Why Do Cats Arch Their Backs When Petted?

If you have one or more purring furballs, you also might know about some of their quirks. Cats are vocal and good at communicating. One of the best ways through which they will let you know about themselves is body language.

They use several ways of expression to send messages to their owners, like purring, meowing, rubbing against you, rolling over, and arching their backs. One of the main queries that cat owners usually have is why their cats arch backs when being petted.

Being humans, we often fail to interpret what our fur-buddies mean. Generally, arching backs are a symbol of fear. In this article, take a look at all the reasons why your cat arches its back when it is being petted.

Why do cats arch their backs when being petted?

Cats often show affection, happiness, and contentment by arching their backs when they are pets. In this case, they are likely to arch their back and rub against you. It is a very common cat-way of asking for attention, greeting you, or showing that they are pleased by your presence.

However, this back-arching gesture might also suggest fear and aggression. But, based on the cat’s body language, you can tell the difference. If the cat is aggressive, it is likely to express an angry face along with a bent back.

Cats that want to pet you might arch their backs and lean on you to get more pleasure, while those who don’t enjoy your company will arch their backs and poof up with wide-glaring eyes and hiss at you with annoyance.

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Here are some reasons why cats might raise their backs when petted:

Cats make various body language, including vocals and gestures, to express what they are feeling. Their feelings range just like us, humans, from happiness, hunger, anger, and displeasure. These are the main explanations why your cat is arching its back:

1. Stretching

Cats like to stretch their muscles. If they arch after a good long nap while petting them, the most common reason is that your cat is working out the knots in its spine.

They might yawn, shake their head or dig claws into their bed when they are sleepy. Cats usually stretch their backs first by arching and, in the process, move forward, ending the stretch with their hind legs.

Stretching ease, the tension in their back and shoulder muscles. This helps to release endorphins in their brain. As a result, a general sense of well-being is created in them.

2. Contentment

Raising back is a way to express contentment and pleasure. If it has its tail pointing directly into the air, it means that the cat is feeling playful.

If this is the case, the tail of the cat might move slowly on both sides, and their whiskers will get perky and stick out of their face.

They might even purr or roll and close their eyes when being petted in a spot where they feel pleasure. These signs indicate that the cat is happy and ready to play with you.

3. Aggression

Anxiety and fear are common reasons why cats arch their backs. Their bare fangs become visible, and they exhibit fear.

A threatened cat will poof up, trying to look bigger and more dangerous. This is often accompanied by hissing and spitting. If the cat is too much of a threat, it might even try to scratch or bite you. 

A feline arching back in a negative gesture when being petted is an indicator for you to step back as the cat shows symptoms of hostility.

If you continue to pet them, it might invoke them to scratch or bite you. They won’t seem comfortable with your touch and avoid leaning on you. Instead, it will growl and lower its head as signs of displeasure.

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Stress like pain or any discomfort

Some cats may feel some discomfort or pain that stresses them. In this situation, petting them is not a good option. They try to make you aware of their discomfort by arching their backs. The signs they may use to communicate their dislike includes:

  • Avoiding your touch or moving their head away from you
  • Not purring and being passive
  • Blinking too much
  • Straightened tail
  • Flattened ears
  • Bare fans
  • Attempt to bite
  • Moving your petting hand away with their paws

Other reasons can include any inborn physical condition, external injury, or sensitivity to touch. However, if your cat faces continuous discomfort and pain when you pet them, show them to a vet immediately.

So, the above mentioned were some of the main reasons why a cat arches its back when it is being petted.

Do cats like it when you pet them?

There is a common myth that cats are quite alienated and like to be alone. They supposedly don’t like to be petted.

However, it is a wrong conception. Cats welcome human affection warmly when it is done right. Unlike a dog who is happy with anything, you give them, petting a cat can be tricky.

One might misunderstand their reaction and hold the cat In the wrong spot where it does not like to be touched. This can cause the cat to hiss at you or show you gestures of displeasure.

Like all animals, most cats are friendly. They enjoy human affection, being petted and loved. Their most loved spots, in general, include facial glands, the base of their ears, under the chin, and around their cheeks.

If you are petting a new cat, avoid touching its tummy, back, or base of its tail.

Pet the cat slowly and let it open up to you. Observe the cat’s reaction and proceed according to that. Cats are indeed a little tricky. So, you must respect their opinions.

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In conclusion, cats arch their backs when being petted to express what they are feeling. They vocalize, use their paws, poof up and make various other bodily gestures to express multiple emotions.

If you see a cat that has arched its back while you are petting them, be sure to check different indicators. If the cat leans towards you and purrs, it likes you. Find the perfect spot for the cat and pet it at its pleasure.

However, in case of any possible discomfort, it is important to leave the cat alone for your safety and the well-being of the cat itself.

Actions like puffing up, straightened tail, bare fangs, and hissing are negative indicators of the cat’s behavior. This article comprehensively described all the reasons that might cause your cat to raise its back.

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