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Home > Cats > Why Do Cats Lift Their Tail When You Pet Them? 5 Vet Approved Reasons

Why Do Cats Lift Their Tail When You Pet Them? 5 Vet Approved Reasons

black cat enjoying when owner scratch at the base of his tail.the cat's tail points straight up.

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

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Sometimes, it can seem like your cat’s rear end is their most prized possession. Whether you’re eating breakfast, chilling out on the couch minding your business, or in an important online work meeting, some cats just can’t resist baring all to all and sundry. If you’ve been parenting cats for a while, you’ve likely noticed that this behavior is exacerbated when you scratch their back.

At times like this, some cats lift their tail just a little to show appreciation, and some go into full-on yoga-stretch mode. But why do cats lift their bum when you pet them? There are a few reasons why they do this, and in this post, we tell all.


The 5 Reasons the Cats Lift Their Tail When You Pet Them

1.  They’re Loving It

The most basic reason your cat lifts their tail when you pet them is that they simply love it. Raising the tails is also a way cats show you they’re comfortable with you, so feel honored if yours heads your way with their tail up.

The base of the tail seems to be the sweet spot for many cats, though not every cat will enjoy being petted there. If your cat enjoys a good back scratch, their tail and butt-raising may be accompanied by blissful purring.

If you’re not sure if your cat likes being petted on their lower back or at the base of their tail, try a few light strokes at first to gauge their reaction.

2.  It’s Instinctive

It’s normal for kittens to raise their tails to their mom. This is because—sorry if you’re eating—the mother cat includes the rear end in her kitten grooming routine. If you’re petting your cat—even an adult cat—they may instinctively raise their tail because it’s what they would have done when their mother cleaned them as babies.

woman petting a cat
Image Credit: Christin Hume, Unsplash

3. They’re Trying to Make the Most of Things

Imagine you’re being tickled—it would be pretty hard to stay still, right? If a cat enjoys the tickling sensation of being petted around the base of the tail, they may move their butt upwards as a way to really enhance the feeling, as it adds a little extra pressure to your hand movements.

4. Your Cat Is In Heat

Female cats in heat often lift their tails and move their back legs up and down when petted. Additionally, they typically become more vocal and affectionate and rub up against things way more than they usually would.

two white cats rub faces on the grass, positive associations, bonding
Image Credit: Oleg Shishkunov, Shutterstock

5. They’re Spreading Their Scent

Lifting the tail is a way for cats to deposit their scent onto you as a form of marking because it helps spread pheromones. As we know, cats love marking their territory, and that territory very much includes you.

It’s also not uncommon for cats to greet each other with a lovely view of their own butt, as sniffing this area is a form of communication between cats. The scent from a cat’s anal glands can tell another cat a lot about how that cat is feeling and determine which one is going to be the dominant cat in the relationship. It also helps identify if they’ve met each other before.



Do All Cats Like Being Petted on Their Backs?

Nope. Cats have individual likes and dislikes, and this includes petting. Some may like a lot of petting, some may like a little, and some may not like it at all. Avoid trying to force your cat to enjoy petting if they show signs of not enjoying it, like swiping at you, moving away, flattening their ears, not showing any signs of pleasure, etc.

Why Does My Cat Lift Their Tail at Me Without Being Petted?

Typically, if a cat raises their tail when they approach you, it’s a sign of happiness and comfort. As it’s also a form of greeting in the cat world, don’t be surprised if your cat presents you with their butt for no apparent reason—it’s a compliment! Cats in heat may also lift their tail a lot more, whether they’re being pet or not.

cat with lifted tail
Image Credit: Natalya Kokhanova, Shutterstock



Lifting the tail during petting is pretty normal cat behavior and usually happens because your cat is having a great time, though it can also be instinctive or a way of spreading pheromones to you. If your cat shows signs of being in pain when you pet them, like biting, growling, hissing, or lashing out, they may have a condition requiring veterinary attention.

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Featured Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

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