Have you ever seen your cat stand on its hind legs like a meerkat or prairie dog? While this move is cute and comical to humans, it serves a useful purpose out in the wild and is an important survival technique.
Cats stand on their hind legs for several reasons. The first is because they are trying to make themselves look bigger to nearby predators. This is a survival tactic used to scare threatening animals away. However, cats that stand up in the house might be trying to get their owners’ attention, reaching for a head bop or treats, or merely satisfying their curiosity if something has piqued their interest. Munchkin cats or felines with short front legs due to a deformity are more likely to do so.
A cat’s posture can say a thousand words. And with so many potential reasons behind your cat’s two-legged stance, it might take some observation before you understand what your cat is looking for. In many cases, cats are just looking for attention from their owners.
Why Do Cats Stand on Two Legs?
Some cats regularly stand on their hind legs – it’s not uncommon for them to walk around in that position either. While it looks adorable, it can be quite confusing the first time a cat makes this move.
Warding Off Predators
Some cats stand on their hind legs when predators are nearby. Therefore, the move is an important survival tactic that allows the cat to appear larger than what it actually is. A cat may also puff up its tail and shuffle sideways while standing on two legs to enhance its size. This allows the cat to frighten off dangerous animals that would otherwise do it harm.
Alongside the two-legged stance, a cat will begin to hiss and growl if the predator comes too close. The cat is getting ready for a fight but is doing its best to diffuse the situation before it leads to that. Cats won’t fight unless they need to do so.
Cats are curious creatures. Curiosity did famously kill the cat, after all. If a cat has spotted something out of a window or has noticed a little bug on the ceiling, it will stand on its hind legs to try to get a closer look.
According to Science Direct, a cat has one of the broadest hearing ranges among mammals. They can hear sounds clearly that humans can’t, so when they hear something that attracts their attention, they will typically investigate by standing on their hind legs to find the source of the noise.
It’s no secret that cats love to be petted, but if you’re not dishing out the love as much as your pet would like, it may take matters into its own hands by standing up to receive a head bop. This move will undoubtedly get any owners’ attention. And coupled with the fact that a cat looks so cute while doing it, who’s going to resist?
Most cats are tuned in to the rustling of a treat bag. So when you get them out of the cupboard, an excited cat will stand on its hind legs to get a closer look. The cat will also try to get to the treats as quickly as possible, especially if the animal is hungry.
If the feline understands that standing on its hind legs gets a good reaction from its human, the cat might do it more regularly to earn more treats. Cats listen for changes in voice tone and inflection, so a human’s reaction is usually a giveaway.
Have Special Needs
Some special needs cats can only move around on their hind legs. This isn’t about being cute – it’s about getting around efficiently and safely. Dubbed the kangaroo cats by their fans, a number of felines born without front legs have burst onto the social media scene to document the plight of these unique animals. Celebrity special needs cats include Lily Bunny Sue Roux, and Roo.
Cats without front legs or paws instead use their hind legs to walk around. They become strong enough that affected cats can use them to hop around. If any part of their front legs remains, special needs cats will often use them to gain balance or push themselves off the ground. These cats are fully adaptable and often thrive with the right support.
How To Get Your Cat To Stand Up
You can teach a cat many tricks, including how to stand on its hind legs. This move is incredibly cute, especially when your cat stands up unexpectedly, so if you want to encourage your cat to rise like a meerkat, try following these steps:
Get Your Cat’s Attention
Begin the training process by attracting your cat’s attention. Treats are the quickest and easiest way to do this, as you can use them for positive reinforcement. This is an effective way to treat a cat with new things.
Start by holding a tasty treat in front of your cat’s nose. Let your pet have a good sniff to pique its interest – your cat will do anything it can to get hold of the treat. But before you feed it to your pet, pull the treat up out of reach so that your pet’s attention is all on you.
During this stage, find ways to encourage your cat to stand up. It might be a long and slow process, but with perseverance and positive reinforcement, you will get there in the end.
