://www.petcoach.co/article/cat-headshaking/
  3. https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/why-do-cats-shake-their-heads-when-they-eat

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