Cat Etiquette

Why your cat claws and bites when you rub its tummy

Animal behaviour experts have worked with Cats Protection to produce a guide to help pet owners know what their cats want.

It helps explain often contradictory behaviour by these precious animals – like why they often scratch and bite when they appear to want their stomachs rubbed.

The guide also includes advice about how to respond to these signals and common misinterpretations made by cat owners.


Nicky Trevorrow, Cat Protection’s behaviour manager, said: “They are quite complicated and subtle in their behaviour, much more so than social species like ourselves and dogs.

“When a cat throws itself on its side and shows its belly, most people misinterpret this behaviour and think that it wants its belly rubbed but will get grabbed by their hand and the cat will bite them.

“What the cat is actually doing is showing a greeting behaviour and showing trust. It is actually an abuse of that trust to stroke its belly. What the cat would rather you do is to give it a slight head rub.

“When a cat comes towards you with their tail upwards, it is a sign of their greeting. The best thing to do is to acknowledge their greeting and give their head a rub.”

The charity produced the short three minute video guide after conducting a survey of 1,100 cat owners to see what they thought their pets were trying to communicate.

Three quarters of those asked did not know that the cat’s upright tail meant it was pleased to see them, while a third thought a cat wanted its tummy tickled when it lies on its back.

A third of owners also failed to recognise a slow-blinking cat as meaning they were content and 65 per cent thought a purring cat means it is always happy, but it can also be a sign of pain.

Half of owners were unaware that cats show stress by licking their lips and a quarter thought cats shed hair intentionally to mark their territory.

Mrs Trevorrow added: “If a cat is stressed it is really important to give them a place to hide and to get up high.”

I have a cat that loves having her belly brushed – but only in the living room while laying in front of the sliding glass door to the back yard.

They missed a few signs too. One is when a cat is staring at something and it’s tail is slashing back and forth from side to side. I call this the angry cat.

Another sign is when the cat gets on a table or counter and start knocking stuff off onto the floor. This is an attention seeking device.

Last but not least is when the cat jumps on your bed in the morning and starts poking you in the head with its paw while purring or meowing. This means “Get up and fix my breakfast!”

Bah, humbug!

Bah, humbug!

About Myiq2xu

I was born and raised in a different country - America. I don't know what this place is.
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53 Responses to Cat Etiquette

  1. The Klown says:

    Anybody who has owned cats and/or dogs knows that they can communicate rather well when they want to.

    • Cats communicate best when they are hungry. The paw massages on one’s abdomen probably means they are hungry and can’t understand how our stomach is full when theirs is not. The cat on the counter might also mean they are hungry. The upright tail greeting might also mean, “oh good, you’re here, let’s hunt”. Licking one’s coat of fur might be a way of saying, “I’m just as busy as you are, and soon you’ll be freaking out when I try and expel the hairball pretending to be the meal you never gave me.”

  2. Somebody says:

    We used to have a cat that went under the covers every morning, wrapped his claws around my big toe ever so slightly, but firm enough to have a good hold and then he’d bite my big toe.

    That was how he told me he wanted breakfast. If I didn’t immediately get up and feed him or made any attempt to return to my slumber or tried to get away, he’d really get rough with me. He’d dig his claws in deeper, breaking the skin and bite much harder, hard enough to draw blood. Needless to say after a couple of times I learned to get up immediately when that damn cat had my toe. I got up and fed the bastard no matter what, after surgery, when I was burning up with fever you name it, otherwise he’d rip my big toe to shreds.

    He didn’t do that to anybody else in the house, only me. I didn’t care for that cat, his morning “greetings” were the tip of the iceberg when it came to our love/hate relationship. He also chewed my shoes if I ticked him off and once shredded the bottom 3-4 inches of every dress I owned!

    I wonder if cat protection has interpretations for those actions?

  3. LOL on the cat wake up calls.Jack will lie next to my head and begin purring. The purring gets louder and louder and LOUDER! He is the loudest damn cat I have ever heard. Seriously- sometimes I can hear him when I am in the living room downstairs and he is upstairs sunning on my bed.
    If the “I am a lion hear me ROAR” bit doesn’t work- he calls in reinforcements. He’ll get Miss Smokey Bones in on the act- and she will pace up and down, up and down my body, while he rumbles on and begins kneading my hair.
    It’s an adventure. Dogs are easier I think.

