We’ve all been fooled by it. Your cat stretches out beside you, its soft belly pointing straight up to the sky. It is so fluffy and inviting that you reach out and slide your fingers into its deep fur. But no matter how good your intentions, this action almost always ends in failure. For some reason, most cats do not like their bellies rubbed. As soon as your hand touches its furry belly, it opens its teeth and claws. This is typical cat behavior, but there is a reason most cats don’t like their bellies touched.
It’s because it’s a sensitive place.
According to National Geographic, the hair follicles on a cat’s belly are very sensitive to touch. These are similar to the hairs on a cat’s tail, which contribute to the cat’s sense of space. Rubbing the hand along the soft hairs of a cat’s belly can be too stimulating for some cats. Cats prefer to place their hands on their favorite petting areas, such as under the chin and behind the ears.
These are vulnerable areas.
Most of a cat’s vital organs are located under the soft fur of its belly. Cats may trust you, but that doesn’t mean they like to be touched in this vulnerable area. Cats have an instinct to protect vital organs. That is how they survive in the wild, and that rule remains true even in a pampered home. It is always safer to be overprotective than to be careless. Don’t take it for granted that a cat will attack your hand because it is protecting its tummy. This does not necessarily mean that it does not trust you. Cats may be your best friend, but their survival instincts rule, even if they don’t mean to.
So why do cats want us to look at their bellies?
If cats don’t want us to touch their bellies, why do they keep rolling over and exposing their danger zones? Are they trying to trick us? Or are they trying to prove once and for all that cats are complex and capricious creatures? While it is impossible to know exactly what your cat is thinking, cat behaviorists, using their knowledge of feline instincts and body language, have some guesses. First, cats turning over is not the invitation you might think it is. When a dog turns over and shows its belly, it is sending a very clear message. They want you to rub their belly. It may also be a sign of obedience as a master. But what we do know about cats is that they are not like dogs. They definitely do not think you are in charge. A cat might lie down and show its belly because it wants a good stretch. It could also be because they feel particularly comfortable in that position. But showing its belly in this way is actually a defensive posture for cats.
When a cat is on its back, it can use all of its best weapons: its four claws and teeth. By kicking the rabbit with its hind legs, it can easily defend itself with every weapon at the ready. This is why you often see cats rolling before a big fight. If they are not in an attack position, their best option is to stay on the defensive.
Cats have personalities.
While many cats do not like having their bellies rubbed, there are exceptions. In my cat’s case, it seems to depend on her mood. When he is sleepy and in a cozy mood (which is seldom), he doesn’t seem to mind if I gently stroke the soft fur on his belly. However, when they are acting up in the house (which is often), if I try to sit still and pet their tummies, I can see their claws coming out. Over time, some cats come to enjoy having their bellies stroked. In short, you need to read the cat’s body language and respect its wishes. If it responds with its paws when you rub its belly, the meaning is clear. Show that you respect the cat’s individuality by not touching it with your hands. No matter how attractive its belly may seem.
by Amber King