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.
Millions tuned in to the Thanksgiving Day
NBC broadcast to watch as judges
crowned 4-year-old Nathan Best in Show.
A Golden Retriever stepped in to nurse
a litter of African wild dogs after their
mother showed a lack of maternal…
Take a look at the Best in Show
winners of the last decade. Plus, meet this year's National Dog Show champion.
As you brine the turkey or cheer for your
favorite football team, take time to be
thankful for your furry family…
From "drop it" to "wait at the door," Mikkel
Becker shares commands you should
teach your pup…
Decorate your home for the holidays
without compromising your cat's safety
with tips from a cat style expert.
We’re sharing our favorite budget-friendly
gifts, from a custom smartphone cover to
the perfect dog treats for…
The plus-size Maine Coon has an adorable chirping voice and gets along with everyone, even the family dog.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.