Why Is Your Cat Standing Up on His Hind Legs? 6 Reasons (and Fun Videos!)

A gray cat standing on his hind legs.
A gray cat standing on his hind legs. Photography by adogslifephoto/Thinkstock.

We’ve all caught our cats in the act of standing upright on their hind legs like some peculiar mix between a meerkat and a marionette puppet — but why do our usually regal and poised felines insist on carrying out this curious behavior? Is there any science behind it? And what’s really bubbling in the brain of a cat standing up on his hind legs? Let’s dig in and find out (and watch some fun videos in the process!).

1. A Cat Standing Up on His Hind Legs Wants to Ward Off Predators

As funny as a cat standing up on his hind legs looks, the origin of the move is serious business. When cats feel threatened by a devious predator, they will often attempt to make themselves appear as large as possible. You guessed it: Perching up on the back legs is part of this survival tactic. In extreme cases, you might even see cats shuffling along sideways while in this upright position — which is another attempt to look as large and fearful as possible. Do not mess with a cat standing up on his hind legs.

2. A Cat Might Stand Up Just for a Head Boop

Back in the calm and lazy world of the average domestic cat, popping up on his hind legs can be used to coerce a human to dish out some extra head petting. This move often takes place after some good old fashioned ankle brushing has gone on. In the case of my cat, Mimosa, she hops up on her back legs as soon as she realizes the grooming brush is in play. We’ve taken to calling the move “on her twos.”

3. Your Cat Stands Like a Human to Reach for Treats

A cat standing on his hind legs.
A cat standing on his hind legs. Photography by EEI_Tony/Thinkstock.

Another way to get your cat to perfect the two-legged stance is through the tried-and-tested tactic of tempting him with treats. Even the most reserved cats can be coerced into propping themselves up on their back legs when the rustling sound of the treat bag is in play.

4. Yes, Cats Standing Up Look Like Meerkats

Let’s be honest, when cats decide to get up on their hind legs, they totally look like meerkats — although technically meerkats are part of the mongoose family. So, let’s just chalk this similarity up to being another curious kitty quirk.

5. Here’s Why Munchkin Cats Stand Up on Their Back Legs a Lot

An orange munchkin tabby ca
Munchkin cats tend to stand on their hind legs a lot. Photography © Seregraff | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Munchkin cats are born with short, stumpy legs due to some sort of genetic mutation science. As a consequence, these squat kitties can frequently be found standing up on their back legs. It’s all about the low center of gravity, you see.

6. Some Special-Needs Cats Stand Entirely on Their Hind Legs

For some special-needs cats, learning to stand and get about on just their hind legs isn’t just an eye-catching move — it’s a necessity. A couple of these kangaroo cats, as they’ve been dubbed, are stars and advocates on the social media scene. The grandiosely titled Lil Bunny Soux Roux was born without her front legs but has become an Instagram sensation thanks to pictures of her hopping around like some sort of marvelous kangaroo-Tyrannosaurus-rex hybrid.

Roo is another social media celebrikitty who’s all about owning his kangaroo-cat status. He was born with radial hypoplasia, which stopped his front paws from growing and developing properly — but these days he’s more than happy hopping around for his legion of fans alongside his similarly famous kitty sister, Venus the Two-Face Cat.

Thumbnail: Photography by adogslifephoto/Thinkstock.

Read more about cat behavior on Catster.com:

15 thoughts on “Why Is Your Cat Standing Up on His Hind Legs? 6 Reasons (and Fun Videos!)”

  1. My cat Stormy sits upright like a meerkat very often. I can't count how many times a day he does this, but it is a lot. He will sit like that until I come to him and then he rubs his cheek against my hand. If he wants something, he will rise up from that position and stand on his hind legs while placing his front paws on my thigh and will meow.

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  3. Sharon A McCreery

    My believe that she could be seeing either another pet or a human spirit of any of the past pets and relatives living before her.

  4. Pingback: Why do cats stand on their hind legs? – CatVills

  5. Phoebe was a ferrell newborn when we found her, a few days old. She was born 4/2014. Periodically I think she wants something when she does this. My mom got a video of her doing it. But, we still don’t know what it is. Don’t know what kind of cat she is either. ? tabby / tiger markings with a white bib and paws. She’s about 12 to 14 lbs, not fat, but big. She is definitely the Alpha and comes out first to explore strangers. She’s very smart, and comes to her name. Anyhow, she stands on her hind feet and looks at something(don’t know what she’s looking at)then stretches her front paws up into the air, then brings them together in a praying position and then down an inch or two in front of her. She repeats that motion over and over into a prayer position. I want to respond, but, I don’t know what she is doing. She looks like her movements are so purposeful. Help me.

    1. Hi there,
      This piece might provide further insight into cat body language:

    2. I can’t help you but I have a kitten who does the same thing. I have no idea why. He’s orange and white and spends several minutes at a time, several times a day, standing on his hind legs and “praying” but moving his paws up and down.
      He has done it since we got him when he was 5 weeks old and now he’s almost 5 months old. His litter mate, who we also have, never does and and has never done it.
      I keep wondering if he wants something and what he might want. I’ve never had a cat before who did this.

      Any idea or information would be helpful and greatly appreciated

  6. I have two cats almost a year old, the one cat is female you hardly even know she is around she is a good cat. now the other one is male he is a total different story, I say he has ADHD he is so busy body and hiper, but i have trained them since birth not to get on the kitchen table and the kitchen counter top, well he listened for a minute and now when he sees me he runs and jumps on the table and counter tops and i have a spray bottle i spray him with well he does not care he will stand there and look at me until he is about soaked then he will jump down, it seems he does these things for spite makes me so mad, does anyone know what i can do to get him to listen to me with the rules expecailly not on the tables?

    1. Hi Kelly,

      Sorry to hear you’re experiencing this! Perhaps some of these training articles might help:

  7. Pingback: How to Care for a Three-Legged Cat | Pet Angel, LLC aka Pet Angel Irina


    My beloved Crystal use to get on her hind legs and use her front paws to open the bedroom door, it was a round knob so she had to keep turning it with her front paws until it opened.

    She was very smart and lived to age 21.

    1. My first cat Pepsi understood how to open doors, I saw him pulling at the door handle early on, he wasn’t able to pull it down as it was a bit too high for him to get a good grip but he understood the concept which is impressive! Haven’t personally seen other cats do it or try to, sadly he didn’t live as long as your Crystal, he lived 2/3 of her life which is still a decent lifetime but it’s never long enough.

  9. Possum, our tortoiseshell Burmese, swings paintings to get our attention. She stands on the back of the couch, on her hind legs, steadies herself with her left paw against the wall, and pushes the corner of the painting with her right paw. Works every time since we don’t want the painting to fall off the wall!

  10. Our Guy Squeaks often stands on his back legs and “peddles” with his front legs to gain our attention. Crazy as it sounds he has always done it.

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