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Why Do Cats Arch Their Back? Whoah!

Why Do Cats Arch Their Back?  Whoah!

Cats arching their backs is amongst the many mysterious cat behaviors that owners attempt to decipher.

Does it mean that there’s a threat present? Or is it a pleasant response to being stroked on the back?

While cats have become a beloved family pet for many people, understanding the meaning behind certain behaviors can still be a challenge for even the most seasoned cat owners.


Why Cats Arch Their Back?

While felines do arch their backs in response to potential danger, they also arch their backs when they’re playing or when they need a good stretch. Additionally, cats purr and arch their backs as a sign of affection when they are being petted.


Cats Arch Their Backs When They Are Afraid of a Potential Threat

Yes, the stereotypical hissing cat with an arched back that is portrayed on Halloween is actually symbolic of a known cat behavior that can occur in any cat that is experiencing fear, regardless of whether they are a black cat or just your average tabby.

When cats arch their backs, it makes them appear larger than they really are, which is why cats tend to arch their backs when they feel as though they are in danger.

However, it’s possible to spot the difference between a fearful arch and a playful arch by the accompanying behavior.

When cats are afraid, their arched back will be coupled with hissing, spitting, and even a puffed tail.

Although you may have a good rapport with your cat, you’ll want to avoid them when they are in this state as they may inadvertently scratch or bite you.

Even the most docile cat can become aggressive if they feel like they’re in danger.


Felines Arch Their Backs When They Are Playing

Felines can also arch their backs if they’re in the mood to play. This may be in response to playing together with another cat, with their human, or simply with a ball of yarn.

Kittens are especially known for playful arching of the back that usually occurs when they are playing with other members of the litter or practicing catching mice.

You can tell when your cat’s arched back is the result of playing by paying attention to their demeanor.

If they are bouncing around and enjoying your company or the companionship of another cat, you can most likely continue to happily engage with them without the fear of being bitten.


Cats Arch Their Back When They Are Stretching

In some situations, it’s best to not overthink the behavior of your cat. Sometimes your cat’s arched back means absolutely nothing besides needing a good stretch.

Since cats have a total of sixty vertebrae and more flexibility than humans do, a cat’s stretch can appear somewhat extreme even though their stance simply symbolizes that they feel tired.

You may observe your cat standing there with their paws spread out, their backs arched, their nose buried in the floor, and their tail standing straight up in the air and wonder what in the world they are doing.

You may even glance around expecting to see a mouse or bird nearby.

However, they aren’t seeking prey, nor are they in danger. Chances are that they aren’t even in a playful mood.

On the contrary, they are probably ready to take a nap.


Cats Arch Their Backs as a Sign of Affection When Petted

Although it is possible to pet your cat in areas that they are not fond of, such as their tail, whiskers, underbellies, and paws which could possibly trigger an unwelcome arched back response, most likely when your cat arches their back while being petted, this symbolizes contentment.

It means that your cat is enjoying being petted and is pleased by your touch.

Ideally, cats prefer being scratched under the chin and behind the ears. They also enjoy being stroked along their backs.

Although some cats may like the base of their tail to be scratched, this is not a welcome gesture for many cats.

In most cases, when your cat arches their back when petted, chances are that you are touching a spot that feels good to them and they want to continue being petted.


Frequently Asked Questions About Why Cats Arch Their Back


Why Is My Cat Walking Around With An Arched Back?

When a cat walks around with an arched back, this typically means that they are in the mood to play. They may be preparing to playfully pounce on you or another pet in your home.


Why Does My Cat Arch Its Back and Run Sideways?

This behavior is symbolic of a fearful arch. Cats do this to make themselves look bigger when they are afraid. They will commonly arch their backs, puff out their tails, hiss, and move in a sideways motion when they feel threatened.


Why Do Felines Arch Their Backs When Petted?

Cats usually arch their backs when petted as a pleasure response. Lifting their back can increase their sense of pleasure by pressing their bodies into your hands.



Cats arch their backs for several very different reasons, which is why it’s important for cat owners to pay close attention to their cat’s demeanor, accompanying body language, and environmental cues to be able to distinguish what their cat is trying to tell them with the arched back.

Sometimes you may need to temporarily avoid a cat with an arched back to prevent being scratched or bitten.

Or, you may simply need to pet them a little bit longer.