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3 Explanations For Your Cat's Weird Positions

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Question: Why do cats sit in different positions? It seems like all cats sit differently -- some with both legs out to the side, some with legs sticking out in the back like a frog, and others with their paws crossed. What is the reason behind this and which way is the most comfortable?

Pam’s Answer: Cats are as individual as people so for the most part, different positions are based on an individual cat’s comfort. Here are some things can influence particular positions:

Physical Comfort

An elderly cat with arthritis may sit in a particular way to minimize pain. He may stick a leg out or crouch in a way to relieve joint discomfort. He may sit favoring one side all of the time.

A cat with an injury may change the way he sits to relieve pain.

For some cats, temperature can play a part in how they sit as well. How they sit on a cool floor may differ from how they might sit on a carpet. If you notice that your cat has developed a habit of sitting in an unusual way and you’ve never seen that position before, talk to your veterinarian because it may be a sign of a potential medical problem.

Emotional Comfort

A cat who is completely comfortable and relaxed in his environment may sit in a more stretched out fashion. To leave limbs exposed is something a cat would prefer to only do in a secure setting so if a tail and one or more legs are stretched out, it may be a way of communicating that kitty feels completely at ease.

If a cat is nervous or fearful in his current environment he would probably tuck his tail around his body and keep his legs underneath him. By doing this he is trying to be as invisible and non-threatening as possible. This is a posture you’ll often see when the cat is on the veterinarian’s exam table. The cat is doing his best to say “pay no attention to me and just pretend I’m not here.”

On the Hunt

A cat sitting in the yard as he watched a bird may sit in more of a crouched position almost as if he’s frozen in time. Even if he appears to be merely sitting, his body resembles a coiled spring, ready to explode into action at a moment’s notice. If kitty is sitting while on hunting patrol, everything about his body will be on alert, from his body to his senses. His ears will be pricked forward, his whiskers forward-facing, his eyes firmly fixed on his target and his nose will get working overtime to capture all scents. The only movement that may obvious is a flicking of the tail if the cat must dispel some of the excitement as he wants patiently for that perfect ambush moment.


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Pam Johnson-Bennett is a certified cat behavior consultant and the best-selling author of seven books on cat behavior and training, including her most recent release, the updated and expanded Think Like a Cat (Penguin Books). She is a former board of directors member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and is the founder/former longtime chair of their cat division. She was a member of the American Humane Association’s Advisory Board and is on the Advisory Board of Tree House Humane Society. Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, LLC, a private veterinarian-referred behavior practice in Nashville, TN.
 

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