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Why Do Cats Arch Their Back? Cat Body Language Explained

Written by: Rachel Giordano

Last Updated on February 5, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

siamese cat arch his back

Why Do Cats Arch Their Back? Cat Body Language Explained


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Dr. Amanda Charles

BVSc GPCert (Derm) MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cats have limber bodies and can squeeze through the smallest gaps. They can also arch their back in ways that seem impossible, but have you ever wondered why cats arch their backs? Is there a particular reason for the behavior?

Cats arch their backs for various reasons, and you need to put it into context with the rest of their body language to work out what they’re trying to tell you. In this post, we’ll discuss the five common reasons for the behavior so that the next time you see your cat arch their back, you’ll know why.

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The 5 Possible Reasons Why Your Cat Arch Their Back

1. Your Cat Is Frightened/Threatened

A typical Halloween decoration has a black cat arching their back while hissing or growling. The hair is standing straight up, and the cat looks angry. Cats make this pose if they’re frightened to make themselves look bigger. However, this “fear aggression” pose allows the threat to know that the frightened cat is afraid but will defend themselves. Hissing, growling, spitting, and showing teeth often accompany this pose.

cat and dog fighting
Image Credit; Esin Deniz, Shutterstock

2. Your Cat Is Stretching

You may notice your cat arching their back after a long nap. A cat’s back is very flexible, allowing them to stretch their muscles in a way we wish we could mimic. Stretching allows for good blood flow and circulation—everyone loves a good stretch, and cats are no different!

3. Your Cat Is Angry

You may see your cat arch their back when other pets approach them. They’re telling the other pet to back off. If your cat is angry, they can hiss, growl, and show their teeth to drive the point home. If your cat is angry, don’t provoke them; let them cool down before approaching, or you may feel the wrath of their claws!

british shorthair cat having Arched Back
Image Credit: Piqsels

4. Your Cat Wants to Play

Cats want to play on their terms, and when your cat is ready for some playtime, they may arch their back. Sometimes, a cat side-steps or jumps sideways while playing with their favorite toy, and most times, their back is arched. The behavior is more common in kittens, but adults do it as well.

5. Your Cat Is Happy

While your cat may seem aloof most of the time, they may arch their back to show their happiness when being petted. If their arched back is accompanied by purring, headbutting, and rubbing around you, it’s usually a sign that they are enjoying the fuss!

cat rubbing its head against the owner's legs
Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

All cat owners have seen their cats arch their backs, and many may not have known why. We hope this post gives you insight into why cats do it and contort their body in this strange way. It’s important to look at your cat’s other body language signals and what else is going on around them to work out what they’re communicating to you. Remember that if you feel your cat is angry or frightened, allow them to calm down before approaching.

Featured Image Credit: Brenda Carson, Shutterstock

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