Try giving a command, like “stand,” for example. Always reward the behavior; otherwise, your cat won’t have a reason to attempt the trick. To encourage your cat to stand, place the treat near your cat’s nose again and pull it up as it reaches for it. Keep repeating this until your cat begins to rise. Move the treat higher each time.
If you don’t have any treats to hand, dangly toys or anything that can be held above your cat’s head will have the same effect. Once your cat stands up to reach the toy, shout the command then offer the toy or treat as a reward.
Reward the Behavior
In time, you’ll want your cat to stand up on its hind legs on command. If you see your cat standing up naturally throughout the day – maybe because it’s curious about something – shout your command and then reward your cat with a tasty treat.
Your cat will begin to associate the command with standing up and eventually stand on its hind legs without a treat or toy to encourage it.
However, you’ll also want to get stricter with the treat-giving the longer your training continues. Only reward your cat when it understands the command correctly. Otherwise, it won’t associate the command with the standing action.
Cat Breeds That Stand on Hind Legs
Some cat breeds are more prone to standing on their hind legs than others. This can be for various factors, but it often helps a cat with its everyday life. These are the most likely breeds to stand upright:
Munchkin cats are a controversial breed. When they were first introduced in 1991, some members of the public were horrified by the cat’s physical deformities and believed the breeding process to be unethical. While experts argue that the Munchkin is a healthy breed, some cats suffer from lordosis, which is where the spinal muscles grow too short, making the spine sink down into the cat’s body.
As described in BMC Genetics, Munchkin cats were founded on a naturally occurring mutation. Short-legged cats show disproportionate dwarfism (chondrodysplasia), in which all four legs are short. As a result, Munchkins are known for standing on their hind legs.
Because of their short legs, Munchkins can stand tall while keeping their body perfectly balanced. As they naturally exist closer to the ground than most other cats, this move allows them to look around at their surroundings. Despite their stature, they are excellent jumpers and climbers and can hop about fairly effortlessly on their hind legs.
Scottish Fold cats are defined by their ears, which face forward and down toward the face. Their ears are caused by a naturally occurring dominant gene mutation that causes a crease in the ear cartilage. In 1961, the first Scottish Fold, Susie, was found roaming a Perthshire farm by William Ross, who registered the cat and one of her kittens with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF).
Some Scottish Fold cats have picked up the same gene found in the Munchkin cat breed due to recent breeding programs. This causes shortened forelegs and hind legs.
Scottish Folds are known for their human-like behaviors. They often sit with their hind legs displayed in front of them. And if something piques their interest, they will stand up to see what is going on. Coupled with their folded ears, Scottish Fold cats have an incredibly cute appearance that many cat owners love.
Almost all Scottish Fold cats are affected by SFOCD, which is characterized by skeletal abnormalities. Cats with the disease suffer from weak cartilage that isn’t strong enough to support their bodies. This includes not only the ears but the metacarpal bones, phalanges, and caudal vertebrae. Affected cats may appear reluctant to jump and feel pain when they run or walk.
Persian cats are one of the most distinctive cat breeds, thanks to their flat faces and thick, fluffy coats. They’re not the most energetic cats, but they do enjoy short periods of high-energy activities and love to play with their owners.
They have a calm and gentle personality and are highly curious by nature, which causes them to find out what’s going on around them. Instead of climbing or jumping to a high location, they will stand on their back legs to get a better look. Though, you won’t find them standing for long periods of time as they’re usually keen to get back to lounging.
Persian cats aren’t often affected by skeletal or limb problems like the Munchkin, and Scottish Fold breeds are prone to. Instead, they have difficulty breathing and sometimes suffer from kidney issues. With careful management and regular check-ups, Persians are able to lead long and healthy lives.
When any cat decides to sit on its hind legs, it’s rarely a problem. Cats make this move to satisfy their curiosity or to get their owners’ attention, whether it be for petting or to earn some treats. However, cats that are being threatened by another animal will stand on their hind legs.
If your cat is doing this in the house, it’s worth getting to the bottom of whether your cat is bothered by another animal or person in the household. If so, this move might indicate that your cat is uncomfortable, and intervention might be required.