The Reasons Cats Lift Their Bum When You Pet Them

Your cat lifts his or her bum to the air while being pet because it is a reflex that occurs when they are enjoying the experience.

When a cat is scratched in an area with a lot of nerve endings and sensitivity, a stretch with the butt in the air is a natural positive response to this.

Call it what you’d like: elevator butt, bum in the air, butt stretch. While it may sound strange, most cat owners have witnessed their cat exhibit this behavior. For many, it may be a common part of your day to day interactions with your cat — it depends on many factors such as how often you pet your cat, how much your cat enjoys being scratched, and your cats preferred areas for scratching.

One thing that is for certain is that a cat’s tendency to lift their butt to the air will vary from feline to feline. Personally, one of my cats will react in this way every time they have their back scratched, but the other cat does not seem to have a reaction.


A Cat Butt in the Air is a Good Sign

First thing’s first: before we get into the details as to why it’s actually a good sign when your cat directs their rear to the ceiling, let’s establish the emotion behind this behavior.

If you were worrying that this quirk may be a sign that something is medically wrong with your cat, be rest assured that this is most likely not the case. We know that cats have many ways of expressing themselves physically, and when a cat lifts their butt to the air, it’s just their way to tell you that they are enjoying a session of petting.

Your cat’s preferred petting zones will vary widely from animal to animal, but in general, the following are the main spots that cats most enjoy human physical touch on: head, neck, and chin.

It is also worth noting that some breeds of cats are reportedly predispositioned to embrace human affection than others, such as social breeds like siamese. But does this mean that the average American short hair dislikes petting of any form?


What are Other Positive Cat Signs?

A butt in the air is not the only way that a cat shows their appreciation for humans. Contrary to popular belief, cats are naturally content and calm animals, and they can be quite effective at expressing this if you know what to look for.

Let’s start with the most obvious clue: purring. Purring is the most commonly-heard cat noise — even more so than meowing! Cats can also use a purr to express fear or sadness, but it is most commonly used to express contentment.

Other clues that your cat is happy include an active appetite, a tendency for play, and an interest in your owner.

Yes, this means that your cat isn’t just sitting on your keyboard constantly to cut you off from your work and frustrate you — they are also doing it because they are happy and would like your attention (I have had to gently move my cat from my keyboard twice while writing this very article).


What Cats Tell Us Through Their Tails

Cats actually send messages of all kinds through their tails — and they’re not all about a good pet. Other body language patterns that are related to a cat’s tail include a curved tail to represent a playful mood, a flat tail to represent aggression, or a puffed tail to represent fear.


Do Cats Like Being Petted?

While there are sometimes rumors floating around that state cats don’t enjoy being touched, the good news is that this is most likely scientifically false. Cats do, indeed, enjoy being stroked.

However, it is possible that when a cat is already feeling stressed about something else, being handled by his or her owner can add to their discomfort levels. While this may seem like common sense, it can serve as a gentle reminder to give a cat space when it is obvious that they are troubled by something.


Do Cats Like Their Tails Scratched?

Just because a cat may be giving you signals that they like the general area around their tail scratched, it doesn’t mean that cats like being scratched directly on their tails. This may seem like a mixed message, but is it surprising? Cats are fickle creatures, after all!

We probably don’t need an expert to tell us that cats don’t like having their tails scratched. The reason why they don’t is similar to the same reason why they enjoy a scratch at the base of the tail — there are a lot of nerve endings there, and this area is sensitive.


Can I Scratch My Cat’s Belly?

While we can establish that cats do enjoy a nice pet from time to time, this does not mean that your cat will appreciate your hands on every part of his or her body. One famously taboo place is your cat’s belly.

A cat showing you his or her belly is a sign of trust. This is a vulnerable position for a feline to be in, and they only show their bellies to those who they trust to not take advantage of them.

This is Archie wanting a tummy rub. You may be one of the lucky minority whose cat tolerates (or even relishes in) a tummy scratching, but that doesn’t mean that you should try your luck with any cat that you meet.

When you are getting to know a cat, baby steps are always best. A good way to judge whether or not a cat will be open to receiving a scratch from you is by first letting them sniff your hand. If that seems to go over well, then you can proceed with caution.

However, you still shouldn’t jump to the belly automatically. Once your cat has given you body language that it is okay to pet them, a good place to start is behind the ears or the top of the head.


Why Does My Cat Lay With Their Belly in the Air?

Here’s the twist: just because your cat may trust you enough to lay with their belly in the air in your presence, it doesn’t mean that this is an open invitation to pet them.

Sure, a cat may feel comfortable showing their belly, but it is still a sensitive area for them and may simply just not feel enjoyable. It is important not to force any petting upon any cat — cats don’t take kindly to force.


Can Cats Be Ticklish?

Could a cat dislike being petted in a certain area because they are ticklish? It’s possible.

Just as the levels of ticklish propensity among humans can vary, the same is most likely true for cats as well. Common ticklish areas for cats include the bottom of the paws or on their sides — not unlike humans!


Does My Cat Lift Their Butt Because They’re in Heat?

Some pet owners who spot their cat with their butt in their air may notice similarities to this behavior and the behavior that cats commonly picked up when they are in heat. In female cats, this phenomenon is called “lordosis” and occurs when they are entering heat.

Though obvious, it deserves a mention: the fact that your cat is taking on a posture similar to lordosis does not mean that she is entering heat.

If your cat is not neutered, and you believe that she may be entering heat, look for other signs such as excessive grooming or a lack of appetite.

Now is as good of a time as any to remind readers of the benefits of spaying or neutering their cat, such as cancer prevention, lengthened lifespan, and of course, control of the animal population.


Writer: Rachel Cribby

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