Is there anything better than a good ol' morning stretch to start your day? If you're a cat then the answer is definitely no. Humans tend to stretch when we're tired or waking from sleep but our feline friends seem to be stretching all the time! Why is that?
Why do cats stretch so much?
Cats stretch mainly for the same reasons humans do. According to Andrew Cuff, a postdoctoral researcher of anatomy at the Royal Veterinary College in London, the primary reasons cats stretch are to increase blood flow, and because it feels good. Who can't relate to that?!
House cats sleep twice as much as humans do, about 12-16 hours a day. When any animal sleeps (including humans), the brain paralyzes the animal's muscles, sending the body into "shut down mode." This keeps the body from sleepwalking or acting out dreams as they occur. Cuff told Live Science, "Cats stretch to get their muscles moving again after periods of inactivity, whether they've been sitting still or sleeping."
A good stretch is helpful for getting blood circulating through the body. Sleep or long periods of inactivity result in a dropping of blood pressure. Stretching helps reverse that and increases a cat's blood pressure back to its normal range. Cuff explains that, like humans, this raising of the blood pressure helps cats to wake up and become more alert.
Cats primarily stretch for the same reasons us humans do. Our feline companions, however, also stretch for reasons specific just to them.
To show affection
A cat is in a vulnerable state when his limbs are completely stretched and exposed (especially if his belly is exposed). If your cat stretches out in front of you, it's because he feels comfortable around you. The little guy would probably appreciate a nice back scratch or belly rub.
Stretching to attack
When a cat stretches, the muscle fibers are completely extended. This prepares the animal to attack at any time. In the wild, cats will stretch to ward off predators and stake their claim over their prey. Because cats have the ability to remain immobile for such long periods of time, when they are ready to hunt or attack enemies, all they need is one good stretch to launch them into action!
The benefits of stretching.
Humans can learn a thing or two from cats: How to ignore people you don't like or how to simply stop caring or perhaps more practically, how to stretch more often!
Stretching in cats and humans comes with the following benefits:
- Lubricating the joints
- Increasing the body's range of motion
- Encourages the flow of oxygen throughout the body
- Improves the immune system
- Benefits the lymphatic system
So the next time you can't make your yoga class, just shadow your cat for a day and stretch whenever he does. Your body will thank you.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.