Why Do Cats Raise Their Backs When You Pet Them?

Why Do Cats Raise Their Backs When You Pet Them
Image: istockphoto.com / npdesignde

Cats are famous for their unique and sometimes weird behavior and this holds true also for petting and cuddling time. Once cats become familiar with petting and cuddling they may react in many ways including by closing their eyes, sniffing your face, rubbing their faces against your hands and raising their backs. 

Why do cats raise their backs when you pet them?

Cats raise their backs when you pet them to signify that they trust and appreciate you. This indicates that they like your gestures and appreciates what you are doing. They may also raise their backs to amplify the pressure as it aids in transferring their scent through the anal glands and as a way to verify the scent. 

Some cats may do a more extreme move by raising their back end in your face. This may look improper and offensive to people but for a cat, this is like bestowing the highest form of gratitude. Your cat may just be telling you that you have hit a good spot and that you are petting her in all the right places.  Most cats like to be scratched and petted at the base of their tails although each of them has their favorite petting spots. 

Aside from showing their trust and spreading their scent, cats may also raise their backs as a way to increase the tactile pleasure from petting, especially when petting near the hips and base of the tail. This is because there are many nerve endings in these particular areas. The action is also reminiscent of their infantile behavior wherein kittens present their back-ends to their mothers for cleaning and cats extend this to their humans since they see you as their surrogate mother.  

What is an elevator butt?

Another term that cat experts use when a cat raises their back is the “elevator butt”.  This is characterized by a cat lowering her front end toward the ground while elevating the back-end or butt region and tail.

Here are its common interpretations or meanings:

1. As a means of spreading a cat’s scent. 

A cat raising her back is also exposing her rear, which is the area where scent glands are present. By doing the elevator butt, a cat places herself in a vulnerable position by exposing her scent while also declaring her trust in a person.

2. As a mating display. 

The elevator butt’s technical term is lordosis which is a posture used by intact female cats to signify that they are ready to mate. Cats adopt this posture when they are in heat. Usually, cats become more affectionate when they are in heat and may go into this position when you pet them. Other cats also use this position when marking urine to spray the urine higher. 

3. To initiate play and attention.

Although you may already be petting her,  this behavior of raising her back may mean that your cat is inviting your attention for further interaction and play.  

To initiate play and attention.
Image: istockphoto.com / Gaschwald

Why do some cats dislike having their backs touched?

While some cats like being touched and petted in the back, some do not like it at all.  However, this does not mean that your cat resents you or does not trust you. Some cats are just like that and it is just a part of their character. 

Your cat may also be more sensitive compared to others and the back side happens to have many nerve endings. Sensitive cats do not like the “tickled feeling” which explains why they do not like to be touched in that area.

Finally, your cat may dislike having her back touched or petted because she has health conditions like a spinal disc problem and she may be experiencing sudden pain. Cats may also suffer from back pain due to kidney problems. Consult your vet should you suspect that your cat is in some degree of pain. 

Final thoughts 

Spending some quality time with your furry friend becomes more meaningful with the cuddling, petting, and snuggling. Your cat may respond by raising her back when you pet her which in most cases is a show of her appreciation and trust.