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Why does my kitten arch her back at me?

Kittens often arch their backs and there are several reasons for this maneuver. Adult cats arch up when they feel threatened but kittens adopt this stance in other situations. When a kitten arches its back at you, does it believe you are a threat?

Your kitten will arch her back at you if she perceives you as a threat. You may have surprised her and by arching her back she feels bigger and prepared to defend herself. On the other hand, an arched back is also a kitten’s way of stretching and indicating readiness to play.

Kitten Communication

Kittens have many communication methods that we need to understand, such as slow blinking. Then, we have purring which usually means they’re happy and content (but not always).

We probably all know that when a kitten hisses (which is much rarer than it is in cats) it is a warning for whatever it is they’re hissing at to back off.

When your kitten arches its back, it is just another method of communication.

It is unusual for them to do this toward us as it’s usually seen when they’re with other cats. What are they trying to communicate to us by doing this?

Kittens arch their backs a warning

When a kitten is arching its back (and it’s not stretching) then it’s attempting to send you a message. It’s telling you that at that precise moment, it feels you are a possible threat.

Try not to take it personally! Your little kitten is trying to make itself look as big as possible in the eyes of the thing that at that very instant, has triggered this reflex to arch its back.

The reason behind this is that they’re hoping that whatever threat is standing before them will look at their now increased size and think, ‘hang on…they’re bigger than me, I’d better back off…’

It’s a natural instinct for kittens to make themselves appear as big as possible, although they will only remain like this for a second or two, typically.

Kittens also arch their back when stretching

Sometimes when a kitten stretches, it can appear as if it is arching its back in the way it does when it feels threatened. This is however, a classic cat stretch and even humans do this in yoga classes!

Cats and kittens can stretch with their front paws out in front of them. We also perform this stretch known as downward dog.

During stretches, their ears won’t be pointing back and they’ll be looking straight ahead. This way you know they are not arching because of a perceived threat.

Should we be worried when our kitten arches their back at me?

Generally speaking, no. This might not make you feel better but it’s quite unusual for a kitten to arch their backs at us, at least repeatedly and for longer than a fraction of a second.

Certainly, if your kitten is doing it every time they see you then we might have a problem – but it’s not a problem that can’t be fixed (read below for help on this).

Typically, when you may see this behavior it is when your kitten is startled and surprised. There could be numerous reasons for this but more often than not, it’s related to kids!

Why is this? Well, kids tend to do all the things that kittens don’t generally like, for instance:

  • Moving quickly (generally in their direction)
  • Making lots of noise
  • Being unpredictable

Now, there’s nothing wrong with any of these things, of course, it’s just that they are all the things that will potentially freak your kitten out enough to make them consider the situation as a potential threat – and it is then that they will arch their backs.

What’s the best thing to do when your kitten arches their back?

Firstly, there will always be a root cause and you’ll most likely have a good idea as to what it is. So, initially stop whatever it was that caused the reaction and next, you need to work on getting them back on your side.

This part is actually quite simple although you’d be surprised how many people don’t know these techniques, so let me explain what you should do:

  1. Don’t stare at your kitten. Staring intently is what cats do when they’re facing off against each other. Blink, very slowly in their direction a couple of times.
  2. Slowly turn your head and look away briefly. What we’re doing here is exaggerating the fact that you don’t perceive them as a threat. Then, repeat step 1.
  3. Yawn. Yes, now I’ve said it you’re probably doing it right now. But make it a slow, deliberate yawn without making any obvious yawn-type noises. This will also help to make your kitten feel more relaxed.
  4. Are you prepared to look stupid? I hope so, I mean – I bet you already talk to your kittens, right? Ok, so now we need to level-up. Whilst your kitten is in the room (you’ll look really stupid if they aren’t), lie on the floor. Whilst you’re lying on the floor, put your legs and arms up in the air. Yep, you heard me right. All we’re doing is here reassuring your kitten that you perceive them as zero threat and by adopting this pose, you’re really emphasizing this.

The above can’t fail. Your kitten will want to trust you and if you make it as clear as possible that you pose no threat then there will be a 100% success rate.

Combine the above with spending time with them (if they let you) by playing with them and ensure you’re the person who feeds them.

Conclusion – why does my kitten arch her back at me?

I really hope that’s helped you to understand why your kitten might arch their back at you. It’s just an instinctive reaction that’s most likely been triggered by a surprise.

It’s definitely fixable and won’t last forever so try not to let it upset you. It’s just an instinctive behavior and as long as you are consistent in how you act around them, they’ll soon relax in your company!

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