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What Do Your Cat’s Positions Mean?

By The Daily Cat experts

What Do Your Cat’s Positions Mean?

The belly-up position, in which your cat will roll to one side and show its tummy, is indeed very meaningful among cats, with significance for cat and human relationships too. Like many mammals -- including us -- when the back is against the floor and the stomach and chest areas are exposed, the individual is more vulnerable than it would be if it were standing. On the other hand, this position also allows your cat to put all claws and teeth to use.

Pam Johnson-Bennett, author of Cat vs. Cat: Keeping Peace When You Have More Than One Cat, explains how this belly-up position can therefore signify that your cat is in a defensive -- and not offensive -- mode. You might, for example, see two cats hissing at each other, preparing to fight, with one suddenly dropping down into this tummy-revealing position. Woe to the cat that doesn’t back down, because it will otherwise receive a face full of claws and teeth.

On the other hand, Johnson-Bennett explains that cats will also go into belly-up mode when they are feeling incredibly relaxed and playful. In this case, the move communicates that your pet is in the mood for a bit of harmless roughhousing, with no intention of taking the offensive position.

It clearly pays to know which of these two meanings is being communicated. An easy clue is to look at your cat’s ears. If they are held back against your cat’s head, beware. If they are up and forward, chances are your cat wants to just play and have some fun.

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Posted on November 21, 2011

Stephanie says: We have a Turkish Van, who is very playful and she is constantly flopping down on her side and back after she teases the other cats.

Posted on December 10, 2011

Rod C. Venger says: I have 3 Siamese at the moment, 11 years old, and raised all of them from kittens. To varying degrees they all allow me to rub their bellies. But it's not play they want, just the rub. It took years to develop that sort of trust with them. Claws or not, baring their belly to you like this shows unconditional trust in you.

Posted on January 13, 2012

ponytailjones says: The third thing it may mean, is that somewun is wooking for tummy wubs

Posted on January 15, 2012

Mae says: If you can't figure these things out on your own, you shouldn't have a pet. My cats play that way, but they also sleep on their backs, or just lay cozy and comfy on their backs. It's not rocket science to figure out their mood. I can stroke my cats tummies anytime I want to because they live in a world they trust.

Posted on January 23, 2012

Daniel says: I have a cat that sleeps this way.  It's very odd. O.o

Posted on March 14, 2012

Katie says: My two year old cat is always in the belly up position. Found him when he was a week old abandoned in a parking lot, after much TLC all he ever wants now is an hour long belly rub.

Posted on March 21, 2012

Renee says: My 7 cats do it all the time cause they know nobody will hurt them. it means they are very comfortable in their house.

Posted on May 5, 2012

Luella says: I have a 12 yr. old tuxedo cat who lately has been trying to cough up furballs, sometimes in the last few days he has been successful but the last day or two he is retching. Last night he couged up a small furball. He was not eating or drinking, he has a pet water fountain right beside the bed but lately has hardly been drinking water, a little bit, but not the way he used to. After talking to him cajolling him to please eat he finally ate some Cheez Whiz from a cracker and then drank some water. I have some of that pet gel in the house, actually in his drawer that I keep his stuff in. I also intend to put some margarine in his wet cat food. I always give him the cat food with loads of gravy in it. Friskie's is very good for the gravy. I am going to look at the baby food for pumpkin next time I go shopping. Any ideas on anything else that I can do to help him? I bath him and brush him, but not frequently enough, I guess. I will have to improve on this.

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