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 can reveal how your pet is feeling physically and mentally. Body language and posture, such as arching the spine, has several possible explanations:

  • Stretching the muscles after yawning
  • Hunting
  • Immediate precursor to pouncing
  • Frightened
  • Making herself look as big as possible
  • Pain
  • Discomfort in the abdomen or spine

You need to identify why your cat is walking with an arched back. If she is scared, you should try to calm your pet down. If she is in pain, you need to find out why. Cats hide their pain until physically incapable of doing so. Your feline may have been uncomfortable for quite some time.

My Cat Stretching Her Muscles?

After a long sleep, a cat needs to stretch. She needs her muscles to be supple for future hunting. By arching her back and stretching, the cat unlinks muscles in her back.

Some cats arch their back when being petted. This is the cat saying, “this feels good, please continue.” The behavior will invariably be accompanied by purring.

The cat is also sharing her scent with you. Felines have scent glands in the anus. You cannot tell, but your cat is releasing her scent on you. This is a compliment. Your cat is marking you as a source of pleasure and inviting you to exchange scents.

Is My Cat Hunting?

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

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

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

Sometimes, a cat will arch her back when excited and overstimulated. Again, this is common in kittens. Your cat may have more energy than she knows what to do with. Calm your cat down. If she remains excited, she may ‘hunt’ your toes or ankles to release tension.

Is My Cat Arching Her 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 attack from predators.

A cat arching her back in pain is clearly in distress. Speak to a vet ASAP and monitor your cat’s other behaviors. The problem may be a short-term external injury or a significant medical concern.

As per the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, pain in cats is difficult to manage. Cats are allergic to many painkilling drugs and anesthetics.

My Cat is Limping and Arching Her Back

A cat that limps is clearly in pain. Before seeking professional help, assess what is causing this to happen. Reasons for cats to limp include:

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

Check your cat’s paws thoroughly. Look 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 pet may have fallen from height. She may have misjudged a jump between two surfaces. She may have pounced too quickly while hunting. Moving too quickly can pull or tear muscle tissue in cats.

cat arching back in pain

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. This explains the limp and arched back.

My Old Cat is Walking with a Hunched Back

A cat of any age walking with an arched back merits investigation. It becomes especially important in older cats. The most likely explanation is arthritis.

It is claimed that 80% of cats aged ten or over have arthritis. The condition is not breed-or-size specific. Any cat can develop arthritis later in her life. 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. It’s an unfortunate part of the aging process. The pain inflicted by the condition can be managed. Options could include supplements, pain medication, and massage.

A range of other, more drastic concerns also affects older cats. These include:

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

These concerns will be painful. They may also impact the stomach. This is why a cat arches her back. She is keeping her stomach as far from the ground as possible.

Take a senior cat for two annual veterinary examinations per year. The earlier you catch such issues, the likelier your pet’s chances of recovery.

Does My Cat Feel Threatened?

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

Your cat may not realize she is doing this. It is an involuntary reaction, known as piloerection. When something frightens a cat, her body releases adrenaline. This, in turn, causes piloerection. Think of an arched back as feline goosebumps.

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

The piloerection will not last for long. Your cat’s posture should soon return to normal. Your pet will then go about her business as though nothing happened.

If your cat is in a regular state of agitation, think about why. No cat should live in a constant state of anxiety. As Veterinary Clinics of North America explains, this leads to behavioral difficulties. It can also place stress on a cat’s heart.

Temporary Reasons for Cats to Feel Threatened

Many things spark a short-term fear response in cats. Although felines appear calm and indifferent, they are often nervous. Cats realize how small they are. Common fear triggers for cats include:

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

A reaction to these stimuli should be fleeting. Your cat will soon return to behaving as normal. Give your cat space. Once she falls back in her usual routine, your cat will forget the stressful experience.

Permanent Reasons for Cats to Feel Threatened

A cat may feel permanently threatened. Some cats are nervous by nature. Others have a recurrent trigger within the home environment.

If you have a fearful cat, you should have your cat tested. A medical condition may be to blame for her nerves. If not, make your cat’s life as comfortable as possible. If your cat has suddenly developed an anxiety disorder, think about why. A change is often the catalyst for this:

  • 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 own.
  • Have you re-arranged or changed the furniture in your home?
  • Have you started working longer hours, spending more time away from home?

If you work out why your cat is anxious, attempt exposure therapy. Slowly introduce your cat to that which she is afraid of. Over time, your cat’s confidence will build.

How to Help a Frightened Cat

Allow your cat plenty of hiding spaces around the home. If possible, assign one room as your cat’s territory. She will take comfort from this. Above all, ensure that your cat has a strict routine. Feed, groom, and play with your cat at set times every day.

Aromatherapy is also effective for nervous cats. Apply the following scents to your home for a calmer pet.

  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Valerian

Rescue Remedy, the OTC remedy for human anxiety, is also feline-safe. For your safety, do not attempt to apply this to a cat with an arched back. Place a couple of drops in her water.

Do not force interaction with anything that makes her uncomfortable. Above all, never scold or punish a cat for being afraid. This will add you to her list of phobias.

cat running sideways with arched back

My Cat is Running Sideways with an Arched Back

She is enhancing the size of her profile. The cat wishes to make herself look as intimidating as possible. Walking sideways helps a cat look even bigger when she arches her back.

Most of the time, this behavior is designed to frighten. The cat is trying to scare off a potential predator or foe. It could also be the posture of an angry cat. By walking sideways, a cat can access the claws on all four paws. She may be readying herself for a fight.

A cat may also assume this position when hunting. Most cats make themselves small when stalking prey. This minimizes the risk of being spotted. The cat may feel she needs all four claws for a larger quarry, though.

You will see this behavior often in kittens. In this instance, it’s less aggressive and more playful. The young cats are showing that they mean no harm through exaggerated body language. It’s a warning that a pounce is coming.

My Cat is in Heat and Keeps Arching Her Back

Your cat is arching her back to release scents. These scents, in turn, let male cats know that your pet is in season. Your home will become popular with neighborhood toms. The only way to prevent this behavior is spaying. There are many health benefits to spaying a cat, including:

  • Reduced risk of breast cancer
  • Reduced likelihood of UTIs
  • Reduced aggression and territoriality
  • Curbed instinct to wander, reducing the risk of traffic accidents

It’s also possible that your cat is arching her back in discomfort. Nobody knows for sure if cats in heat are in pain. Your pet will undoubtedly be frustrated, which may encourage an arching of the back.

My Cat is Arching Her Back and Shaking Her Tail

This behavior denotes marking. Your cat is using her 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 actually releasing a scent. It’s not something the human nose can detect. Other cats will pick up on it, though. They will know that a property has been claimed.

Most spayed or neutered cats will cease this behavior. Fixed cats are less territorial. If your cat is still marking, consider why. She may feel insecure in your home. Spend more time with your cat and ensure another pet is not bullying her.