Why Does My Cat Shake His Head When He Eats?

When it comes to feeding our cats, the majority of cat owners will go through the process of preparing the food and plonking the food bowl in front of the hungry cat.

That’s it, our job is done.

But have you ever observed what your cat does when it eats?

If you didn’t, you’ll be missing out on some of the quirky behaviors that your cat does when it eats.

Many cats shake their heads while eating as an instinctive display of being a predator. Cats do this to ensure that the prey is killed or to make the eating of the prey a lot easier.

This is a rather interesting trait of a cat that we are seeing even after so many centuries of domestication.

Let’s dive a little deeper.

The Nature Of Cats

There is a lot more to your cat than just this fuffy and adorable feline that sleeps all day and is always hungry.

Cats are predatory in nature and they have to hunt for their food in the wild to survive. Being obligate carnivores, cats need a high protein diet from a meat source to thrive.

They don’t need carbohydrates in their diet and are not able to digest carbs like other animals.

Going For The Kill

Cats are naturally crepuscular which means that their body clock allows them to be active during early mornings and evenings. This is to coincide with their prey’s feeding time.

It would be difficult for cats to survive if they are asleep when their next meal is awake and vice versa.

In between meal times, the cat will be busy sleeping and recharging its energy for the next hunt.

When it comes to hunting, cats need to be very efficient hunters as they have a 50/50 chance of catching a prey.

When a cat spots its prey, it will slowly stalk it so as not to alert it before making the final pounce when it is close enough.

A cat’s body is made for hunting. A cat’s ears, nose, whiskers and paws all play a part in allowing the cat to catch its prey with as little effort as possible.

Once the prey is caught, the cat shakes its head vigorously to break the neck of the prey and get the kill. Cats start biting each other on the neck as littermates to hone this skill. You can even see adult cats play fighting this way at times.

As ruthless as it might sound, it’s either that or they starve to death.

Making It Easier To Eat

Let’s assume that the cat has caught a bird for its next meal. A cat’s mouth isn’t big enough for it to tear the meat off with the feathers. They will have to pluck the feathers out with its mouth while holding the bird down with its front paws.

The cat shakes its head to try and get rid of the feathers that are tucked into its face. Head shaking is also done to try and loosen the feathers from the bird to make the plucking process easier.

A cat’s mouth and teeth are designed for tearing and swallowing meat whole. Hardly any chewing goes on with the cat’s food.

Sometimes, cats shake their heads to help tear the prey’s meat off its bones, allowing the cat to then swallow it.

Food Is Too Tough

The texture and type of food that your cat eats can cause it to shake its head. If you feed your cat dry food which is very hard, you will see your cat’s head tilt from side to side while chewing the kibbles.

This motion simulates what a wild cat would be doing once it has caught the prey. It’s eating the prey while dragging the body on the ground.

The harder it is to chew the food, the more the cat will tilt its head.

You won’t really notice this if you are feeding your cat softer food like canned or raw food.

Medical Reasons For Head Shaking

Head shaking in cats isn’t always due to their predatory instincts. There are times when cats shake their heads due to pain or discomfort.

Ear Mites

These nasty tiny parasites can make your cat’s life a living hell. Ear mites tend to live in your cat’s ears as they feed on ear fax and the oil off the skin.

An ear mite infestation can cause a lot of itch and discomfort for your cat. It is common for cats with ear mites to shake their heads pretty often and is accompanied by continuous scratching.

Ear mites are rather easy to post. They appear as dark or red specks of dust that are moving around in your cat’s ear.

Cats can get infected with ear mites when they are outdoors. These parasites tend to live in heavily grassed and wooded areas. It is also possible for cats to pass the ear mite infestation between themselves.

Therefore it is important to isolate the infected cat and keep it away from your other pets until the eats mites are gone.

The same goes for cats who have a flea infestation. These blood-sucking parasites can cause harm to your cat and need to be dealt with immediately by the vet.

