Why does my cat roll around on their back?

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Does your cat stretch out and roll over onto their back? Does he really want you to tickle his tummy? Find out why cats do this...

As I am sure many of you will know, feline body language can be complicated and difficult to decipher! For example, have you ever wondered why your cat’s seemingly flirtatious behaviour of rolling around on their back might be met with a ‘Venus cat trap’ response of claws and teeth when you try to stroke their tummy? This is because there can be various reasons for feline body language, and much of it is context-specific.

For example, you and your cat might be happily relaxing in front of the roaring fire, and then they might stretch out and roll over onto their back. When your cat does this, it is the ultimate sign of trust and relaxation because they are exposing a very vulnerable body part — their tummy.

Conversely, a cat might show very similar body language when preparing to fight and go into battle. In this context, they may be sunning themselves in the garden, see a neighbouring cat, roll onto their back to expose their tummy; but, this time, they might have fully extended claws and teeth at the ready!

Some other explanations could include:

  • Your cat might have an out-of-the-way itch, and they can use the grass or paving stones to scratch the itch.
     
  • This behaviour might start because of an itchy back, but the cat quickly realises they get a lot of attention (and tummy tickles!) from their owner when they roll around the floor in this cute way. If they enjoy the attention, then this behaviour is likely to be repeated.
     
  • It can also be a way of showing submission.
     
  • However, some cats simply enjoy rolling around of their backs — it’s a pleasurable thing to do!

When reading your cat’s body language, pay attention to the physical cues and the situation in which they take place. By using the context of the entire situation, trying to see the situation from your cat’s point of view, you’ll have a good chance of understanding your feline friend.