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What Does It Mean When a Cat Arches Its Back?

Humans have been curious about animal behaviour since ancient times and want an insight into their world. In their every action lies a “why” for us. And since cat’s have been constant companions of humans and are considered the second most common pet in the world, it leads us curious humans to explore their behaviours in a more detailed manner. One such unusual behaviour seen in them is their arched backs. This arching of backing cats is called “Piloerection”. The arching of the back is usually accompanied by raised hair, which is considered goosebumps in human beings! Let’s talk about- why do cats arch their back. Is it a happy reaction or one of anger? Are they showing their discomfort or their love? So many questions are yet to be answered.

Why Do Cats Arch Their Back When You Pet Them?

When they feel Threatened

Like humans, cats also come across threatening situations, whether their neighbour’s scary pet or even a human. When they face a threatening situation or feel uncomfortable, their general reaction is arching their back or their hair standing on end and often hissing (their form of shouting), most of them around cats have seen this. But unlike us, they can’t shout out for help. They know it’s time to stay away! This stance makes them appear bigger and scary. Even though it’s their form of defence.

They are in the mood for fun

Although this position is similar to the attacking position, it’s the complete opposite. They arch their back when they are in a playful mood or happy. This is their way of saying that they’re enjoying themselves. The difference between the playful back arch and the one with anger can be spotted by the fact that the cat is not hissing, showing its teeth or growling, and they are generally seen pouncing and bouncing and are in a playful mood. Arching their back indicates that they are friendly and comfortable. It’s their -Play with me I won’t scratch mood. You can opt for interactive puzzle cat toys to make your pet free from boredom.

The reaction of happiness in cats can be due to different reasons like -petting from humans, new toys, new neighbourhood cats (you never know). It’s safe and enjoyable to be near them when they are in this playful mood.

They need your touch

Sometimes their arched back might mean they need human touch so that humans have easier access to their sweet spot. In their way, it might mean: Stroke and pet me, humans! If they arch their back during petting, it means they are enjoying it and encouraging you to continue doing it. They generally roll and arch their back to give the human easier access to their sweet spot, it’s usually behind their ears, under their chin, or around their cheeks. Next time the cats arch their back while petting them, it’s time to find their sweet spot!

They are just stretching

After a long nap, humans are not the only ones who need to stretch their sleepy muscles. Cats do it too. It’s nothing unusual. Or sometimes they arch their backs when they feel lazy, and it is an indication that they are sleepy, and you should let them nap and do not disturb them! Arching their back is their form of yawning. It might look a little bit unusual, as a common cat stretch is like -nose down tail up, and outstretched paws with their spines also contributing to their creepy look. If you see a cat with a creepy looking arched back, don’t worry it’s just yawning!

They are showing you their unmentionable

An arched back might mean they are showing their but cheeks. This is usually done to convey a message to other cats and the owner when they start to feel comfortable. But you know they got their own way to show that they love you. Arching their back and showing you their back is a sweet love confession from their side.

How To React To The Cat’s Arched Back?

You may wonder, What to do when a cat arches its back: Should we stay or go? And this may take a little bit of their behavioural observation to understand. We know that back arch might have different meanings: it might mean they want you to touch them, pet them, or even mean that they feel threatened and would harm you if you come anywhere near them. So, to save ourselves from those painful scratches, we need to know the difference between the different types of the back arch. Therefore, to conclude the facts it can be summarized as follows: –

  • We should maintain our distance from the cat if they arch their back while growling, hissing, spitting and other aggressive behaviour. Try avoiding their company in this situation.
  • While when the cat arches its back while purring and bouncing, they are in a playful mood and want to be petted and want you in their company.


So, if you are a cat owner, you better learn different types of back arches in cats if you don’t want to have painful scratches. And having a beautiful company with them, a cat is said to have absolute emotional honesty -whereas humans may hide their feelings for one reason or another. And that is why cats tend to express themselves through different poses or expressions. An arched back is just one of them. Hope now you get to the reasons behind why do cats arch their back and walk sideways.