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Why Do Cats Roll Around on Their Backs? 7 Likely Reasons

Written by: Rachel Giordano

Last Updated on May 6, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Fluffy domestic cat stretching on the sofa

Why Do Cats Roll Around on Their Backs? 7 Likely Reasons

Cats are peculiar creatures and usually march to their own drum. Unlike dogs, cats can be particular, especially regarding their bellies. When a dog rolls over on their back and exposes their belly, the dog wants you to rub it. Cats, however, are different. In the wild, cats roll over on their backs if they can’t flee from danger, but in doing so, they can use their claws and teeth for defense.

Domesticated cats have a few reasons why they roll around on their backs. Have you ever had your cat roll over, exposing their belly, but when you go to rub it, they bite and scratch you? The reason is that the belly is a sensitive area, with many hair follicles hypersensitive to the touch. Nonetheless, there are a few reasons why cats roll around on their backs, so stick around to find out why cats engage in this behavior.

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Top 7 Reasons That Cats Roll Around on Their Backs

1. Your Cat Is Testing You

We’ve touched on why cats roll on their backs in the wild, but what about our domesticated cats? Your cat should know you’re not a predator, so why would your cat bite and scratch the hand that feeds them? Well, there’s a thing called the “owner trust test,” and it means exactly what it says.

A cat’s tummy is sensitive, not only because of the hair follicles but also because all vital organs are located here, and cats know how vulnerable the area is. So, when your cat rolls onto their back and shows their belly, they’re testing to see what you will do.

Korat cat playing with toy on carpet
Image Credit: Gino Santa Maria, Shutterstock

2. Your Cat Trusts You

Obviously, a cat’s belly is vulnerable and sensitive, and if your cat allows you to rub it, think of it as a true compliment. If your cat allows you to rub the belly, it could mean your cat trusts you wholeheartedly and is relaxed and comfortable. Most cats have boundaries, even with their owners, and they want those boundaries respected. However, if your cat is allowing a belly rub, that means they have no boundary with you when it comes to this sensitive and vulnerable area.

3. Invitation to Play

When a cat rolls onto their back, they’re giving signals, and one such signal could be an invitation to play. Your cat will extend such an invitation if they are relaxed, secure, and content with you or whomever they’re trying to interact with. Humans aren’t the only ones a cat may be comfortable with. If you have other pets in the home, and your cat rolls onto their back, it could mean they trust the other pet and want to play.

Snow bengal cat laying on their back playing with a ball
Image Credit: OlgaOzik, Shutterstock

4. A Sign of Submission

If you have other pets in the home and one cat rolls onto their back in their presence, it could mean showing a sign of submission. Doing so shows the cat to be not a threat and means no ill will toward the other pets in the home. Cats also show submission by lowering the tail, lowering their body to the ground, flattening the ears, and avoiding eye contact.

5. To Get That Scratch

It’s uncomfortable to have an itch in a place that’s hard to reach. For a cat, if an itch arises on the back, they may roll onto the back in an effort to relieve the itch. After all, a cat cannot reach around and scratch the itch with their paws. Carpet on some other similar material is the perfect cat scratcher, but your cat may do this on any surface.

If you notice your cat doing this regularly, it’s a good idea to check for fleas or skin irritation. Some cats have allergies, and your cat may need a trip to the vet to rule out medical issues.

Cat stretching on the floor
Image Credit: svetkor, Shutterstock

6. A Sign of Mating

Do you have a female cat who likes to spend time outdoors? If you’ve noticed your female rolling onto her back while outside, she may be displaying signals to male cats that she is ready to mate. Intact females use pheromones, or “chemical messages” that they spread around, which are located on the head, back, tail, and paw pads. Males can smell these pheromones from miles away; however, humans cannot.

7.   Stretching the Muscles

There’s nothing like a good ole stretch, and it’s not unusual to see a cat roll onto the back to stretch the muscles, especially after a nice snooze. Rolling onto the back allows a cat to stretch the back, front and back legs, and neck. It’s best to let your cat be if you feel they’re stretching; otherwise, they may not be keen on the idea and show you their displeasure in the form of scratching or biting.

Ginger cat playing on sofa
Image Credit: So_Nieuf, Shutterstock

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Cats roll around on their backs for a few reasons, and it can be a sign of comfort, trust, submission, a test, a stretch, a scratch, the desire to mate, or an invitation to play. If your cat rolls onto his back and exposes their belly to you, proceed with caution. It’s best to stick to the usually allowed spots your cats let you rub before going straight for the belly, as it could be a test or just a simple stretch and not an invitation to play at all!

Featured Image Credit: Magdanatka, Shutterstock

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