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Do Cats Like Belly Rubs? What You Need to Know!

cat owner belly rubbing her cat

If you have a cat, you are probably familiar with the strange behavior of many cats where they like to lay on their back, exposing their belly only to scratch and bite you when you try to pet them. Many people ask us if cats like a belly rub. The short answer is no, they usually don’t, but keep reading while we discuss why not as well as possible exceptions to help you understand your pet better.

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Why Don’t Cats Like Belly Rubs?

Thin Fur

The further that covers your cat’s belly is much thinner than the fur that covers its back. This likely means the cat is more sensitive to your touch on its belly than its back.

Delicate Organs

All of the cat’s vital organs are exposed when it shows its belly. When the cat is in its normal upright position, the backbone and ribs protect its vital organs. When the cat is belly up, it is extremely vulnerable, and the position can be life-threatening in the wild.

cat sleeping with its belly up on a cat bed
Image Credit: jdblack, Pixabay

Do Some Cats Like Belly Rubs?

Yes. We’ve had several cats that seemed to enjoy belly rubs.  They will stretch out, lay on their backs, and let us pet them once or twice without attacking. They will also quickly roll over when they are finished.

Why Do Cats Expose Their Belly Then Attack?

1. Stretching

One likely explanation for why cats expose their bellies but attack you when you pet them is that they are simply stretching. Cats seem to like to stretch out when their favorite humans are near and will not only expose their belly but will scratch the carpet, raising their butt in the air in another stretching routine. While these actions seem to express the cat is happy to see us, they do not seem to be an invitation to touch them and doing so can and will result in scratches and bites.

Cat welcomes his owner at home
Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

2. Ultimate Attack Position

Another reason the cat might be exposing its belly only to scratch and bite you is that it’s practicing its ultimate attack position. You may have noticed that cats only play games to practice their hunting abilities. It will chase balls, laser lights, and practically anything that moves. Though many people may not recognize it, the belly-up position might be another one of these hunting games.

The belly-up position is common in a catfight, and you’ll recognize it if you have more than one cat in your home, as they always tend to clash from time to time. While no cat wants to be in this position, it does provide one significant advantage. It’s the only time the cat can use claws in all four paws and bite its foe. Therefore, it’s an important fighting tactic that the cat must practice.


3. It’s Showing Love

Though the scratching and biting will likely quickly tear our hands and arms to shreds, the cat might not realize this as the thick fur covering most other cats might protect it, and it could be a natural way cats show affection. The cat could be simply treating you like another cat.


4. It Wants Attention

If you come running to pet its belly every time the cat rolls over, it sends a powerful message to your pet they can get your attention at any time by performing the maneuver. We’ve had many cats use this trick extensively, especially when they want treats or to take attention away from another cat.

cat sleeping in owner's arms
Image Credit: Impact Photography, Shutterstock

It’s Showing Complete Trust

Whether the cat exposes its belly to you to practice its ultimate attack position or get attention, one thing is true. It makes the cat extremely vulnerable, and it would not do it if it didn’t have complete trust in its safety, which means the cat is happy and comfortable in your home and is likely forming a strong bond with you and other family members.

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Summary

While some cats might enjoy belly rubs, most do not, and they are most likely exposing it to stretch, get attention, or play. We found that in almost all cases, attempting to pet the belly will result in scratches and bites that can quickly leave your arm and hand bleeding, so we recommend avoiding the temptation to play this game with your cat. If your cat seems to like belly rubs, enjoy it while it lasts because you are quite lucky.

We hope you have enjoyed reading over this short guide and found the answers you need. If we have helped you understand your pet better, please share our look into if cats like belly rubs on Facebook and Twitter.


Featured Image Credit: Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock

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