All About the Cat Belly — Why Cats Show It and If You Should Pet It

Isn't that cat belly just begging for a rub, pet or tickle? Why do cats show us their bellies? And do cats like belly rubs? The answers vary.

A large, fat tabby cat upside down.
A large, fat tabby cat upside down. Photography ©ColleenB_Pics | Thinkstock.

Picture this: Your cat is sitting on your lap, lazily enjoying spending some quality time with you. Then, he rolls over onto his back, exposing his belly. What do you do? The cat belly is a tempting thing, but, as Admiral Ackbar says in Star Wars, “It’s a trap!”

There are lots of places cats like to be petted, but if you try to pet a cat’s belly, you’re almost certainly going to be met with some claws and teeth. So, why do cats react this way when we try to touch their bellies? Let’s break it down.

A cat upside down, showing his belly off.
If you see your cat’s belly, should you pet it? Photography ©Aleksandr Zotov | Thinkstock.

The Cat Belly is a Vulnerable Place

First of all, the belly is a very vulnerable place. A host of vital organs sits mere millimeters under the skin of your cat’s tummy, and damage to any of them could be potentially fatal. Cats are therefore highly likely to guard their bellies from potential injuries.

Unlike dogs, who love to have their tummies rubbed, cats are a good deal more reticent about it. Sure, there are some cats who love belly rubs, but they’re few and far between. Although you’re not a predator bent on helping your cat meet a grisly fate, instinct tells cats that they should never leave themselves that vulnerable. That’s why you rarely see a cat lying on his back, even when he’s fast asleep.

So, When Do Cats Show Their Bellies? What Does It Mean When a Cat Shows His Belly?

Like dogs, cats have been known to roll over and expose their stomachs to the people they know. That doesn’t mean you should take it as an invitation for a cat belly rub. When you see that cat belly, your kitty is telling you, “I trust you with my life.” Don’t violate that trust by going in for a belly rub, pet or tickle!

Okay, But What If You Really Want to Pet a Cat’s Belly? Do Cats Like Belly Rubs? How Do You Rub a Cat Belly the Right Way?

So, what should you do if you really feel you must try for a cat belly rub? One obvious answer is, don’t.

The second answer, if you can’t follow that advice, is to take a different approach to the cat belly.

Some cats will let you touch their stomachs if you go in from the side, but you really have to watch their body language. My cat, Thomas, will let me rub his belly if he’s lying on his side and I touch the tummy fur with my fingers as I’m stroking his flank. My Tara will even let me stroke her stomach once or twice, but for my little Belladonna, the belly is strictly a no-go. Any time I do approach Thomas or Tara’s bellies, I’m constantly aware of subtle signs of discomfort, like a twitching tail tip or a glance toward my hand, and I stop as soon as I see it.

Have I gone in for the belly rub, even though I knew better? Yes, of course I have. Haven’t we all? But I’ve only done it with cats I’ve known for many years. I still got a paw-smack or two while doing so.

A gray and white cat upside down, showing off his belly.
Can you / should you pet a cat belly? In some cases — and if you do, proceed with caution. Photography ©anurakpong | Thinkstock.

The Bottom Line on the Cat Belly and Belly Rub

By and large, I don’t recommend rubbing a cat belly. If you do rub the cat belly, you might betray the sacred trust between you and your kitty. Before you get anywhere near your cat’s stomach, be sure you know each other very well. Stay attuned to any signs that your cat has had enough, and stop before you reach the point where claws and teeth come out.

Tell us: What about you? Does your cat like having his stomach rubbed? Have you ever successfully rubbed a cat belly? What happened when you went in for the cat belly rub? Would you do it again? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Read Next: What is a Cat Kiss?


387 thoughts on “All About the Cat Belly — Why Cats Show It and If You Should Pet It”

  1. My baby girl Shadow kneads all around me, usually rooting her nose under my arm while doing so. After a few minutes, she will lay down beside me and immediately roll onto her back. She loves her belly rubs and falls asleep within minutes plastered to my leg. After reading this article, I feel like I've been given the greatest gift I've ever gotten. To know that she loves and trusts me so much is mind blowing. 💓

  2. My new 10 month old kitten Gooch, named after a character in "Auntie Mame," let me pet her tummy seconds after I met her at the SPCA. I sat down in her pen, she sniffed my hand and immediately plopped on the floor and stretched out in front of me! I pet her tummy for quite a while, fell deeply in love and took her home that day! It's the first thing she does when she sees me! Belly rubs are mandatory! I go to the bathroom, I sit down, she come in, plops in front of me (This is not graceful. Think of a fish flopping on a deck of a ship.), she stretches out. This is my cue to pet belly. She's an amazing cat and I am lucky she picked me!