Ear Infections

Your cat could also be suffering from an ear infection if it is shaking its head while eating. Ear infections can affect your cat’s inner ear and outer ear.

This is noticeable by the manifestation of dark or yellowish discharge from your cat’s ear. You can also smell a rather foul odor emanating from the ear. It kinda smells like month-old dirty laundry.

The poor cat is shaking it ahead to try and relieve the itchy ears and discomfort that it is feeling.

An ear infection can be caused by a variety of reasons:

  • Yeast or bacterial infection
  • Ear polyps
  • A foreign body stuck in your cat’s ear
  • Thick fur density at the ear opening

My cat had an ear infection not too long ago. The vet said that it was due to the overproduction of yeast in the cat’s ear which is common. His ear smelt bad and he was scratching his ear till it was raw with pus.

Took me about a month of daily cleaning with a disinfectant and ear antibiotics to completely clear it.

Yeast infections in cats can reoccur quite easily so it is important to maintain good ear hygiene for your cat with regular cleaning.

If you notice that your cat has been scratching its ears and shaking its head, chances are it has an ear infection. These infections can be easily treated if medical treatment is sought early.

Dental Problems

Cats that have dental problems tend to shake their heads excessively or tilt their heads to the side of the mouth with the issue. This would mean that if your cat has a decaying left canine, its head will be tilted to the left.

Eating will most likely cause pain and discomfort in the mouth causing the cat to lick its lips and shake its head excessively.

Other symptoms to look out for will be constant pawing at the mouth, drooling and bad breath.

Once your cat has a dental disease, you will need to bring it to the vet. Extraction of the tooth is usually the best solution.

In order to prevent future dental problems in your cat, you should start getting your cat used to a regular dental care schedule.

This would mean getting your cat used to having its teeth brushed. It is best to start on this while your cat is still young. Older adult cats tend to be more set in their ways. But it is still doable, just requires more patience.

Cerebellar Hypoplasia

Cerebellar Hypoplasia is a neurological disorder that is also known as wobbly cat syndrome. Cats who have this disorder will suffer from uncoordinated motion, unstable and jerky movements and head tremors.

This is caused by an underdeveloped due to a virus passed down from the cat’s mother who had feline distemper.

Fortunately, this condition doesn’t cause any pain nor is it contagious. But such cats need special care and attention from their owners.

Cerebellar Hypoplasia can be seen in newborn kittens as it is a congenital defect. Therefore if you notice that your cat isn’t the most stable on its feet and shakes a lot, you’ll need to seek medical advice from your vet.

The downside is that there is no cure for this disorder but cats can still live long and healthy lives with wobbly cat syndrome.

Why Do Kittens Shake When They Eat?

It can be a common occurrence for kittens to shake when they eat. This is more noticeable when they are just being weaned off their mother’s milk and are experiencing solid food for the first time.

The whole experience of eating something totally different in texture and taste as compared to mother’s milk gets them excited hence the trembling.

It may seem rather unnerving to see your kitten trembling so much while they eat but it is normal and will soon pass once they get used to stuffing their faces in solid food.

Another reason that could be causing kittens to shake while eating is that the food is too cold. Kittens are so tiny that they are not able to regulate their body temperature properly.

If you are feeding them food straight out of the fridge, it is probably too cold for their tiny bodies to handle.

Make sure to let the food warm up to room temperature before feeding them. If the room temperature is cold as well, try heating up the food till it is slightly warm.

Why Do Cats Shake Their Heads After You Pet Them?

This is something that I noticed whenever I pet my cat on the head. He tends to shake his head for a second after I pet him. It seems that your cat might be feeling slightly tickled in the ear region hence the head shake.

Here’s one thing that you can try.

Try slowly brushing the fur outside your cat’s ears and it will most likely shake its head from the sensation.

It probably feels like someone is giving you a wet willy.

Conclusion

After reading this article, do yourself a favor make sure to observe your cat while it eats. It might make you appreciate your cat a lot more by seeing how it is still influenced by its wild cat instincts.

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