Facts about the animal kingdom

Why Does My Cat Expose Their Belly to Me?

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: September 30, 2018
Why Does My Cat Expose Their Belly to Me?

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If you share your home with a cat, you will be privy to a whole host of seemingly odd behaviors. Lying on their back an exposing their belly to you is just one of them. What is even stranger is that they do this, but then attack you like a jackrabbit if you try to pet their stomach. Adding to the confusion is the fact that dogs seem to love having their belly's patted in this way.

Like many feline behaviors, just because we don't understand it right away, doesn't mean there is anything odd happening. Although they may not be inviting a stomach rub, they have their own reasons for taking up this pose. AnimalWised explains why your cat exposes their belly to you and helps highlight some interesting aspects of feline body language.

You may also be interested in: Cat Body Language - Examples and Pictures
  1. Why do cats expose their belly?
  2. Why do cat's not like being touched on the belly?
  3. How to pet a cat properly

Why do cats expose their belly?

To understand why a cats expose their belly to us, we need to better understand the reason behind a cat's different postures. It is key to remember that a cat's means of communication is different than ours. While we also signal with our body language, cats use their bodies much more to interact with other individuals in their environment. They also transmit their mood, emotions and perceptions of the world around them in similar ways. This is despite the amazing capacity they have for vocalization. The individuals with which they interact include their prey, other cats and even us humans.

Commonly, when a cat lays on their back with their belly directed upwards, it means they are experiencing a moment of relaxation and well-being. Cats will only adopt this stance when they perceive themselves to be in a safe environment and when they are with people or animals with whom they have already established trust. This is because this position is a vulnerable one and if there were predators around, they might want to take advantage of such vulnerability. So, if your cat adopts this position next to you, it is one of the signs they trust you. It means that your bond is strong enough you convey a sense of security.

One of the confusing aspects about this body position is that it has unclear meanings. If they see you and expose their belly, it is almost certainly a friendly gesture and implies that they want you to play with them or they want something. They may want to play and engage in some positive stimulation. However, it is unlikely to mean they want you to caress them in this region. This is because most cats do not like their bellies to be touched as it makes them feel vulnerable. It is not the same for every cat, but scratching or biting you is a common enough reaction to having their belly touched.

Eventually, your cat may roll over and stretch out their body. This is a natural behavior which connotes pleasure and a state of relaxation. When offering catnip to your cat, you may see them engage the same positioning. Such a powerful stimulus for the senses can lead to this behavior.

On the other hand, if you notice your cat exposes their belly and rubs their body often or with intensity, as if having an itch, it can be a warning sign. Itching may appear as a symptom of an allergy, external parasites or other medical conditions. If you see your cat rubbing themselves without being satiated, then you should take them to the vet to rule out any issues.

Why Does My Cat Expose Their Belly to Me? - Why do cats expose their belly?

Why do cat's not like being touched on the belly?

There is an unfortunate number of myths surrounding cats and their behavior. It is still common for some to wonder if cats have any feelings toward us or if they even enjoy being petted by their caregivers. For anyone who actually shares their home with a cat, they will know just how sensitive felines can be.

Cats not enjoying kisses, hugs or caresses on certain parts of their body, doesn't mean they don't like to receive affection. Most will enjoy a certain level of pampering from their caregivers, even if their endurance for such activity is less than their human counterpart. The problem is that the vulnerability engendered by the touching of these areas generates negative feelings of insecurity, stress and fear. These feelings may even activate an instinct to defend themselves through scratching or biting.

The active defense of a cat lying on their back with belly exposed is not treacherous behavior. It doesn't necessarily mean they are scared of you or have grown aggressive. They are simply partaking in natural feline behaviors. Neither do they lie on their back and expose their belly to draw you deceive you and draw you into a fight. Rather, cats display several signs of discomfort and insecurity before they engage in defense behavior. Folding their ears backward, squashing their body and/or bristling their fur are all attempts to communicate their displeasure. It is up to us to discern these communications. While such a defensive reaction might imply they are upset with us, they will probably forget it soon enough. If you keep disturbing them, however, then it can stress them out. It may affect your relationship and paint you as an antagonist in their eyes.

Even with these behaviors and disturbances, cats are perfectly capable of forging a strong bond with us. There are lots of positions and positive moments where they will happily receive petting from humans. Just because they don't behave like dogs, doesn't mean they don't love or rely on us. They are simply expressing their feelings and emotions in their own manner. Before prejudging or getting worried, get to know feline body language and learn the signs which show your cat loves you.

How to pet a cat properly

In general, cats like to be petted on the following areas:

  • Head
  • Ears
  • Chin
  • Nape of neck
  • Back

They will often rub their head against your hand in encouragement when you pet these areas. However, not all cats are the same. Some may even enjoy having their belly rubbed, although they appear to be in the vast minority. More important is to get to know the tastes and preferences of your individual cat. This is not only going to be helpful in knowing how to pet your cat, it is going to help you bond in general. Getting to know the personality of our cat is one of the best things about having them in our family.

To recognize your cat's favorite places to be petted, begin to gently stroke them on the places mention above. Move in slowly, let them know you are approaching and don't make sudden movements. Providing a calm presence and respecting their personal boundaries will go a long way in their allowing you to continue in the future. In fact, respect in general is key to establishing a healthy relationship with our peers, regardless of their species.

Why Does My Cat Expose Their Belly to Me? - How to pet a cat properly

If you want to read similar articles to Why Does My Cat Expose Their Belly to Me?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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Why Does My Cat Expose Their Belly to Me?