  3. My cat loves to have his belly rubbed. He lays on the floor on his back and mews at me to pet his belly. It’s so cute, but that being said I only do this for a short period of time as he gets overstimulated if I pet his belly for too long.

  4. Wow, I didn't know that my boy Dalton is so rare! He's a Maine Coone mix I got from a rescue shelter adoption event, and from Day 1, he has been super affectionate and LOVED full-on belly rubs, in any manner & fashion! He truly can't get enough of it. I appreciate it even more now after reading your article. :-)

  5. Hi, I have six rescues and five just love their belly rubs, on their side or on their backs, any way they can get them. The sixth, if he's laying on his back acting all pretty pretty, don't fall for it, it is a trap. But then again, he loves belly rubs as long as he is standing on my lap, front paws on my shoulders with his face in mine rubbing me. I scratch and rub his belly and ribs and watch out for the head butts to the face. 💓My😺😺😺😺😺😺

  6. Pamela Faulkne

    My cat Charlie loves to have his belly rubbed. He starts to purr loudly and closes his eyes and stretches a bit so I get the whole thing from chin down to tail. His sister was the same way. While we are having dinner he likes to turn upside down next to the table so we can admire his beautiful white undercarriage. When he sleeps in the round sherpa bed on the cat tree shelf, he alwasy reclines across the diamater of it with his head propped up on one side and his back legs sticking up in the air oagainst the other side. For him it seems to be an invitation. I approach his belly like I am one of his littermates. I just put my hand on the largest part of his middle and lightly push. Then I sort of knead a little as if I am trying to nurse, not on him but just making the movements a kitten next to him might feel like. After that its freestyle. I try to imagine from his movements and sounds whether he's really up for it or not. He has never smacked me or bit me. If he's not into it, he will just roll over to his side and then get up and walk away. He even likes me to brush him with a pin brush on his belly (I try to stay away from his nipples becasue that doesn't seem like it would feel good. I have a friend who gets visit from a neighborhood cat and she does the same thing. Says hi and rolls over and he pets her belly ever since first meeting. So, it just depends on the cat.

  7. I've had 6 cats throughout my life and all but one adored having their bellies rubbed. In fact they demand it. I guess I've been lucky. Our boy Joey would have me rub his belly all day if possible. He lies next to my leg and if I try to remove my hand from his belly. He grabs my hand with his paws and pulls my hand back.

    1. Was reading this article while petting my cats belly hahaha
      I promise you, ANY cat raised from kitten hood can be trained to like belly pets if done when they are really sleepy and relaxed when babies. But if you don't do this from little kittens then it's more iffy. I have indeed been attacked when trying to pet cat bellies, but worth trying haha
      My cats always like them though since I pet their bellies as kittens ❤
      My current cat is the most obsessed I've ever seen though, she lifts her leg when she is on my lap like come on, belly time and meows til I do it.

  8. My cat just recently started showing his belly, maybe the past month or so. He’ll walk into the room, look me in the eye & fall over on his back, maintaining eye contact

  9. An older stray tomcat has visited my porch here in a small city. He was stand-offish but trusted me with petting. About two months after he started coming by, I saved him from a potential dog attack.
    Since then, he insisted that I give him belly rubs every day after he eats. He now also has a heated shelter on the porch.
    I always am prepared when he gets on his side and invites me to do a 5 minute belly rub followed by brushing. As far as I know, he’s been an outdoor cat for years

  10. My sweet female black cat with beautiful green eyes is a very unique cat .. she when I went to adopt her from petco didn’t think I was going to take her home cuz she at first started growling and trying to scratch and bite me ( which was odd cuz every animal I meet loves me ) but then she warmed up to me so I took her home .. and now she can’t get enough of me .. she is not a independent cat at all .. always has to be near me and always lets me pet her belly and gives me her soft gentle paw to the face whenever I tell her I love her .. and she usually will listen to me .. she has a very quiet meow as well .. never met a cat quite like her .. only thing I don’t like much is using me like a launching pad lol sometimes 💕

  11. I have a quintet that I rescued when a stray gave birth on my porch (yes, I caught the stray and got her spayed!), and because I took them and their mom in when they were only a couple hours old, they tend to be pretty affectionate with me. Two of them will climb into my lap and beg for belly rubs regularly, and the other three will curl up beside me and allow belly rubs.