    • Somebody says:

      In some ways dogs are easier I suppose, but I think cats are easier. We had two cats when my older two kids were growing up. As you know we had little somebody when my older two were teens. Little somebody wanted a dog, so we now have two dogs.

      Just my personal observations, the cats were easier and cheaper. We could put food in a self feeder and go out of town for a few days with the cats, you can’t do that with dogs you have to have a sitter or find a kennel. My cats didn’t run up the kind of vet bills my dogs have. I had one cat with bladder stones that cost us a little bit, but one of my dogs has bladder stones and he’s cost a LOT more.

      You can train dogs and they do want to behave to earn your approval, whereas most cats don’t care. So I guess the training aspect to many people nudges the scales toward dogs???

      I loved our cats, one much more than the other, lol! In addition to mister toe biter we had a persian that I adored. I love my dogs too, but once they’re gone I don’t intend to have another pet.

  4. Somebody says:

    OT is this really a government twitter account that sent this out?

    • DeniseVB says:

      It’s the fake account, hard to tell isn’t it 😉

      • Somebody says:

        Thanks Denise, I figured one of you guys would know for sure. When I saw this I thought surely it had to be a fake/spoof site, at least I hoped it was………..but I could see Obama telling us all to get used to his control.

        • DeniseVB says:

          From the twitter bio:

          Big-Government Web Site. Loves long walks down hospital corridors, anthrax and other progressive causes. Curing Tea-Party ignorance 140 characters at a time.

          LOL !

  5. jeffhas says:

    I recognize those last four signs as well – my wife has been doing those things for years.

    Too bad cats don’t have opposable thumbs so they could throw a bottle (or plate, or big ass candle) – the resemblance would be even more uncanny.

  6. DeniseVB says:

    Wish I had a cute kitty story, but dh is highly allergic. Too bad there isn’t such thing as a Portuguese Water Cat 😉

  7. swanspirit says:

    Many years ago, I had a large Persian cat that used to jump heavily onto my boyfriends chest in the morning on his way to the window and then strut around proudly . He never ever jumped on me . My boyfriend hated that cat . I realized my cat was trying to tell me ” This guy is such a loser , get rid of him ” Communication from cats is important 😉

    • Somebody says:

      Hmmmm so swan do you think my toe biting cat was trying to tell my husband to get rid of me????

      • swanspirit says:

        Entirely different thing , you are “chosen ” to be the one who has the privilege of feeding your kitty . My ex used to accuse Feathers of trying to give him a heart attack , waking him suddenly from a sound sleep by jumping on his chest , essentially just using him as a stepping stone to get across the bed . Things that make you go hmmmm

    • The Klown says:

      I dated a woman whose dog was jealous of me. He used to chew up my shoes whenever I stayed over.

  8. DeniseVB says:

    Oh this is pure JOY …. Krauthammer nails PBS….on PBS 😀

    myiq would have fun with some of those commenters on Mediaite.

  9. elliesmom says:

    It’s in the teens here, and it snowed over night. I didn’t have the heart to kick the pets out of bed last night. Ellie weighs 65 lbs, and she “spoons”. Maxine weighs about 10 lbs. and she needs the bottom 2 feet of the bed. If I roll over on Ellie, she moves to accommodate it. Sometimes into Elliesdad’s territory, but not usually because she knows that gets her kicked out.If I accidentally let a foot move into Maxine’s space, she bites it. I get a nap this afternoon- alone.

    • Lulu says:

      No critters in the bed with me. They do have matching beds across the room with upholstered headboards with decorative tacks, fuzzy throws, and bed skirts. I made them. I have been asked why they don’t have a good reading lamp and I say they never have asked for one.

      • DeniseVB says:

        In my next life I want to come back as a Lulu pet 😀

      • elliesmom says:

        My pets have their own beds, too. There are several different scenarios. On a hot night, Maxine sleeps on the deck and Ellie on the stone floor in the shower. Comfortable nights it’s Ellie in her bed and Maxine in hers. A little colder and Maxine steals Ellie’s bed, and Ellie sleeps on the carpet, but whines all night. When the temps go below freezing, Maxine steals the end of my bed, and Ellie gets her own. But it was cooold here last night. Not quite a “Three Dog Night”, but at least a two. On nights like that when the temps approach zero, it’s major cuddle time for everyone.

