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7 Favorite Cat Stretches (With Infographic)

Written by: Sarah Psaradelis

Last Updated on February 9, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

ginger cat stretching after waking up from nap

7 Favorite Cat Stretches (With Infographic)

Nearly every cat owner has witnessed their felines stretch in adorable ways. Cats stretch for similar reasons we do—it feels good, eases tight muscles, and helps keep their bodies flexible. Cats generally stretch throughout the day in various poses to target different muscles and tendons. You are likely to see them stretch after a long nap or perhaps as they warm up to play. However, some cats stretch simply because it feels good or before greeting their owners.

So, what are a cat’s favorite types of stretches? This article has the answers you need.

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Top 7 Cat Stretches

1. Downward Dog Stretch

silver cat stretching downward
Image Credit: AntonMaltsev, Shutterstock

Despite the name, the downward dog stretch is one of the most recognizable cat stretches. Cats do the downward dog stretch by extending their legs and tail while arching their bottom in the air. It can appear as if they are bowing down.

This stretch might help to lengthen their spines and ease stiff muscles, which is why they often do it after resting for long periods. Furthermore, the downward dog stretch mimics a type of hunting stance cats use before pouncing on their prey.


2. Leg Extension

cat stretching front paws
Image Credit: svetkor, Shutterstock

A comical type of cat stretch is the leg extension, which looks exactly as it sounds. Cats will only extend one of their legs to stretch it while contorting the rest of their body amusingly. This stretch is often preferred for their hind legs, but some cats do it with their front legs too.

The front leg extension stress has been fondly named “the reach stretch” since cats look like they are desperately reaching for something when doing it. It’s not unusual for certain cats to take time to extend each of their hind legs in a stretch, especially if they are warming up their bodies.

You might notice that the extended leg starts to tremble in response to the stretch reflex. Although it can look strange, it is normal.


3. Belly Stretch

young grey cat doing a belly stretch
Image Credit: Marina Demidiuk, Shutterstock

The belly stretch is a classic favorite for lazy or playful felines who don’t want to stand up to stretch. Cats do the belly stretch by laying on their backs and extending both their front and hind legs. It will appear as if they are trying to elongate themselves laying down and arching their backs to deepen the stretch. Some cats do not mind a belly rub after this stretch if they keep exposing their belly to you.


4. Side Stretch

Orange tabby cat stretching
Image Credit: eurobanks, Shutterstock

The side stretch is similar to the belly stretch as both take place while a cat is lying down. When a cat is doing a side stretch, they will roll over from their backs onto the side and extend their front and hind legs. Some cats might even extend one of their legs during the stretch or focus on just their front or hind legs.

If your cat is particularly flexible, their bodies will form a perfect C-shape during the side stretch. This stretch is great for opening up their chests and warming up their muscles if they are feeling stiff. It is also commonly seen in kittens who are playing or having their bellies rubbed.


5. Curl and Arch

tuxedo cat doing curl and arch stretch
Image Credit: nataliia zhogol, Shutterstock

Another classic cat stretch is the curl and arch. Cats do this stretch by simply arching their backs and extending their tails while standing on all four legs. It’s a great way for them to stretch the muscles surrounding their spines and legs at the same time. Cats do this stretch quite frequently when their bodies are feeling stiff. Many cat owners find that their cat does the curl and arch stretch when greeting them or before they beg for food.


6. Upright Stretch

white cat stretching upright on the wall
Image Credit: Azizah Rajwani, Shutterstock

Sometimes, simply stretching by themselves is not enough for certain felines. They might choose to stretch against something else, whether it’s a person, furniture, or another animal. This is known as the upright cat stretch and it’s similar to the downward dog.  However, it happens upright and against something rather than parallel to the ground.

To do the upright stretch, cats still stand on their hind legs and extend their front legs against your leg, the couch, or whatever object they choose to stretch against. Like the downward dog stretch, it helps lengthen a cat’s stiff spine and ease stiff muscles.

Cats who stretch against you could be feeling comfortable around you and possibly wanting your attention.


7. Stretch and Scratch

fluffy cat stretching while scratching the tree
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

Plenty of cats stretch and scratch at the same time. Also, scratching could be a full body stretch for cats as they extend their bodies, rise on their hind legs, and extend their front legs out. You might notice them stretching against the cat post too and resume their scratching behavior afterwards. This is likely your cat’s way of warming up their muscles and maintaining flexibility while scratching.

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Conclusion

As agile hunters, cats need to keep their bodies flexible and muscles warm to maintain a good range of motion. Stretching allows them to get movement back into their stiff bodies if they have been resting for a while. Furthermore, cats also stretch when they are comfortable, and do it because it feels good.

It’s perfectly normal for cats to stretch multiple times a day and in various positions too. The downward dog and curl and arch stretches are usually preferred by cats as they do it more than the other stretches mentioned above.


Featured Image Credit: Cavan Images, Shutterstock

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