cat walking with an arched back
Questions About Cats

Why is My Cat Walking with an Arched Back?

A cat walking with an arched back reveals how it is feeling at that time. A cat’s body language and posture, such as arching the spine, have several different explanations.

  • Stretching the muscles after yawning
  • Hunting and preparing to pounce
  • Frightened
  • Making itself look bigger
  • Pain in the abdomen or spine

You need to identify why your cat is walking with an arched back. If your cat is scared, you should calm it down. If it is in pain, you need to work out why. Cats hide their pain until they’re incapable of doing so anymore.

Why Do Cats Arch Their Spines?

Subtle differences can explain why a cat has an arched back. We’ll now take a look at the most common explanations and what they mean.

Cat Stretching Its Back Muscles

After a long sleep, a cat needs to stretch out its body. A cat needs its muscles to be supple for hunting or to escape predators. By arching its back and stretching, the cat unlinks any tight muscles in its back.

Some cats arch their back when being petted. The behavior will invariably be accompanied by purring.

Felines have scent glands in the anus and are releasing their scents on you. Your cat is marking you as a source of pleasure and inviting you to exchange scents.

Is My Cat Hunting?

A cat may arch its back when hunting. This position is a precursor to pouncing. The cat is arching to provide additional spring to its movements.

You may notice your cat arching its back during play. This is especially likely among kittens. For kittens, play is a practice run for life as an adult cat as games teach them hunting techniques.

Even an adult cat will play to sate its hunting instincts. If the cat cannot go outside, it’ll hunt toys. This can lead to the arched back and pounce.

Sometimes, a cat will arch its back when excited and overstimulated. Again, this is common in kittens. Your cat may have more energy than it knows what to do with.

Cat Arching Its Back in Pain

Coupled with an arched back, these actions suggest a cat is in pain:

  • Agitation and reluctance to settle
  • Uncharacteristic aggression
  • Refuses to be handled
  • Depression and lethargy
  • Excessive grooming or licking

Cats mask any sign of discomfort. Felines worry that demonstrating pain is showing weakness. This opens the cat up to attacks from predators.

A cat arching its back in pain is clearly in distress. According to the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, pain is difficult to manage as cats are allergic to many painkilling drugs and anesthetics.

Cat Limping and Arching Its Back

A cat that limps is clearly in pain. Before seeing a vet, assess what is causing the problem. Reasons for cats to limp include:

  • Foreign objects embedded in the paw
  • Arthritis
  • Muscles strains or pulls

Check your cat’s paws for any signs of embedded glass or wood. If you find no foreign objects, the problem is musculoskeletal.

It is easy for cats to pull muscles. Your cat may have fallen from height. It may have misjudged a jump between 2 surfaces. It may have pounced too quickly while hunting. Moving too quickly can pull or tear muscle tissue.

These muscle pulls could be the legs, back, or abdomen. The limp and arched back is an attempt at reducing the impact on the pained area. This injury is treated with restricted movement and pain medication.

Arthritis will reveal itself gradually. According to the Journal of Neurophysiology, the symptoms worsen over time. Your cat is reluctant to place weight on painful joints, explaining the limp and arched back.

cat arching back in pain

Old Cat Walking with Hunched Back

It is believed that 80% of cats aged 10 or over have arthritis. The condition isn’t breed or size-specific. Common symptoms of this condition are:

  • Reluctance to use the litter box
  • Inability to run or jump
  • Refusing any form of handling
  • Limping gait
  • Swelling around the joints

Feline arthritis cannot be cured, but the pain can be managed. Options could include supplements, pain medication, and massage. Other concerns that affect older cats include:

  • Kidney failure
  • Heart problems
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Digestive issues
  • Displacement of the hip

These concerns may also affect the stomach. This is why a cat arches its back. It is keeping its stomach as far from the ground as possible.

Does My Cat Feel Threatened?

A cat arching its back is a classic pose of fear. The cat is trying to make itself look big and intimidating. This is sometimes called the ‘Halloween Cat’ pose. Signs that your cat is arching its back in fear include:

Your cat may not realize it is doing this. It is an involuntary reaction known as piloerection. When something frightens a cat, its body releases adrenaline. This, in turn, causes piloerection.

If your cat is adopting this pose, you should back away. Do not give your cat anything else to fear. Look around and try to understand the response. If there is another animal nearby, protect your cat from a safe distance. If you cannot see a threat, then walk away.

No cat should live in a constant state of anxiety. As Veterinary Clinics of North America explains, this leads to health and behavioral problems.

Temporary Reasons Cats Feel Threatened

Many things can spark a short-term fear response in cats. Although felines appear calm and indifferent, they are nervous. Common triggers include:

  • New scents
  • Unfamiliar humans or animals in the cat’s territory
  • Unique and novel experiences.
  • Triggering of a negative memory
  • Loud noises

A reaction to these stimuli should be fleeting. Your cat will soon return to behaving as normal, so give your cat some space. Once it falls back into its usual routine, it will forget about the stressful experience.

cat running sideways with arched back

Permanent Reasons Cats Feel Threatened

A medical condition may be to blame for your cat’s bad nerves. If not, make your cat’s life as comfortable as possible.

If your cat has suddenly developed an anxiety disorder, consider why it may have happened. A sudden change is often the catalyst:

  • Has somebody new moved into the home, such as a lodger or baby?
  • Have you got a new pet?
  • Do you have new neighbors? They may be noisy or have a pet that bullies your cat.
  • Have you re-arranged or changed the furniture in your home?
  • Have you started working longer hours, spending more time away from home?

Once you have worked out why your cat is feeling anxious, then you should attempt exposure therapy. Slowly introduce your cat to what it is afraid of. Over time, your cat’s confidence will start to build.

Cat Arching Its Back and Shaking Its Tail

This behavior denotes marking. Your cat is using its anal scent glands to claim territory. Cats often perform this action against walls and doors. It looks like the cat is urinating, but nothing is released.

Your cat is releasing a scent. Other cats will pick up on it and will know that a property has been claimed.

Most spayed or neutered cats will cease this behavior as fixed cats are less territorial. If your cat is still marking, it may feel insecure in your home. Spend more time with your cat and make sure another pet is not bullying it.