Why Do Cats Raise Their Backs When You Pet Them?

Why Do Cats Raise Their Backs When You Pet Them

Cats are playful creatures and one of the funny things we see them do is arch their backs while play-fighting.

But you have also noticed your feline arching her back whenever you pet him.

Is it a one-size-fits-all response or why do cats arch their back?


Cats arch their backs on various occasions. When a cat is frightened, it will arch its back to get into defense mode. But when petting a happy cat, arching its back is a way of saying thank you. An arched back could also be a reaction to pain or sickness.


It was a fun warm evening; you are petting your cat and they respond with soft purrs.

She lifts her back towards you, enjoying this free massage you give until she turns on you and nips you.

That’s totally unlike her!


But why do cats arch their back if they do not want you to pet them?

Truth is, cats have no problem getting a few pets here and there.

It is the intensity of the pets that concerns them more.


Before we explain that further, here the real reasons why cats arch their back;

  • When they are afraid
  • To show affection
  • When they feel playful
  • When defending themselves


Cat arching back out of fear

cat arching its back out of fear

If you have ever startled a stray feline before, they immediately hissed, jumped back, and raised the back.

This is a cat’s position of fear which is similar to a dog hanging the head low and having the tail between the legs.


A cat that feels threatened by human or animal presence will arch the back, puff its tail, and raise the hairs on its coat.

Doing this helps the cat to look bigger and possibly scare the predator away.


If the intruder keeps approaching, the cat will hiss and growl as a second warning.

When that does not work, the cat will strike with the paw in defense.

VIDEO: Cat arching back out of fear


Cat arching its back to show affection

Cat arch its back to show affection

There are those days when Tabby will be in the mood. She will welcome your joyous petting and even arch the back in pleasure.

Raising her back helps her get more of those pets on her.


As you pet your cat’s back, you might also notice a peculiar thing your cat does; raising the bum towards you.

Before you freak out, your cat is not trying to gas you (no pun intended).

She is just trying to share her scent with you.


We will explain further.



Time spent with cats is never wasted

-Sigmund Freud



In the feline world, cats sniff each other’s behind to share scents.

It is one of the highest forms of bonding shown by one feline to the other.

Cats don’t raise their bums to any random joe, so when your cat arches her back, and bum, to you, it is with great honor.


But as you pet your cat, you have to be careful not to overstimulate her.

Overstimulation will earn you an instant nip.

Cats do not like having too much of the good stuff.



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Also, petting your cat in a way they don’t like will earn you a nip or hiss of disapproval.

Cats like their backs stroked in the direction their fur grows.

Petting them against the grain feels painful and cats are too posh to allow any sort of discomfort in their life.



She clawed her way into my heart and wouldn’t let go

-Missy Altijd



At that moment, your cat will arch its back in defense mode.

When you do not rid the cue, then a scratch or nip will pass the message across.


Cat arching back when playing

cat arching its back while playing

No doubt arching the back is one of the mysterious habits shown by cats.

In one moment, it shows contentment and in others, it is fun and enjoyment for the kitty.

Kittens are the best displayers of the arched back when play-fighting.



No matter how much the cats fight, there always, seem to be plenty of kittens

-Abraham Lincoln



Kittens dash around paw each other and arch the back in defense when playing.

In this state, they are relaxed and not thinking of harming each other.

Occasionally, one kitten may go overboard and nip the other.

But with time, kittens learn what is acceptable behavior during play fighting.


Cat arching back in defense

cat arching its back for self defense

We have mentioned how cats arch their bodies out of fear of being attacked.

But when defending themselves, cats would arch their backs in the utmost confidence.


It is this confidence that intimidates even the fiercest of dogs.

When an intruder approaches, the cat arches its back, puffs the tail, and moves forward with the hairs raised.

The feline then draws its claws ready for combat.


And if you have watched a cat slap another cat, dog, or animal, they do so with lightning speed.



A cat will arch its back to get more of your sweet petting.

But in times of danger, arching the back is a cat’s way of making themselves look bigger and frightening.

Overstimulating your cat or petting his coat against the grain of the fur would cause the feline to arch its back in frustration.


See Also

Frequently Asked Questions

This is called the cat kiss. Staring or slowly winking at you is your feline’s way of saying ‘I love you’. It means he feels safe and there is no other place he would be but with you.

Licking and biting are two actions cats use when grooming. Cats groom other cats that they are fond of and have bonded with. When your cat licks your nose, hand, or leg, then plants a gentle nip, he is showing you affection.

Headbutting or body brushing is a cat’s way of showing affection. Just as your cat lifts it bum at you, headbutting is a way of showing love and rubbing his scents on you. This strengthens the bond between the two of you.

A cat moving while you pet him means he is enjoying the moment. He wants you to rub or pet a wider area for increased pleasure. This is also your cat’s way of passing his scent to you for stronger bonding.


A pet owner who loves to share useful facts and information about a variety of animals.