The size of your cat’s head is influenced by a few factors, including its gender, breed, age, and whether it is intact or neutered.
Cat breeds with small heads
There are some cat breeds that are smaller in overall size compared to other breeds. And that smaller size is accompanied by a proportionally smaller head. Among the most popular small cat breeds are:
- Devon Rex
- Cornish Rex
- American Curl
- Scottish Fold
If you own a cat from any of these breeds, you can attribute the size of your pet’s head to his breed. If you are worried that your cat might be lagging physically, check with your pet’s breeder.
Do male or female cats have smaller heads?
In general male cats have larger bodies compared to queens. As such, tomcats also have larger heads than female cats. If your female cat’s head seems to look smaller compared to another cat, check the gender of the cat you are comparing your pet to. Most likely, you are comparing your female cat to a male cat, hence the disparity in head size.
Young cats have larger heads than adult cats
Like other baby animals, the heads of kittens are disproportionately larger compared to adults. If your pet’s head seems to look smaller than what you expect, it is highly likely that he is still growing into his body. Just like human kids, kittens develop lanky bodies as they transition from kittenhood to adulthood.
The time it takes for a kitten to enter into adulthood will depend on a few factors, including his breed. For example, a Persian cat typically needs two to three years to reach maturity. In contrast, a Maine Coon usually needs three or more years before reaching maturity.
While your cat is still in adolescence, you might notice that his body parts are disproportionate. But eventually, as your cat reaches his full size, you will see these body parts grow in proportion to each other.
Do neutered cats have smaller heads?
Did you get your male cat fixed? That may be one reason why his head is smaller compared to his peers. Castrating a cat brings about a few physical and behavioral changes. One physical change that you can expect after getting your tomcat neutered is in his physical appearance.
Specifically, his face will be smaller than an intact male’s. The body of a tomcat is built for fighting with other male cats. Apart from their muscular bodies, intact males also have bigger and thick faces. A bigger and thicker face offers the advantage of protection during skirmishes with other male cats.
If you get your cat neutered before he reaches puberty, he will not develop secondary sexual characteristics, including the development of facial thickenings or shields which are responsible for giving tomcats larger faces.
If you get your tomcat castrated after puberty and he has already developed facial thickenings, he will eventually lose these overtime.
Is your cat obese? That is probably the underlying reason for his relatively small head. As your pet accumulates excess weight, fat is stored all over his body, his head size and shape may remain essentially the same. This results in a disproportionately small head and a large body. Once your cat loses his excess weight, you should expect his body and face to be proportional to each other.
Your cat has cerebellar hypoplasia
Your cat may have a small head due to cerebellar hypoplasia. Cerebellar hypoplasia is a condition where a cat’s cerebellum does not develop properly due to the feline panleukopenia virus passed from the mother cat to her kittens.
The virus typically attacks rapidly dividing cells. In this case, those rapidly dividing cells are found in the kitten’s brain. The condition can affect just one kitten or the whole litter.
Sometimes, a kitten can succumb to cerebellar hypoplasia when his mother is severely malnourished while pregnant. Cerebellar hypoplasia can also come as a result of physical trauma. Sometimes, kittens infected by toxoplasmosis will exhibit symptoms similar to cerebellar hypoplasia.
A cat with cerebellar hypoplasia has difficulties with his coordination and mobility. Typically, the symptoms manifest once the affected kitten begins standing and walking.
Kittens with cerebellar hypoplasia usually have head tremors. When they attempt to walk, they will sway side to side.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for cerebellar hypoplasia because the infection occurs during pregnancy. But on the converse side of the coin, cats with cerebellar hypoplasia do not experience pain due to their condition and make the necessary adjustments to live a normal life.
Check-in with your cat’s vet
It can be worrying to see something that seems to be abnormal in your cat, including a small head size. Fortunately, in most cases, there is nothing to worry about. Furthermore, small head size is unusual for cats. What you should worry about is an abnormally large head size which often indicates that your pet might have hydrocephalus.
If you are worried about your cat’s head size, do not hesitate to consult with your veterinarian. He can give you clarity about what to expect of your cat’s body size and shape, what is normal for his age and breed.
A visit to the vet may also be the opportune time to get his weight checked and ensure that he is not obese.
Image: istockphoto.com / Thomas Leirikh