In the wild, cats instinctively know how to properly groom themselves by licking their fur. This is a process that requires them to let go of prey and secure it with their paws before grooming. They only do this when they are comfortable enough to do so or when another cat approaches, signaling them into action – which does happen sometimes in our homes!
The “what does it mean for a cat to lay on its back” is a question that has been asked many times before. The answer to this question is that when a cat lays on its back, it means that the cat wants you to pet them.
By plopping down in front of me and rolling onto her back, my sister’s Golden Retriever solicits belly rubs. She will remain in this posture as long as I let it. A few cats have shown their bellies in front of me, but not to the extent that I’ve seen dogs do. When cats turn onto their backs, it’s not always because they’re looking for a belly massage. So, what motivates them to do this?
A symbol of faith
Getty Images/berna Namoglu
If you ask feline behaviorists why cats roll over and expose their bellies, they will likely answer that it’s A symbol of faith. Indeed, it is. But is it also an invitation to rub their bellies? If your cat exposes her tummy to you it means she trusts you, but that doesn’t mean she wants her belly rubbed. You may have noticed that one or two tummy rubs will get her to quickly turn back around.
Not every cat rolls onto its back and exposes its tummy. This is due to the fact that most cats feel vulnerable in this situation. They may do so for a few seconds, enabling you to touch their undersides, before immediately reversing their position.
Sophie, my cat, has never rolled onto her back in front of either myself or my husband, despite the fact that she begs us to brush her many times a day. She likes the brushing so much that she will lie down on her side and allow us rub her exposed side. Sophie will sit next to us as we read or watch TV, yet she will hide when the doorbell rings. My spouse and I seem to be the only ones she confides in.
Maddie, our second cat, is a confident, outgoing cat who welcomes everyone who comes to our house. She, too, does not roll onto her back. She will lay on her side, like her littermate Sophie, and allow us to touch or stroke her exposed side. She often flips over and lets us massage the other side after she’s had enough of one side. My most extroverted cats, unlike my sister’s Golden Retriever, have never asked for stomach rubs.
Zones where people like to pet
Cats are very protective of their stomachs, and for good reason. To begin with, their important organs are housed there. Second, they are more exposed in this situation. Scratching and biting are still possible, but considerably more difficult. They can’t run or leap from this posture, which is their natural reaction in a fight-or-flight situation.
Rolling over onto their backs is the polar opposite of their protective position. When cats are terrified and seek to scare away any possible predators, they rise on all fours with their backs lifted, tail upright, and hair standing on edge.
Cats are more inclined to lay on their side and allow you to touch their exposed side when you stroke them. Because they like having their cheeks and chins stroked, they are more likely to thrust out their chins. Because they like having the base of their tail rubbed, many cats will stick up their behinds. However, few cats, in my experience, will lay on their backs, and those that do will flip over in seconds if you stroke their tummy.
What is the true meaning of rolling behavior?
Rolling seems to be a habit that cats engage in for the benefit of other cats in particular situations. At least, that’s what a 1994 research found, and other investigations have since validated. The research, “Domestic Cats and Passive Submission,” was published in the journal Animal Behaviour by Hilary N. Feldman of Cambridge University’s Sub-Department of Animal Behaviour. She gathered data for 18 months on reproductively intact cats from two semi-feral cat colonies in a big outdoor cage.
Researchers at the time of her study ascribed rolling habits in cats to a protective reaction before an attack or counterattack. However, Hilary came to the conclusion that cats roll for a variety of social reasons.
“A cat rolling onto its back, with forepaws cocked, frequently with legs spread and tummy exposed,” she said. She thought the stance resembled that of a dog, and she observed that it was sustained for many minutes. The position was adopted in front of another cat in 79 percent of rolling activities. The rolling cat often approached the other cat quickly before rolling, prompting the researcher to assume that this was an initiated engagement rather than a reaction to a previous conduct. Surprisingly, the cats did not make any noises when rolling.
Females rolled in front of adult male cats when in heat, whereas males rolled in front of other males accounted for 61% of the rolling behaviors, according to Hilary. Younger males rolled in front of older males virtually every time, but the older males either ignored or accepted their presence, leading the researcher to assume that rolling actions are a kind of passive submission to avoid overt violence.
Because this activity happened while female cats were displaying other indicators of estrus, Hilary reasoned that female cats rolled to express their willingness to mate. To avoid a quarrel, males rolled as a sign of subservient conduct.
Get to know your cat.
Many of their cat-to-cat habits are passed on to their human families. They, like humans, have a variety of means of expressing love, displaying trust, and maintaining peace.
Some cats like to sit on people’s laps. Many individuals give their loved ones head bumps. Some individuals like to sit close to their loved ones, while others prefer to speak out and request caressing or stroking. Some cats may drop onto their backs and allow you to touch their bellies, but search for signs that your cat is unhappy. It may take some time to pick up on their signals, but once we do, we must treat them with respect.
If your cat turns over and lets you stroke his tummy, look for these signs that he’s unhappy and stop immediately:
- Rolls back around swiftly
- gives you a surprised appearance
- swats the palm of your hand
- your hand is scratched
- bites the palm of your hand
Cats have a very different body language than dogs. They are often seen rolling over on their back and letting you pet them, but they will not let you touch their tummy. This is because cats are self-conscious about their tummies and don’t want to be touched by humans. Reference: what do cats think when we kiss them.
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