Why Are Cats So Protective of Their Bellies?

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Some cats will be fine with you rubbing, and even kissing, their belly. But others will not think twice of making sure you know that the belly is off-limits. So why are cats, generally, so protective of their bellies? And how can you know if a cat will be okay with you touching them in this sensitive spot?

The Belly Is a Vulnerable Area

Although cats are incredible predators, they can also be prey, and the stomach is a vulnerable spot because that’s where their vital organs are found. So when a kitty’s stomach is touched, she may react aggressively because she immediately feels the need to move into self-defense mode.

Related: How to Properly Pet a Cat

Unless your kitty really trusts you, she might react by grabbing your hands with her paws, scratching you with her claws, or biting you. Despite this negative reaction, you shouldn’t get angry, as this is a totally normal instinct that your cat uses to protect herself from harm.

Why Would Your Cat Show You Her Belly?

Considering how protective your kitty is over her belly, why would she expose it in the first place?

According to feline behavior expert, Pam Johnson-Bennett, when two cats are fighting, one might expose the stomach by rolling onto her side. Even though you might immediately interpret this as an act of submission, the cat is actually telling her adversary that a serious fight will ensue if need be. In this defensive stance, a cat is telling an enemy that the teeth and the claws are ready to be engaged in combat.

Related: What Does It Mean When A Cat Wags Its Tail?

On the other hand, if your kitty is lazily stretched out on her back, such as in a sunny area in your home or on your bed, or if she is near you and decides to roll over onto her back, she’s probably totally relaxed and at ease. It’s a sign that she feels safe in her environment and she doesn’t sense any threats to worry about. Nevertheless, if you attempt to pet her belly, she may very well end up reacting defensively anyway. That’s because she might only be telling you that she trusts you, but she still has her boundaries.

Get to Know Your Feline Companion

Every cat is different, so it all boils down to spending time with your pet and getting to know her. You may find that she shows you her belly as a sign of trust rather than an invitation to stroke that delicate area (she might just want her head scratched instead, as an example). Your cat might even be in a playful mood when she shows you her stomach, so she may end up grabbing your hand gently enough that she won’t hurt you. Or you might have formed such a strong bond with your cat that she trusts you 100% and is willing to let you pet her belly, rest your hand on her tummy, or even give her kisses on her adorable stomach. Plus, it’s also more likely that an adult cat will be okay with belly rubs if she got used to them while she was a kitten.

So there you have it: another mysterious and confusing feline behavior solved. Remember, it’s all about learning how to read your cat’s body language so you can avoid getting scratched or bitten when that cute tummy is exposed.