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What are cats telling you when they show their butt?

Tortoiseshell cat walking away with tail in air

When a cat is showing its butt, it is actually a compliment.

© Shutterstock

If your cat tends to show their bottom when you go in for a stroke, don't feel disgusted. Your feline friend is showing good cat manners and paying you a huge compliment.

By Zoë Monk

Published on the 13/02/2021, 18:00

Your cat jumps onto your lap, kneads your legs, rubs their face against you, lets out a loud purr then turns around, raises their tail and shows you their bum. Sound familiar? 

Most cat owners have likely experienced the moment their cat sticks their furry little rear end in their human's face. But why do our furry friends insist on showing their butt and what does it mean? 

Why cats show their butt?

It's quite common for cat owners to at some point ask the question, "why does my cat like to put their butt in my face?" But if the sight of your cat showing you their bum makes you feel disgusted or even insulted, then it really shouldn't. What your cat is doing by presenting their rear end to you is actually a compliment and very polite in feline etiquette terms.

In the human world, we shake each other's hand, maybe share a kiss on each cheek, introduce ourselves and ask questions about the other person. However, when two cats greet each other, they use scent to communicate and recognise each other. They begin with nose-to-nose sniffing and then sniff and rub each other's side. Then one cat will likely turn around to present their backside to the other cat to allow them to sniff their bum. While this behaviour may seem unpleasant in the human world, to animals, the bottom is an area of concentrated scent that tells one cat a lot of information about the other. In the cat world, to present their anal area for sniffing is considered very polite.

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Why cats show you their butt according to science?

While cats showing their bums might seem strange to us, it's actually your cat's way of being nice. According to cat researcher Mikel Delgado at the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis, it's very normal for cats to sniff each other's butts. They do it as a way to confirm another cat's identity or just to say hello. Cats have glands all over their little furry bodies. This includes the base of the tail and each side of the anus. A cat's glands contain scents that are unique to each feline, rather like the human fingerprint. These scents can communicate many things about the particular cat such as their health, age and sexual status.

Our feline friends don't consider flaunting their rear as anything aggressive or even disgusting. When we are petting our cats and they show their butt, our cats may be inviting us to check them out or they just want to say a friendly hello.

Why do cats stick their bum in your face?

Amy Shojai, a cat expert and author on pet behaviour, says cats raise their tail as a sign of friendliness and trust. They give you full access to all of their most intimate details found in their scent. Turning around simply makes this invitation even clearer. Shojai suggests that cat butt presentation is a complimentary show of love, similar to the way humans enthusiastically greet each other with a hug or kiss. When a cat shows you their butt, it means they are very comfortable in your company and assume that you are also comfortable. If a cat keeps their tail down and doesn't want their bottom sniffed, it can be compared to a shy person hiding their face.

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Why do cats like being hit on the bum?

Most cats have their preferred area of the body to be stroked and scratched. Many cats enjoy being scratched or firmly patted just above their tail. This is a very sensitive area of a cat's body, and they will instinctively lift their bottom in response. As your cat raises their bottom higher and higher and sticks out their tail, they may then show their butt to you as a sign of affection. But while most cats seem to enjoy a firm pat on their bum, you must not do it too hard and if they start to get overstimulated or upset, then stop.

While your cat showing you their bum is perfectly normal and a huge compliment, don't worry, your cat probably doesn't expect you to smell their bum. As much as your cat loves you, cats are clever and realise that you aren't a fellow feline. It's simply their way of using their body language to open themselves up to you so you can recognise them and know that your feline friend trusts you.

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