Why does a cat arch its back? (7 reasons)

Cat back up

Have you ever wondered why cats arch their backs? Maybe you’ve seen a strange cat doing this while you were crossing paths outside. Or perhaps your own cat did it when you were working, cleaning or cooking. You were probably wondering what it meant. It could be that you didn’t know how to react or you didn’t know if it’s okay to pet the cat.

In this moment, you were probably wondering if a cat is angry, scared or happy when they do this. Or maybe you’re thinking of getting a cat, and you would like to know everything about them before you’ll buy or adopt your furry friend. Cats are different than dogs, so it is obvious that they also behave differently.

In the first paragraph, we will elaborate on how cats communicate with each other. After that, several reasons why cats arch their backs will be explained. Last, we will sum up shortly what is said in this article. So, if you’re curious what it could mean when your cat is arching its back, then read along. In this article, you will find out the reasons why he or she does this!


Communication of cats

Cats are different from humans and communicate in different ways. We as humans can exactly say what we mean, and we often use our facial expressions and intonation to let other people know how we feel or what we mean. Cats obviously can’t do this, so they are communicating differently. Cats use body language to let other cats or humans know how they feel.

They do this for example when they are angry, scared or happy. Knowing this, you can often tell by a cat’s body language how he or she is feeling. You then know when it is best to stay away from a cat, or when to pet it. Arching their backs is also a component of the body language. There can be different reasons for why a cat arch his or her back, so we will list the reasons below.



Cats will arch their backs when they need to stretch. They will show this kind of behavior especially when they just woke up from a good nap or after a night of sleep. For example, you can recognize this behavior when a cat’s head and chest are down on the floor, with their tails high up in the air.

This means that a cat is relaxed and just needs a nice stretch. You can compare this behavior to us as humans, as we stretch our arms when we wake up in the morning. We all know that this is a great feeling for our muscles. Logically, it also feels amazing for cats! So, when your cat does this, don’t worry. There is nothing wrong with your cat. He or she is just having a great stretch and is fortunately not angry with you.

Cat back arch


Of course, it can also happen that your cat is angry, with you or with another cat. You can recognize this behavior when your cat’s back is arched. But don’t pay attention to the back only, also pay attention to its body language, as said before. Body language is one of the most important ways to tell you what a cat is feeling.

Also, sounds are very important to find out how a cat is feeling. For example, when a cat is growling and hissing, you’ll probably know that this is not an expression of happiness. Also, when a cat is angry, its hair will stand up straight. When this is the case, it is best to stay away from the cat.



Your cat can also arch his or her back when he or she is scared. It can be hard to tell, because it will look the same as when a cat is angry. But, as said before, it is important to watch the body language of the cat. This will tell you whether he or she is angry or scared! First, it is important to look at the eyes. Scared cats will have their eyes wide open. Also, their hair will stand up straight.

Cats do this, because if they’re scared of another cat, they look bigger and stronger with their hair up straight. This is pretty amazing if you think about it! Also, they could make noises when they’re scared, like growling or hissing. Make sure you don’t approach the cat when he or she is scared, especially when you don’t know the cat at all.

If you’re the owner, this could be different. Maybe you could reassure the cat that you’re a safe space and pet him or her. If he or she won’t let you, please leave the cat alone.



Cats can also arch their backs when they feel pleasure. Maybe you’ve experienced something like this, for example when you’re petting your cat. Perhaps you wonder if your cat is angry at this moment, but that’s not true! When you’re petting your cat and he or she likes it, it’ll arch its back to make it easier for you to pet it.

In this case, you can keep petting him or her. Keep in mind that petting can be sensitive for cats, so you don’t want to pet it for too long. Also here, it is important to check the body language of the cat. If it’s happy, its tail will be low and the ears will be in a neutral position. Make sure that if the body language of the cat changes, you’ll leave him or her alone.



Another reason for why a cat is arching its back is that he or she wants to play. Of course, in this moment your cat is happy and not angry or scared. It is just a sign that he is in a happy place. Mostly kittens have this kind of behavior. They obviously still need to learn how to use their body.

You can recognize this behavior, again, to look at the body language of the cat When the hair is not standing up straight, and he isn’t making sounds like hissing or growling, then your cat is just enjoying its life.



Well, of course we couldn’t skip this category. As you may now, cats are born hunters. They will arch their backs when they are hunting their prey. It is actually the same when they’re playing, because if they don’t hunt a prey, they will hunt toys. So, this is also an explanation for why kittens arch their backs when they play, because their hunting skills aren’t fully developed yet. So, when you see your cat ‘hunting’ a toy, nothing is wrong with him or her. He is just following its hunting instincts!

Cat stretching

Pain or discomfort

The last (and worst) reason why cats arch their backs, is because they’re experiencing pain or discomfort. It is important to be aware of other symptoms, such as aggression, depression and overly licking or grooming itself. When this is the case, it is wise to consult a vet. Maybe your cat has some serious health issues, so therefore it is important that you keep an eye on your cat. You don’t want your furry friend to go through pain and discomfort longer than needed!



You now have read everything you need to know about why cats arch their backs. Below, we will summarize shortly what is discussed in this article. Your cat is arching its back for the following reasons:

  • It’s stretching. They will do this for example when they wake up from a nap. Your cat is feeling relaxed.
  • It’s aggressive. Make sure you watch its body language and be aware of the sounds that the cat makes.
  • It’s scared. Make sure you keep an eye on its body language, eyes and hair.
  • It’s having feelings of pleasure. Your cat will arch its back when he or she likes it when you’re petting him or her.
  • It’s playful. Especially young kittens do this. They’re just having fun!
  • It’s hunting. Hunting skills are important for cats. A part of this is arching its back, so that he or she is ready to catch its prey.
  • It’s experiencing pain or discomfort. When this is the case, make sure you are aware of other symptoms. Contact your vet if needed.

As said before, it is important to always be aware of the body language of the cat. This is because they mostly communicate with their bodies. If a cat is happy, angry or scared, you will be able to see this because of its body language. The tail, eyes and sounds of a cat will also inform you of the emotional state of the cat. Have you ever had a cat arching its back in front of you? Were you aware of what it meant at that time? Please let us know in the comments, we are very curious to hear your experiences and tips.

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Onlinecatworld.com Team

Onlinecatworld.com Team

We are a team of cat lovers, doing our best to create and spread information about cats. On Onlinecatworld.com you will read all about different cat breeds, and what makes them so special. You will also find information about grooming and training your cat. Be sure to leave us a reply if you like our article.

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