  12. My kitty Maggie May practically begs to have her belly rubbed. She will want me to follow her and flip down on her back and wait for her belly rubs she will continue to Kay there until I stop. She has never scratched or bitten me instead she licks me the only cat I have ever had that lives her belly rubs.

  13. My cat is a stray and it's been determined she's about 4 years old. She loves belly rubs. In fact, as she standing and eating she'll sit down if I'm not standing above her bending over, rubbing her belly. She lays on her back contorted In one way or another about 50% of the time.

  14. My cat Emmabee is 7 y/o mama 2 litters and since she was a little kitten she love loves having her belly rubbed everyday I could keep rubbing and scratching til the cows came home 🐄 She also likes brisk rub downs and esp when. Scratch her tailbone! She is a master magician when family come to visit. Then it’s back to rub downs. God Bless You n Yours and all creatures great n small !!

  15. We have four cats, two Maine Coons (brother and sister Ferals,) who both love belly rubs. Our other two, a Tuxedo male, tolerates it mostly. Enjoys in when in bed. The eldest female Long Hair only seldom, and shortly. But, you can catch a belly rub from a side rub on the sly most of the time. She'll let you know when she does not want it.

  16. I have a Bombay mix and I’m the only person she will ever let rub her tummy. She absolutely loves it when I rub it but will turn on anyone else 😅

  17. Our cat Zoomie loves to have her belly stroked and purrs really loudly when you stroke her she has very soft hair on her belly and often lays upside down waiting for strokes
    At night she lays on the bed down the length of our legs completely upside down with her belly on show
    Her sister Lola will have tummy strokes but no as long as Zoomie
    Zoomie loved having her tummy stroked right from when she was a small kitten I think if cats grow up with belly strokes they don’t mind so much

  18. The first time i saw my cat showing me his tummy, i also thought he wanted a tummy-rub. I quickly learned the contrary.
    Now i stroke the side of his body about 2- 3 times while including the tummy. Then i stop as i can see he wont enjoy more.
    It normally happens when i get home after a day's work. It has become our ritual. Sometimes though he just sits up straight and i'm only allowed to stroke his head and between his ears. That he loves very very much

  19. My cat sleeps on her back constantly, sometimes I worry she's not breathing but she always is 😅. She loooveess belly scratches/rubs, if I reach in to pet her on her back she rolls over to expose her stomach. If i pet her, she'll lay back all comfortable and if I stop she gives me a disgruntled look. Just now, gave her a little pat and she immediately rolled over onto her back. When I stopped rubbing her belly she got up and curled up next to me, and I wondered is this normal??

  20. As with all things related to cats, unlike dogs, there has to be a bond of trust built first. Then I believe the second issue is how gentle you are. My two cats will just roll over and push my hand toward their belly when they are in the mood for it. Then I just watch their body language to se how they are enjoying it and adjust to what they are telling me. My cats usually will go into a hypnotic like state during a good belly rub session. They know I worship the ground upon which they walk. They have me wrapped around their precious little paws.

  21. Donna Sauerlinder


  22. Cathy O’Shaughnessy

    My new cat as well as the one I had for 16 years love their bellies rubbed. The will lay down for hours on their back. Only if he is in play mode does he attack.

  23. i rub my cats belly all the time he loves it and has never bitten or scratched me he has no problem with it he rolls over and expects it but i would not do this if he didn't want me to i have two other cats that i do not do this to because they do not ask for it we call it being floored i know the fact that they are protecting there vital organs and i respect that but i do love giving the belly rubs to the one that loves it

  24. My tabby has been all about getting his belly rubbed since adopting him and his brother as kittens last Mother’s Day. As soon as we walk up to him, he rolls onto his back and will let me and anyone else in the family rub his belly as long as we want. He sleeps with me most nights and usually ends up on his back next to me or on top of me and loves his belly rubs. If I stop before he’s had enough, he gently taps my arm or hand to start rubbing some more. I read that it’s a sign of complete trust so I don’t question it. His brother is a beautiful long hair black kitty and also very affectionate although he only does brief belly rubs. He does however turn into a limp noodle when picked up and will let you do just about anything for holding and snuggling with him.

  25. My cat specifically loves belly rubs. If she's had enough, she will maybe push my hand away. But even if I slightly touch her belly, and then stop, she will look up at me and roll over more for more pets on her belly. She purrs extremely loud while getting belly rubs. She will roll over from a standing position if we pet her belly sometimes.

  26. My partner and I have had three sets of cats between us, each set a pair of siblings. We both have made a point of getting kittens (6-8 mos old) so that they would know us and know our schedules, ie, don't wake us up too early!

