Click here to learn more.
If you have a cat, you’ve probably made this mistake at least once — your normally sweet kitty stretches out in front of you, rolls onto her back and looks at you with big, imploring eyes.
You naturally reach down to pat her tummy . . . and she suddenly turns on you, either
scratching you with her claws or
biting your hand with her equally sharp teeth.
“Many people think that when cats roll over on their backs, they’re [acting] like
dogs — that they’re showing submission,” says Dr. Cindy Houlihan, DVM, owner of the Cat Practice in Birmingham, Mich. “But it’s actually a defensive position.”
In the wild, cats roll over when they either can’t flee from a
fight or actively choose not to escape. On their backs, they have the ability to use all of their claws and teeth to protect themselves from predators.
Of course, you’re no predator. So why is your normally loving kitty trying to defend herself against
Well, she's not.
In domestic situations, a
cat who exposes her belly is actually testing your trust, Dr. Houlihan says. “The abdomen is a vulnerable area for cats because that’s where all of their vital organs are located,” she says. “So exposing it is a form of communication — they want to see what you might do.”
Although they're not foolproof, Dr. Houlihan does have some tips for helping your feline feel more comfortable when it comes to belly rubs.
Step #1: Start by just admiring your kitty when she’s on her back, avoiding any sudden movements that could put her on the defensive.
Step #2: Slowly progress to gently stroking one of her front paws while she's lying on her back or on her side.
Step #3: If she doesn’t try to kick or grab at you, graduate to petting one of her back paws. Once she accepts that repeated gesture, you can try to touch her tummy.
cat does ever allow you to touch her belly, it’s truly a compliment,” Dr. Houlihan says, adding that you shouldn't be offended if it doesn't work. “Every
cat is unique, but they all want their boundaries to be respected.”
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Thank you for subscribing to Petwire. Look for the latest newsletter each Wednesday.
The Indianapolis Zoo needs your help
naming its 2-month-old Amur tiger. The
choices are Chudo, Shoomka and Zoya.
Dr. Sarah Wooten covers the first aid
items to bring on your next camping trip,
from butterfly bandages to a muzzle.
Snakes can be great pets — but are you
prepared to meet their very specific
environmental and dietary needs?
Dr. Patty Khuly describes the two options
available for cremation and the emotional
benefits of keeping your pet’s…
From the lively Bearded Collie to the
charming Pug, these personable canines
just want to be your best buddy.
When she's not curled in your lap, the affectionate and elegant Birman will gladly play fetch or chase a ball.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.