Why Do Cats Arch Their Back And Walk Sideways? (REAL ANSWER)

Why Do Cats Arch Their Back And Walk Sideways

Cats are fascinating creatures that have always captivated us with their unique behaviors that sometimes require discipline. One such behavior that many cat owners have observed is how their cats arch their backs and walk sideways.

Cats portray this behavior for several reasons, including feeling threatened or scared, stretching, or certain medical issues.

If you’ve ever wondered why your feline friend does this, you’re lucky because this comprehensive guide will provide all the necessary answers.

Understanding Cat Body Language

Cats communicate through a complex system of body language that includes their tail, ears, eyes, and posture. Learning about their body language is essential to understand why cats arch their back and walk sideways.

When a cat feels threatened, it may arch its back and walk sideways to appear larger and more intimidating. They may also puff up their fur, hiss, or growl.

In contrast, when a cat feels relaxed and content, it will walk with its back straight and it’s tail held high.

orange tabby cat sniffing on wooden table
Photo by Valeria Boltneva on Pexels.com

The Root Of The Behavior

The reason behind this behavior can be traced back to their evolutionary history. In the wild, cats use this behavior to make themselves appear larger and more intimidating to potential predators or threats.

By arching their back and fluffing up their fur, they can increase their size and make themselves appear more threatening.

This behavior, often called “crab walking,” can occur for various reasons, including playfulness, aggression, or fear. This behavior is an instinctual response passed down from their wild ancestors.

Why Do Cats Arch Their Back And Walk Sideways (5 Reasons)

There are several reasons why cats may arch their back and walk sideways:

1. Feels Threatened Or Scared

One of the most common reasons for a cat to arch their back and walk sideways is to appear larger and more intimidating to potential threats.

When a cat feels threatened or senses danger, it will often arch its back to make itself appear more significant and potentially scare off any potential predators or threats.

They may also hiss, growl, or puff up their fur. This posture is also known as “piloerection” or “puffed-up fur,” which is an involuntary reaction to a perceived threat.

2. Playfulness

Cats are naturally playful creatures, and they may exhibit this behavior as a form of play or to initiate play with their owners or other cats. They may also do it when they are feeling excited or energetic.

3. Stretching

Cats need to stretch their muscles regularly to maintain their flexibility and agility. Arching their back and walking sideways allows them to extend their spine and abdominal muscles.

4. The Zoomies

Your cat might run or hop around the house when it’s full of energy, especially after a long nap. In this case, it’s a post-nap zoomie; try engaging your cat with different activities to burn off those energies.

cute tabby kitten on a sofa
Photo by Tranmautritam on Pexels.com

5. Medical Issues

In rare cases, cats may arch their back and walk sideways due to medical issues such as spinal injuries or neurological problems. If you notice your cat exhibiting this behavior frequently or in an unusual way, it’s best to consult your vet.

How To Respond When Your Cat Exhibits This Behavior

If your cat arches their back and walks sideways, observing its body language and responding accordingly is important. Here are some tips:

1. Provide Playtime

If your cat is exhibiting this behavior as a form of playfulness, provide them with toys and engage in interactive play. This will help them burn off excess energy and satisfy their stimulation needs.

2. Create A Safe Space

If your cat feels scared or threatened, provide them with a safe space to retreat. This could be a cozy bed, a cat tree, or a quiet room where they can relax.

3. Avoid Punishing Your Cat

Punishing your cat for exhibiting this behavior is not helpful and can worsen the situation. Instead, try to identify the cause of their behavior and address it positively.

4. Consult Your Vet

If you suspect your cat’s behavior is due to a medical issue, take them to the vet for a checkup. They can diagnose any underlying problems and provide appropriate treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do cats arch their back when you pet them?

Cats arching their back during petting is often a sign of pleasure or contentment. It is an instinctive reaction that dates back to their kittenhood when their mother would groom them by licking their fur.

The back arching allows the cat to reach more comfortable areas for grooming, such as the base of the tail. Therefore, petting a cat in these areas often triggers this response, indicating they enjoy the interaction.

Why does my cat walk sideways with an arched back when playing?

When playing, cats often adopt a sideways walk and an arched back as part of their predatory instincts. This posture allows them to be agile and ready to pounce on any prey that crosses their path. The sideways walk also helps cats maneuver around corners quickly, which is useful when chasing toys or other objects.

Why do cats do the crab walk?

The crab walk is a term used to describe the sideways movement that some cats adopt when they feel threatened or aggressive. As mentioned earlier, this posture attempts to make themselves appear more significant and intimidating to potential threats. When a cat is in this posture, it may hiss or growl, indicating aggression or fear.


Cats arching their back and walking sideways is a common behavior that can be observed in cats. This behavior is rooted in their evolutionary history and is an instinctual response to perceived threats or as a way to get attention or play.

Understanding the reasons behind this behavior and responding appropriately can help ensure the health and happiness of your furry friend.

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