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Why cats show you their belly

Like dogs, cats can show you their bellies as a sign of confidence. The cat is predatory and preys in nature. The stomach is a vulnerable area from attacks by other predators. Cats instinctively avoid showing their belly, especially if they don’t feel 100% safe or secure.

Your cat has been letting your snuggle them when they flop down and show off their fuzzy belly. Considering this is too irresistible to resist, you naturally go in hand outstretched ready to give a nice little tummy rub when Ouch! Your cat yelps, bites, scratches, or just hops up storming off in a huff. What happened? Weren’t they saying “give my tum a scratchy scratch”? Why do cats show off their fluffy underbelly and then get mad when you try and touch it?

Cats are complex, with different needs and needs, so when they roll and show their belly, there are some reasons why they might get angry when touched.

They are ready to fight an attack
If you are around dogs, you know that when they roll, it means one thing: scrub my stomach! Dogs whose stomach appears are a sign of submission, while with cats it can be a sign of defense. Your cat has teeth and claws and when it rolls over its teeth and claws it is ready to come to you! As far as they seem to show their stomach, they can show you their weapon. Listen to your cat’s body language. If your cat:

  • a.) Licking their lips
  • b.) Flattening their ears
  • c.) Making annoyed meows or hissing or growling noises
  • They are ready to let it rip with their claws and teeth! So leave them alone!

They’re relaxing
Your cat may be sprawling out on their back because they are feeling very relaxed. Cats tend to do this frequently when they are playing with their favorite toy, lying in a sunny spot, or just getting ready for a nap. When you come in with your large hand that wants to pet their stomach, you are ruining their relaxed mood! Imagine being at a spa, sitting in a hot tub and someone begins giving you a foot massage without even asking! That’s what it’s like for your cat. Let them chill in peace or they might give you a scratch or a bite to let you know they want their quiet time.

They’re in the heat
Yep! If your cat is not spayed, she might be showing off their stomach as a sign of affection and sexual frustration for lack of a mate. If your cat is feeling randy don’t go in for a belly rub! That is not what they are looking for, and the feeling of being in heat is very uncomfortable for a cat. So the added personal discomfort of having someone rub their belly when it is not what they want can be infuriating. Give your cat some space until she has calmed down.

They’re showing you that they trust you
Cats will roll over right in your path and are not necessarily asking for belly rubs. They could simply be showing you they love and trust you not to hurt them, and they want you to know and give them some attention. Again (and this can be confusing) it doesn’t necessarily mean they want a tummy scratch. They could simply want you to notice them. Give them a gentle scratch under the chin or a pat behind the ear. It really depends on whether your cat enjoys having their stomach touched. However, even if they do sometimes like a belly rub, a belly rub may not be what they want from you at that very second. As well-intentioned as it may seem, going for their tender underbelly can feel like an attack and ruin their trust. You don’t want to do that!