cat walking arched back

Why Is My Cat Walking With An Arched Back?

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As cat parents, we know that cats are eccentrics. Therefore, more often than not, we contribute habits to their quirky personalities. One common example is when cats walk with their arched back, aka the popular Halloween cat pose. 

However, walking with an arched back is not just odd cat-style behavior. In this article, we will explain what it means and indicates. We will also give tips on what to do when your cat walks with an arched back and when it is time to see a vet. 

What Does It Mean When My Cat Walks With An Arched Back? 

Walking with an arched back can mean a lot of things – from simple stretching to body language to medical problems. Here is a closer look at some of the most common reasons cats walk with arched backs. 

Simple Stretching 

Cats are very flexible and can stand in weird positions. As a result, they often need to stretch their muscles. So, the arched back can indicate your cat is simply stretching. If stretching, the cat may keep its back arched for a couple of steps. 

Tip: Arching the back for stretching purposes usually occurs after waking up or getting up after prolonged sitting in a specific position. It is often accompanied by yawning. 

Body Language 

Cats communicate with the environment through body language. As a cat owner, you should be able to understand what your cat is telling you by looking at it (do not worry if you have trouble with this as a first-time cat parent – you will learn with time). 

Sensing Danger  

In most cases, a cat with an arched back is a scared cat. Namely, when a car senses danger, it arches its back and erects its coat in order to look bigger and more intimidating. 

Tip: Other signs indicating the cat is scared or anticipating danger are hissing, showing teeth, and keeping the tail curled between the legs. 

Happiness & Contentment  

A cat may arch its back when happy and content. For example, if you are petting it and suddenly it arches its back, it means you are doing things right. Arching the back due to happiness is easy to differentiate from arching the back due to fear – just observe the overall body language. 

Tip: Other signs indicating the cat is in a good mood are purring, slow blinking with the eyes, and relaxed ears kept in a neutral position. 

Exhibiting Playfulness 

Cats and, more often, kittens arch their backs while playing. It mimics the hunting behavior displayed in the wild. Usually, the cat will arch its back and then hop and pounce. 

Tip: Other signs indicating the cat is playful are jumping and hopping from side to side and relaxed overall body posture. 


Overstimulation is another reason cats arch their backs. This usually occurs during long petting sessions. At first, the interaction is comfy, but at a certain point, it gets unpleasant, and the cat is overly stimulated. 

Tip: Other signs indicating the cat is overstimulated are raising the paws, biting or nipping at your hands, and tense body posture. 

Territory Marking 

Cats are extremely territorial and like to mark their possessions – play area, toys, bowls, etc. They do this by leaving pheromones (smelly chemicals produced in glands on their paws, chin, cheeks, foreheads, ears, and anal glands). A cat may arch its back to get into the right position for marking. 

Tip: Territory marking is much more common in unneutered male cats than in neutered males and females. 

Medical Problems 

Cats can walk with an arched back as a result of medical issues. In all cases, it is actually the pain associated with the medical problem that is making them walk with an arched back. 

Abdominal Pain 

One of the most common medical reasons a cat is walking with an arched back is abdominal pain. Abdominal pain is not a condition on its own but rather a sign of an underlying problem. 

Abdominal pain can be caused by dietary indiscretions (eating something that causes tummy upset), sudden cat food changes, or even intestinal parasites. 

Tip: Other signs indicating a cat has abdominal pain include loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy (general weakness). 

Back Pain 

Another reason for walking with an arched back is back pain. Cats are acrobatic and often injure their backs. In addition to trauma, back pain can be caused by dislocations, fractures, inflammation, or even cancer. 

The causes of back pain in cats are serious and require medical attention. A cat with back pain will probably show overall weakness and reduced appetite. 

Tip: Other signs indicating a cat has back pain include decreased mobility and disinterest in everyday activities. Appetite loss is also possible in severe cases of back pain. 


Arthritis is a painful joint condition and is widespread in cats, especially among seniors. Arthritic cats have trouble jumping and moving around. Over time, they can also become moody and disinterested in everyday activities. Due to the pain, cats with arthritis may walk with an arched back.

Tip: If you suspect arthritis is the cause of your cat’s behavior, schedule a vet visit. Arthritis affects the cat’s quality of life and needs to be managed (usually pain meds prescribed by the vet). 

Skin Sensitivity 

A cat with skin sensitivity may arch its back when you attempt to pet it. Skin sensitivity can be triggered by several conditions, including skin allergies, fleas, and fungal infections (like ringworm). 

Another cause of skin sensitivity is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). This genetic disorder impairs collagen production resulting in fragile skin that is painful and breaks easily. 

Tip: All causes of skin sensitivity in cats require veterinary help. Ringworm is also a zoonosis (can be transferred to humans), and while not dangerous, it is itchy and uncomfortable. 

What Can I Do If My Cat Is Walking With An Arched Back? 

As you can see, cats can walk with arched backs for many reasons – some more serious than others. The way in which you can help them depends on the underlying cause. 

Cats are excellent at hiding pain (they are instinctively inclined to mask signs of weakness). Therefore, if your cat is showing signs of pain, it means the pain is significant. In such cases, it is recommended to schedule an appointment with your trusted veterinarian. 

On the other hand, if the problem is behavioral, you should determine the trigger. Sometimes, this is easier said than done and requires the help of a professional – a licensed feline behaviorist.  

Either way, it is important to acknowledge the issue is out of your hands and ask for help. The sooner you find the cause, the sooner your cat will stop walking with an arched back. 

Conclusion: Cat Walking With An Arched Back 

All in all, walking with an arched back can be an intentional behavior or a sign of pain in cats. To determine the exact cause, you need to see the bigger picture, which can be hard from a cat owner’s perspective. 

Therefore, if your cat is walking with an arched back, analyze the situation and call your vet. If the veterinarian rules out medical issues, they might refer you to a feline behaviorist 

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