What Does It Mean When a Cat Lies on Its Back?

Cats express themselves through body language all the time, but their signals can be hard for owners to read sometimes. So what is a cat trying to tell you when it’s on its back? The answer: it depends. In general cats that do this are relaxed and happy around you. That said, you must also consider the cat’s other physical expressions (what’s going on with their ears, eyes, paws, and tail). Read on to understand exactly what it means when your feline is supine.

When They’re Happy

Most of the time a cat that is on its back is comfortable and happy. It can be a sign of submissiveness and can indicate that your furry friend feels safe and protected with you. If your cat is napping while they’re lying on their back, or if they’re purring and kneading while awake, it’s safe to say your cat is feeling very content. Some cats show their stomachs when they’re ready for playtime. If they’re on their back with their ears up and facing forward, the cat is most likely ready to play, so feel free to bring in a cat toy for some interaction with your furry friend. Female cats can show their bellies during the mating process. If your cat isn’t fixed and you see other signs of being in heat, this can be another reason for this behavior.

When They’re Not Quite Happy

The supine position can also be a defensive pose for your cat so be sure to check before you go in for the tummy rub. When your cat is on its back, it’s able to attack with all four claws (along with their sharp teeth) so always be careful. If your cat’s ears are flattened back against the head, your cat is most likely feeling defensive and ready to launch an assault. Also check their eyes – if they’re dilated, or if you hear a growl from your cat, look out. These are signs of aggression and you might get bitten or kicked.

More Tips

Once you get to know your cat, you’ll be able to see and interpret the physical communication that’s coming from your cat, and you’ll know if they’re ready for playtime or alone time. And not all cats appreciate belly rubs, even by their favorite humans, so be careful even if your cat is purring and looking relaxed. Getting to know your cat and understanding their body language help ensure you have a happy, healthy relationship with your feline friend.

By Jay Matthews


About the Author
Jay Matthews has been writing professionally for over a decade. He's been an animal lover for even longer. When he's not creating articles or copywriting, he's slowly chipping away at a science fiction novel. He lives with his family and their cat Koko in Los Angeles.