    All cat pairs were constantly touched ALL OVER so we can pick them up, grab them from their bellies, cut their nails, give them baths every-so-often, etc. They have all never scratched us for rubbing their bellies, ever; they are just used to having their bellies rubbed. They go limp in our arms whenever we pick them up and she will sit for her mani-pedi while he can only allow us to do two paws at a time before he starts to squirm.

    So if you want to be able to rub your cats bellies, I highly suggest getting them while young and constantly touch them so they get used to it. I can grab and rub their bellies whenever I want and they have no qualms with it. We do feel blessed by this.

  27. Celeste Taylor

    My cat loves belly rubs but also when I hold her belly and chest while she sleeps. I will have my hand on her belly and ribcage and she goes right to sleep! It has taken us a while to get to this level of trust.

  28. One of our current cats loves belly rubs very much, and the other one will tolerate it when she’s in a snuggly mood. But we once had a cat who would lay down next to your arm on the sofa (or in bed) and subtly insinuate itself very slowly, ninja-like, until she placed her upturned jelly-belly underneath your warm hand. She only did it when she was an older kitty, and it was adorable! I’d never seen another cat do this, before or since!

  29. My cat isn’t like that. He shows his belly and I’ll rub it even if he claws and bites me. It’s like a game we play. He will stay on his back and I’ll go in for the rub, I’ll get bit and clawed and then pull away and then I’ll go in again. Sometimes he lets me rub it, and then other times I get the bite and claws. But he will stretch out for me to go again. Ill even pretend I’m going in, and he can’t get me and he will roll side to side like this. I not a cat person, but because this cat isn’t like a normal cat it seems by what I read, he has made one, but just him. There are plenty of times I have done the full out belly rub, and every time I see him from a long day he comes right up and rolls right to his back.

  30. My once feral kitty loves for me to rub her belly. We “groom” every morning and that includes not only rubbing her belly but brushing it as well.

  31. We have three Maine Coon mixes. The two old men (14 years each), love having their bellies rubbed, especially the one we got as a tiny kitten. The rescued boy took awhile, as he'd been badly abused by someone I wish I knew, just for a short time…. Our one year old little girl, hasn't decided yet if her growing self likes them the way she did as a rescued, feral kitten.

    1. Shawna Gutierrez

      My cat loves to have her belly rubbed. I just go to touch her belly and she rolls over so I can keep rubbing it. She's so funny

  32. My cat loves a good old belly rub! Never has he gone for me or anyone in our little family unit. He’s a very trusting cat, and has a part to him that truly belongs to the neighbourhood. He often pops into the hospital grounds for attention from the patients and staff as the hospital is nearby.
    He will always flop onto his back indicating he wants a belly rub, always initiated by him. He stretches his legs out further so that all of his belly is exposed hahaha. He cracks me up so much.

  33. My cats always comes to me ribbing her against me every time I lay on bed and insist of me to rub her belly while I rub her belly she falls asleep and when I remove my hand she wakes up searching for more cuddles. I've read so many articles about this behavior and is so little info of cats that does enjoy belly rubs.

  34. My cat loves belly rubs and will roll over for them at least 10x a day and when he’s done he gets up, he has let 7 people pet his tummy 3 of which he didn’t know too well

  35. My kitty was young when we got her and she is 8 now. She always wants me to rub her belly. And when she has enough she pushes my hand away with her paw ???? and towards her face. She lets me rub her belly quite a few times a day.

    1. My cats are the same sometimes when I pet her she will roll over for me to rub her belly.but when she is done she lets me know by pushing my hand away

  36. My adopted 5-yr-old skittish Maine Coon mix absolutes loves for me to rub his belly for usually 20 min or longer…sometimes 2x or more daily. It’s strange because he was a stray & he’s frightened of any sound & any person whom he hasn’t known for 3 yrs or longer. He’s also often skittish of me, yet exposes his belly to me often. Of my four cats, two love belly rubs. I’m guessing there is no concrete answer to whether or not cats like to have their blues rubbed.

    1. Everyone claims all cats love belly rubs and can "train" them to like something they don't, if you try to force them to like it even when they are kittens they'll possiblely tolerate it but won't love it like people claim. Some people are really bad at reading cat body language and think that cats are the same as dogs, anyway, my cat before she died didn't like being picked up even if others would of said she "loved" it if she had been their cat. I think she only tolerated having her belly rubbed and other times she would smack you with her paw if she had enough of being touched

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get Catster in your inbox!

Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals.

Current Issue


Follow Us

Shopping Cart