One second you are lovingly stroking your cat’s chin and belly; the next, your hand is trapped between her sharp claws while she aggressively bites your fingers! What happened?
Most cats do not readily display their vulnerable belly to just anyone. When they do, it is out of trust and love toward the human in question. This affectionate gesture is often mistaken as an invitation to pet them, but the truth is cats almost always never want their bellies touched – even by their favorite human companions.
If you are like most of us, you have probably made the mistake of extending your petting all the way to your cat’s sensitive belly, and been scratched in return. You have just fallen for a “cat belly trap”, and it hurts! But what actually is a cat belly trap, and why do cats respond this way? Let us find out below!
Why is cat belly a trap?
Have you ever wondered why cats attack when you pet their bellies?
You probably think your cat loves it, and that they are just a bit over-excited. But, more often than not, it is probably the opposite – most cats hate belly rubs and might respond harshly if you do not back off right away. Do not take it personally, though, as this is just their instinctual response to help keep them safe from predators.
This situation is what some cat parents affectionately refer to as the cat belly trap, and this behavior is a natural defense mechanism used by cats to protect themselves from potential injury.
Cats are very sensitive to touch, and they do enjoy being touched by humans. But when we touch them on their sensitive areas, such as the belly, they feel ticklish and uncomfortable. The only way they can stop the feeling is through biting and scratching – so they do!
It is important to note that cats do not always mean to be aggressive when they bite; sometimes they just want to play, or to warn their owners. But even if the biting is not intentional, it still hurts!
The best way to avoid this scenario is not to take the bait in the first place! Let your kitty roll over on her back as you scratch her favorite body parts, while keeping a close eye on her body language and knowing when to stop.
Why is the cat’s belly vulnerable?
There are a lot of good reasons for cats to be overprotective of their bellies!
First off, the belly houses their vital organs, such as the liver, stomach, intestines, kidneys, and reproductive organs. There is only a tiny space between these organs and the skin; hence, injuries around the tummy could be potentially fatal!
Cats are somehow smart enough to know their weakest areas, so they guard their bellies against any potential danger. This is also the reason they tuck their heads toward their tummies when they feel threatened or under attack.
It is a cat’s instinct to protect their belly
Cats are both predators and prey. In the wild, they are known to be among the most efficient hunters. But their size is also small enough to become prey to other larger animals! And they know that giving predators access to their vulnerable bellies will reduce their chances of survival.
So, if your cat tries to attack your hand whenever you touch her belly, know that this is just her natural protection reflex coming into play. Remember that she is not being mean when she scratches or bites – it is just a defensive mechanism which is beyond her control!
Exposed belly is a sign of trust
Cats proudly display their fluffy tummies to their human guardians as a sign of trust. If your furry friend shows off her belly, it simply means she is feeling relaxed and comfortable around you. Unless she requests the belly rub, this open display of trust and affection is not an invitation to pet her! Most cats do not appreciate belly rubs as their canine counterparts do.
So, resist the temptation and avoid those sharp claws and teeth. Instead, give your fluffy friend a brief chin tickle or a nice scratch behind the ears – she is sure to appreciate it more!
How to know when you are facing a cat belly trap
Some cats tolerate being petted on their bellies, while others might act up if you touch that sensitive spot. Every cat is different, with a different threshold for petting! The bottom line is that you need to understand your cat’s preferences and body language so you can safely avoid triggering her petting aggression. If you fail to heed your cat’s early warnings, you are likely to get scratched, bitten, and bunny-kicked.
Watch out for these tell-tale signs to avoid the cat belly trap:
- Switching tail
- Twitching or flattened ears
- Dilated pupils
- Your hand being repeatedly pushed away by your cat’s back feet
- Gentle nibbling
- Front paws grabbing your hand
- Staring at your hand while you pet
- Hissing and growling
- Fur puffed up on the back
- Attempts to bite or scratch your hand
How to escape the cat belly trap
Those soft, fluffy cat bellies are undeniably hard to resist! If you are like many cat parents, your hand has probably fallen into the painful belly trap several times already.
But, in case your hand gets stuck again between your feline’s sharp claws, here is what you need to do to safely escape. First, apologize to your fur-kid for not recognizing her limits. Cats might never understand your words, but your soft tone will help her feel safe and relaxed.
You must also stop the petting right away! From the cranky meow and body language of your cat, she is obviously annoyed and uncomfortable. Never try to pull your hand out, as this can further trigger her aggression. Simply stop the movement until your cat willingly lets go of your hand.
If you have her favorite toy within your reach, try to redirect her attention to the toy. If the aggression subsides, reward your kitty with a tasty treat right away.
Lastly, never try to pet your cat’s belly again. And share the lesson with other family members, too, so they can avoid the cat belly trap!
Cats love attention, but most of them hate being petted on their bellies! Often, our furry companions will let us know their annoyance by growling, licking, or biting. Hopefully, you can decipher these early warning signs and avoid your cat’s vengeful claws.
Image: istockphoto.com / Zigmunds Dizgalvis