Cats are known for their ability to contort their bodies into all sorts of weird and wonderful shapes and positions. Anyone who has ever owned a cat knows that they can fit through the tiniest cracks in the door, weave their way in and out of furniture or obstacles, and hide in the smallest of gaps. The way in which a cat moves is more than just about getting around, their body language can also say a lot about how they are feeling. Cats use their bodies to express themselves and to communicate with their owners and other cats. One position in which you may have seen your cat is with an arched back. This is a common shape that cats make with their body, so what does it mean and why do they do it?
The Sleepy Arched Back
One of the most common reasons why a cat arches its back is because it is stretching, and this usually happens after sleep, says Pet Assure. Think about your own behavior when you first awake and sit up in bed. Lots of people stretch their arms above the head and lean either way to give their back a stretch. A cat is only displaying the same behavior by arching their back after sleep,
The Playful Arched Back
Another reason why a cat arches its back is in playfulness, says Vet Street. They can do this when playing with a toy, their owner, or another cat. If they are arching their back in a playful way, the cat may also hop around and pounce. They are more likely to display this behavior towards a person or cat with whom they have a close relationship and only when they feel comfortable in their environment.
The Defensive Arched Back
When people think of a cat arching their back, it is usually the defensive and fearful arched back that they are imagining, says Catster. A cat may arch their back when they feel threatened and they make themselves appear bigger by arching their back. If a cat is arching its back defensively or in fear, piloerection may also occur. Piloerection is when a cat’s hairs bristle and stand out from their body. This is an involuntarily bodily response that is controlled by a cat’s nervous system. In cartoon images of cats, it is often a cat with an arched back with its hair on end. A defensive or scared cat may also hiss, yowl, or bare their teeth.
Reading the Body Language of Cat’s Arching Their Back
If your cat is arching its back, you will probably want to know which of the three reasons is causing them to pose in this way. This will involve reading several aspects of your cat’s body language and also taking clues from the environment. If your cat has just enjoyed a nap, then the most likely cause of the arched back is stretching. When the cat arches its back in an environment where they are comfortable and happy at a time when there is no threat to them, then playfulness is the most likely cause. Look out for the skipping and pouncing behavior that is likely to accompany the arched back. Finally, if your cat’s hackles are raised and they are making strange noises, then it is likely they are threatened and acting defensively. This is most likely to happen if a strange cat comes into your garden or a new person visits your home.
Reacting to a Cat’s Arched Back
How you react to your cat’s arched back depends on the reason why they are displaying this behavior. If they are stretching, then there is no need to do anything, although they may appreciate a stroke. A cat that is arching its back playfully might be trying to tempt you into a bit of feline playtime. If you do not have another cat to play with them, then you can join in their fun and encourage them to play with any toys. However, most cats are happy to play alone, so you do not necessarily need to take any action.
An arched back that is defensive or fearful is a different matter. If your cat feels threatened, then you can remove the source of the threat. For example, if the cat poses in this way because another cat has come into the garden, you can shoo the other cat away. In many cases, it is best to leave your cat well alone if it is arching its back and its piloerection instinct has kicked in. When cats feel fearful and defensive, they can often also become aggressive. By approaching your cat when it is fearful, it is possible that they will perceive you as an addition to the threat. This can result in your cat scratching or biting you if you attempt to approach them. Therefore, it is often best to leave the cat alone until the threat passes.
How Can They Arch Their Backs So Much?
If you try to arch your back in the same way as a cat, you will probably find that it is impossible, yet a cat can bend their back in this way so easily. This is because cats have an extremely flexible spine. They need to have a spine that is so flexible to allow them to leap, climb, escape, and hide in the wild.
Cats and Back Arching – The Final Verdict
A cat arching its back is a perfectly normal and natural behavior. It is something that you will see your cat do on many occasions, possibly even daily. There are three causes of this behavior; stretching after sleep, playfulness, and defensiveness. It is easy to tell the difference between the causes of back arches by reading the cat’s body language and taking clues from the environment. Back arching is nothing to worry about, so you do not need to take any action in most circumstances.