Why do cats wiggle their butts before pouncing on food?

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One of our favorite cute cat behaviors is wiggling their little butts every time they pounce on food. Before your cat pounces on your ankle or catnip mouse, pay attention. They crouch low, eyes wide open, tail wagging constantly, and wiggle their butt back and forth before pouncing on you. It’s cute, but why would our ferocious living room lions make such a silly move? There are a few possible reasons why cats wiggle their butts, but as it turns out, none of them have anything to do with cuteness.

You know what?


It’s not just domestic cats that wiggle their butts before pouncing on food. Watch wild felines like lions and jaguars and you’ll notice the same phenomenon. If the pounce fails, these big cat predators have more to lose than domestic cats. While a domestic cat can try again later, a tiger misses an important meal.

Big cats wiggle their hips when they hunt, suggesting that this behavior is an innate instinct for all cats. The cat in your living room is the product of thousands of years of domestication, but still retains some instincts left over from its wild ancestors. The fact that wild cats have this behavior means that they must have some kind of important purpose.

Why do they squirm?

As of 2020, there are no scientific studies on this particular behavior in cats. Without experimental evidence, we can’t determine why cats wriggle their hips before pouncing on food. However, we can hear how cat behaviorists and animal experts explain this behavior and come up with some plausible theories.

Here are the most likely reasons behind this butt-wiggling behavior.

Finding Traction

John Hutchinson, a professor of evolutionary biomechanics, believes that this mysterious butt-wiggling behavior has nothing to do with the cat’s hind limbs, but rather with the ground beneath its feet. He says that cats that wiggle their butt before pouncing on food are actually moving their hind legs. Cats may be doing this to keep their feet on the ground to increase traction.

When a cat jumps on food, its hind legs push its body forward. If the ground is slippery, the hind legs can slip and impede forward progress. Cats want to gain as much strength as possible, which means pushing off hard surfaces. So when they crouch and move their hind legs (twisting their hips in the process), they are testing the ground to make sure they are in the right position to launch an attack.

Stretching and warming up

Pouncing requires strength and agility. While a cat’s movements may look effortless, it takes a lot of muscle to move smoothly. Most of the muscle comes from the hind legs, and a cat’s cute butt-wiggling action may be stretching and preparing for a big jump.

Watching a cat wiggle its butt before a jump is like watching a baseball player swing a bat while waiting for a pitch. Or think of athletes jumping or touching their toes before the starting line. Even golfers try to swing and bend their knees before teeing off. Cats, like all animals, are athletes, and their adorable writhing behavior may be a way to warm up.

Excitement and Nervousness

Whether it’s a lion in the wild or a tabby cat in the living room, they’re excited when they’re about to pounce on food. They’re thinking about how delicious their next meal will be or how satisfying their bold move will be. Cats are high on adrenaline and their excited energy needs a place to be released. According to Marilyn Krieger, a certified cat behavior consultant, cats wiggle their hips before pouncing on food because they are excited and ready.

Imagine a small child jumping up and down before running into the playground. They do it out of excitement, and there’s probably nothing you can do about it. They may not even realize what they are doing.

The next time you see a cat wiggling its butt before pouncing on food, consider these possible explanations. Is there an appropriate explanation for this situation?

by Amber King.

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