Why Do Maine Coons Lay on their Backs?


The Maine Coon has many unique personality traits. I know this as I’ve owned two for 14 years and have seen my fair share of strange behavior. One particular act continues to fool me. This is when a Maine Coon rolls over onto its back with its front paws tucked in. It seems like an invitation to give it a little tickle on the belly. This, however, is not usually the case. Why do Maine coons lay on their backs?

Maine Coons lay on their backs when they trust you

Most of the time a Maine Coon lays on its back because it feels comfortable and happy. It can be a sign of submissiveness which indicates that it feels safe and protected in your company. 

Maine Coons lay on their backs when they trust you

If your Maine Coon cat rolls onto its back as you walk into a room then you know it feels a very close bond with you. Don’t be fooled into thinking your Maine Coon is trying to sleep as they typically won’t go to sleep on their backs, although you might see this happen occasionally.

Here’s a short video from our YouTube channel of our Maine Coon rolling onto their back:

When your cat rolls onto its back as you enter the room, it is sending you a message. Find out every reason for Maine Coons laying upside down below.

Maine Coons Roll Onto Their backs If They’re Feeling Agitated

The upside-down position can be a defensive stance so be sure to check before you go in for a tickle. When your Maine Coon lays on its back, it’s capable of attacking with all four paws as well as its teeth.

If your cat is agitated, its ears will be flattened against its head, and it is likely to be ready to launch an assault. Its eyes will also be dilated and it may growl. These are sure signs of aggression and you might get bitten or scratched if you approach.

How to tell why your Maine Coon is laying on its back

Over time, you’ll learn how to interpret your Maine Coon’s mood when it’s on its back. You’ll know if it wants to play or be left alone. You’ll find out if it likes its belly tickled or not. Getting to know your Maine Coon and understanding its body language will to help ensure the two of you have a happy, healthy relationship. For a complete guide to cat body language, take a look here.

The Maine Coon Cat

The Maine Coon the largest domestic cat breed on the planet. Its origins are not well documented but we do know it is one of the oldest natural breeds and it originated in the United States of America. They are typically very sociable and friendly cats often referred to as ‘gentle giants’. 

If you’d like to know a lot more about this breed, after you’ve finished reading this article, come back here and click this link: The Complete Guide to Maine Coons. It’s packed with plenty of information and photographs.

What Should You Do When Maine Coons Roll onto Their Backs?

Perhaps it might be easier to mention what you shouldn’t do, but I’ll come on to that later. If you notice your cat has rolled onto its back and is looking at you when you walk into your room, you should give it some attention. However, it needs to be the right type of attention. Make sure she knows that you’ve noticed her by looking at her and praising her.

Although she won’t have a clue what you’re saying, of course, she will recognize your actions as being pleased (as opposed to how you act when you catch her scratching your furniture!).

If you feel compelled to stroke her, just restrict this to her head. If you venture too far from this safe-area you are entering dangerous territory (see the next section). 

Another option that you have so you can demonstrate your affection back to her would be to get down to her level (not too close, remember cats can’t typically see very well closer than about 10 inches or so). Then, talk to her and maybe if you have some, give her a little treat. This way, you’re giving something back and the affection is reciprocated.

What You Should NOT Do When They Roll onto Their Backs.

What you should not do when you see a Maine Coon on its back is tickle its belly! I know, it looks like this is what they want you to do. It’s almost like they’re saying, “Here I am and this is what I want you to tickle.” However, this could not be further from the truth. Let me explain what will most likely happen when you attempt this.

  1. With your cat in a submissive position, on its backs, you will assume you have the green-light to be able to move your hand into their belly area to give them a cheeky little tickle, to show how much you love them.
  2. As your fingers touch their belly area, their eyes will appear to become bigger and they will focus on the intruder (err your hand).
  3. Approximately, 0.5 seconds after initial contact, their front paws will wrap themselves around your hand whilst extending their claws, to ensure that this dangerous thing that touched them without permission cannot escape.
  4. Shortly after the pain reaches your brain and you start to extract your hand from the death-zone, your cuddly, sweet little cat will detect movement from the enemy and grip even tighter, now bringing its teeth into the battle to prevent this thing that dared to touch its belly from escaping.
  5. You, now screaming in pain, will cause your devoted, ever-friendly cat to (sometimes) let go and retreat to a safe area. You will be left, shocked, with a hand torn to shreds with no idea how things escalated so quickly.

Your cat will almost be as shocked by these events as you are. There it was, just rolling over showing you how much love it has for you when it was suddenly assaulted by something that looked like a hand!

Do the Maine Coons Act Differently from Other Breeds?

The Maine Coon is a very unique breed of cat. Apart from the obvious physical properties that set it aside from other breeds, its temperament is unique. I’ve owned Maine Coons for a number of years, as well as a more conventional ‘moggy’. I can honestly say that the Maine Coon is just …different.

They share many personality traits as a dog in so far as they will follow you around the house and play fetch with you. I hope you don’t value your privacy as she will follow you wherever you go, including the bathroom. Whilst there, she may just sit, in front of you, staring. This is whilst you do your business. Most off-putting. 

One of our Maine Coons (Harry) seems to have a fascination for hair-bands. He’ll find them throughout the house (probably where he last left them) and just appear with one in his mouth, dropping it by your side. You can then throw it and he’ll chase after it, pick it up and return it. I’ve not seen this behavior in other cat breeds.

My previous Maine Coon (Oscar) used to follow me into my bedroom at night and when I crawled into bed, he would nuzzle his way into the covers also and curl up alongside me, inside the bed, purring his head off. 

By the way, if you’d like to know which toys we recommend you use to play with your Maine Coon, then do take a look -at this post (opens in a new window). We have spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars over the last decade on toys and most of them are ignored! Do take a look at the ones that worked for us…

Finally…

So, in summary – when a Maine Coon rolls onto its back when it sees you, it is a sign that it is feeling very comfortable in your presence, feels safe and has total trust in you. You should return this complement by showing it how happy you are and giving it some attention in return.

Do not be tempted to tickle its tummy, although that’s a silly thing to say really because of course, you’re going to be tempted to tickle it! Just when (not if) you do, make sure you have some plasters handy!

Related Questions

Why do cats roll around on their backs?

This is actually a different question to the one I’ve just answered and could be related to a few things, for instance.

They Might Have an Itch

If a cat rolls around on their backs (rather than just rolling onto their back and staying there) there’s a good chance it will be because they have an itch. You can imagine how hard it is for a cat to scratch their backs with their paws, this way is so much easier. If you see the behavior continue, just give them a little check to ensure they don’t have fleas!

Spreading Their Scent

The second main reason why they may roll around onto their backs is to spread their scent around the house (or outside). You may notice this behavior more when you’ve just moved house or if you’ve had another cat in the house (and they can smell their scent on the furniture).

Mating Ritual

Finally, in female cats that haven’t been spayed – you may notice they perform this as part of a mating ritual. Unless you are keeping your cat for breeding, you should really consider getting them neutered. You’ll find the health benefits and the positive changes to their personality post neutering, far outweigh any negatives.

Further reading

The opposite of this pose is the loaf. Find out what this is and why cats do it by reading Why Do Cats Loaf?

Jane

I'm Jane Pettitt, co-owner of Pets Knowledge Base with my husband, Matt. I have a grand total of 50 years’ experience as a pet owner. It all started with a guinea pig called Percy when I was 5 years old and since then I’ve lived with two more guinea pigs, a hamster, mice, a rabbit, a tortoise, a dog, and 11 cats. I’ve learned so much about pet care during this time and many of my articles are based on my personal experiences plus those of my family and friends.

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