        • The Klown says:

          I read that that’s how the Skandis deal with blizzards and sub-zero temps – everyone huddles together until it’s over – sometimes multiple families.

  10. The Klown says:

    I just finished watching Quentin Tarantino’s best movie – Jackie Brown. If you haven’t seen it, you are missing out. Pam Grier, Robert Forester, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Chris Tucker, Bridget Fonda and Michael Keaton.

    He made it before being a director went to his head.

  11. helenk3 says:

    this is sad and something to think about

    they used to call the people of the 1920s the lost generation due the excess after WW1 but thing we have caused our own lost generations

  12. helenk3 says:

    A while ago people here told me about ruko. i got it and want to thank you for the information about it. during all the reruns on TV , I got to watch movies and older tv series that i missed because I was working when they were on.
    for those of you who are trying to think of a good Christmas gift ruko is a great one.

  13. helenk3 says:

    Peter OToole died today
    may he RIP
    a great actor who gave many entertainment

      • angienc says:

        Great find! I’m stealing the clip & posting it to FB.

        I loved Peter O’Toole — a true movie *star* & some of my favorite movies have him (Lawrence of Arabia; Becket; The Lion in Winter; Goodbye Mr. Chips). I can’t believe he didn’t win an Oscar other than a “Lifetime Achievement” one. The year of Lawrence of Arabia he lost to Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird, which — ok, nobody beats Atticus Finch & the year of Becket he lost to Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady — arguable, but I can accept. But losing the year of Lion in Winter to Cliff Robertson in Charly *after* having lost for the previous two? Bullshit.

    • westcoaster says:

      he sees everything as black or white

    • Lulu says:

      That photo portrait is ghastly. It may be the worst photo of his ugly mug I have ever seen. He is grinning like in Nicholson in the The Shining who was portraying a lunatic. And did they pin his ears back? The ass kissing suck up who hung such a contemporary black and white head shot between two historic portraits probably thinks it is edgy or some such shit.

  14. Lulu says:

    Ted Cruz 3rd ‘most influential’ world leader, behind pope, Obama in Rasumussen poll. Bwahahahaha. A first year Senator who tried to delay Obamacare is behind the pope and the prezzie but ahead of everyone else. I guess the vilification didn’t work out.

  15. DeniseVB says:

    Oh my, about that “affluenza” case about the rich kid getting a wrist slap for killing 4 of his buddies….

    • mothy67 says:

      Does the family of the injured kid have grounds to sue the driver as he was also drunk and got into the truck of his own volition? Sad what happened but seems to me he was also culpable in the loss of life by allowing the teen to drive and even encouraging him by going along.

      • Lulu says:

        One of the injured kids has an enormous lawsuit against spoiled brat’s father as his business owned the pickup truck that the little drunk used to kill and maim everyone. That is just the first one I’m sure. They are asking for 20 million as the kid is a quadriplegic with brain injuries. The victims and survivors will attempt to clean out the rich father and after this verdict they will probably be successful. Daddy may wish he let the moron spend a couple of years in a first offenders prison unit with a long parole. He will not buy off a civil jury and he doesn’t get to pick a judge’s verdict and award like in a criminal case.

        • mothy67 says:

          I hope that the families get some sort of justice and although it is an incomprehensible tragedy that the young man is in the state he’s in. Just seems to me that the passenger with him is not the victim that those who were struck are. He too was intoxicated and he willfully got in the vehicle with a drunk driver. Let the families of the four who died clean the family out. Odd that the treatment for “affluenza” so resembles the cause.

        • left_VA_&_Dems_for_TX says:

          “Judge Boyd said that programs available in the Texas juvenile justice system might not provide the intensive therapy the teen could receive at a rehabilitation center in California as proposed by the defense. The parents agreed to pay for treatment, which was estimated to cost about $450,000.”

          Have the parents been required to deposit the money in advance into an account controlled by the state for the years of private rehabilitation?

          Because after the civil court gets done with Ethan’s parents will Fred and Tonya Couch have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of much less pay for his country club therapy?

  16. DeniseVB says:

    Something to smile about, Historic WH Christmas photos, and snark, enjoy!

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