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Why Do Cats Arch Their Back? 5 Reasons Why

You’ve probably seen your cat in this famous Halloween pose. Tail up, back stretched upwards, and just enjoying the moment. But why do cats arch their back?

Cats tend to do very funny things, like claw at us and lick our noses. But one of the most famous and unique cat behaviors is the arching of their backs.

These nimble little creatures are very flexible and get into some interesting positions from time to time. If you’d like to know more about why your cat is arching his back, keep reading!

bengal cat with back arched walking

Why do Cats Arch Their Backs? 5 Reasons

Cats find themselves in many different situations throughout their day. They might face a rival kitty on the block or get a pet from their favorite human.

All these interactions call for different responses. So let’s dive into why cats might arch their backs and what this means.

1. They Are Scared

They might come face-to-face with a threat that makes them feel uncomfortable. This will result in them arching their back, hair standing on end, and often hissing. Most cat parents have seen their cats in this position at one time or another. 

This stance will make the cat appear bigger and, hopefully, will scare away the threat. They might go look for a smaller opponent rather than our big, vicious kitty.

black cat arches back on top of car

This is a direct reaction to a dangerous situation. This kind of body language translates to “I feel threatened, but I am ready to defend myself if you come closer.”

The best move would be to leave the unfriendly cat alone and not try to approach them. And if it’s your own cat, it’s best to speak calmly, but not come in the way between rivals.

brown and white fluffy cat arches back

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2. They Are Playing

 If your cat is in a playful mood, they might also get into a similar position. This is parallel to their  “ready to attack” pose. However, you can differentiate between this and their response to threat because they aren’t showing their teeth, hissing, or growling.

This kind of behavior can be directed to a play buddy, a favorite toy, or a human. You can expect pouncing and bouncing behavior when the cat is stimulated. This is an indication that the cat is comfortable and friendly.

fluffy tabby arches back on road

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3. Simple Stretching

A brief arch of the back can be written off as a lazy stretch – just like us humans. However, cats are more flexible than us, therefore their stretching behavior can seem a bit over the top.

A common cat stretch would be a nose-down, tail-up, and outstretched paws. This is a simple indication of laziness or sleepiness and a way to stretch out their 60 vertebrae in the spine.

fluffy tabby siberian arches its back

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4. You’ve Hit The Spot

If your cat is exhibiting this behavior during a pet or scratch, this is a very good sign. This means that you’ve triggered a positive response in the cat and that they appreciate your touch.

They are simply asking for more pets and they will often turn in circles. They’ll arch their backs to give you easier access to the sweet spot.

tabby cat arches its back

A cat that arches their back is a common sign of contentment and comfort.

But with all that being said, where are the common sweet spots?

  • Behind the ears
  • Above the tail
  • Under the chin
  • Down the spine

Remember to stay vigilant when petting your cat, especially the belly and tail area. These are the most sensitive spots on a cat, and it won’t always be met happily. 

There is a thin line between contentment and discomfort – especially with our feline friends. When a cat becomes overstimulated, it will most likely end up in a scratch or a bite.

grey cat grabbing human hand with mouth and paws

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5. They Might Be Displaying Their Bum

A common reason why your cat is arching his back may be because he is presenting his bum – that’s right! Do not take this as a negative sign.

Cats display their bottoms to each other as a sign of friendly greeting, and they tend to do this to humans in order to ask for more pets. It’s an indication that they feel comfortable and happy around you.

tabby cat arches back on top of car why do cats arch their back

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Cat Reactions To Being Touched

As mentioned, when a cat arches its back when you touch them, it’s a very good sign. But, your own characteristics and personality type can play a huge role in how comfortable the cat feels around you.

Cats may instantly feel comfortable with you, or they might barely tolerate you in exchange for yummy food and security. This can be due to gender, how you touch the cat in general, and even the manner in which you treat the cat.

light grey cat arches its back at dark sunset

Gaining a cat’s trust is rarely simple. Rescue cats are most prone to aggressive and standoffish behavior.

If they’d had a bad experience with a human of a certain gender or personality type, they may stay clear of that person and display an aggressive stance.

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1. Do Not Touch The Cat If They Don’t Like It

If your cat continuously shows an aversion to being touched, it’s better to step back. If a cat has to merely tolerate being touched, it can result in a higher stress level.

Training your cat not to bite, is the first step in the right direction. But it’s more important for you to get to know your cat’s behavioral patterns.

ginger tabby cat with mouth open and paw grabbing finger

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2. How To Tell If They Do Like It

Similar to arching their backs, cats exhibit numerous behaviors that will indicate that they are appreciative of being touched. And we are very appreciative of this.

However, not all cats are the same. From kneading to purring, here are some common ways in which they will show positive responses.

  • Purring
  • Kneading
  • Kneeling with their tail up
  • Ears pointed outward
  • Relaxed facial expressions
  • Relaxed body language
  • Slow wave of the tail
  • Slow blinking

If you dare stop, they might give you a slight nudge to encourage you to continue. Or a passive-aggressive claw might meet you on a tender spot.

person strokes black and white cat sitting in lap

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3. How To Tell If They Don’t Like It

Not unlike their positive behavior, cats have numerous ways to indicate discomfort. As mentioned above, they will arch their back and hiss at you if you come to close.

But what are some more obscure ways that they will use in order to ask you to back off?

Here’s a list of some common ways a cat will display their displeasure that might not be as obvious as hissing at you.

  • Moving their body and head away from you
  • No kneading or purring
  • Stiffened posture
  • Over-blinking or even shaking
  • Thrashing of the tail
  • Widened eyes
  • Licking random body parts
  • Audible sounds of displeasure, like aggressive meowing

No two cats are the same and they might only display less obvious signs of aggression or irritability. The best bet will be to leave the cat alone as soon as they show any one of these behaviors.

tabby cat growling

Some cats enjoy physical touch more than others, and it’s safer to keep your affections light until you get to know them and they get used to your presence.

This small act might even result in the cat trusting you a lot faster and they will ask for pets in no time.

ginger cat sits on person's lap.png

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Final Thoughts On Why A Cat Arches Their Back

Pay close attention to when and how your cat arches its back. They might be friendly and playful, but they may also be scared.

It’s best to try and leave the cat alone until you have a clear and obvious sign that they wish to be touched. If a cat is displaying negative behavior, it will never be a good idea to try and approach or touch them.

ginger cat arches back on wooden floor

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Please Note: This why do cats arch their back post contains affiliate links. That means if you click through on most of the links and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. This will not affect the price that you pay. I wanted to make sure that you were aware of this.

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