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Why Do Cats Lay on Their Backs

As the owner of the feline I consider to be the cutest kitty on the planet ever, my heart absolutely skips a beat every time I see her lay on her back and show me her belly.

I, like many people who own cats, now recognize that they are indeed mischievous animals.

They have minds of their own, and they are completely void of the dependence gene, yet there are so many of us who choose to believe that our kitties are longing to shower us with love and attention when they roll onto their backs and show us their bellies.

The truth of the matter is that there are a number of reasons cats lay on their backs, and the majority of them have little to do with them wanting to shower us with their love and affection.

Sometimes our kitties need us to stop with the belly rubs already and pay attention to their physical wellbeing. 

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What does it mean when a cat lies on its back?

I have lived with my cat long enough to know when I see her laying on her back, and it really does not have anything to do with me. It is all about her.

Listen, just like humans, and cats have a need to be safe and secure in their environment. If they feel a certain level of comfort, cats will choose to catch a few zzz’s while sleeping on their backs from time to time.

I recognize, however, that my cat’s level of comfort is due to the fact that I have worked hard to create an atmosphere that allows my cat to feel comfortable enough to sleep in what is normally considered a vulnerable position. My cat is the sole benefactor of my indentured servitude, and I am mostly okay with that.

Could my cat be lying on its back because of a medical issue?

The short answer to this question is yes. Once again, we are talking about cats here. For the most part, anyone who chooses to become a cat parent has to accept that in the mind of a feline, we humans are there to serve them.

Their desires and levels of comfort are always going to be their primary motivation for everything they choose to do. It kind of sucks, but we all knew what we were getting into when we welcomed the little furry divas into our homes. 

Could a digestive issue cause my cat to lay on his back?

Sometimes cats who are experiencing gastrointestinal tissue will lay on their back in an attempt to get a little relief. Once again, cats are no different from humans. We go out, we eat all sorts of things we know we shouldn’t, and we pay for it later with gas and indigestion.

Hey, it is what it is. My cat is pretty healthy, and I know that she does not have any medical issues that I should be any cause for concern, so I basically let her pay the price for eating whatever it was that gratified her to the point that she was willing to sacrifice a little tummy upset for.

I would not suggest that people who have a cat who does have medical concerns take my relaxed approach when they see their cat sleeping on their backs more than a couple of times a week.

There may be something going on in their intestines or other areas of their digestive systems that might warrant a visit to the vet.

Is there a specific type of stomach ailment that could cause my cat to lay on its back?

Gastritis is a condition that is common among the feline population. Gastritis occurs when the lining of the stomach becomes inflamed.

Gastritis is painful and can make it very difficult for a cat to find a comfortable position. Gastritis makes it hard for cats to lay or sit on their stomachs for extended periods of time, which is why cats choose to lay on their backs when they are dealing with gastritis.

Besides laying on their back, how can I tell if my cat has gastritis?

First and foremost, it is important to note that most cats do not prefer to sleep on their backs, as it is not a normal position for them.

Again, I can not express enough the need for cat parents to take their furball to the vet if you notice they are sleeping on their backs regularly and there is a change in their regular behavior or routine.

Some other symptoms of gastritis pet parents need to look for include, but are not limited to:

  • They appear to be depressed
  • They appear to be lethargic 
  • They are drinking more water than usual
  • They appear to be eating less
  • They all of a sudden begin to vomit
  • The vomit produced is bloody

What does the temperature have to do with my cat laying on its back?

I learned the hard way that the last thing anyone who owns a cat wants to do is let them get overheated.

Normally when a cat starts to feel a little warmer than it would like, it will lay on its back to cool off a little. Generally, a temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit is the sweet spot in terms of body temperature for a cat.

Although cats enjoy bathing in the sun, people who live in areas that experience extreme weather during the summer months have to be mindful of the fact that too much heat can be dangerous for their furry little friends.

In addition to making sure that outdoor cats and cats who spend the majority of their time indoors but also have the freedom of venturing outside need plenty of water to drink, they need safe temperatures to keep from dehydrating and becoming overheated. 

Do I only have to worry about my cat overheating during the summer months when my cat lies on her back?

I would advise any cat owner to be cognizant of the fact that their furry little friend can get overheated during any season of the year.

The winter months can be just as dangerous, if not more so, than the summer months for a cat to get in trouble from overheating.

Cats are just like us in the sense that they enjoy snuggling up to fireplaces and other types of artificial sources of heat.

When they are exposed to infrared heaters and other types of heating sources for extended time periods, there is always a risk their bodies can absorb more heat than they can handle.

How can I tell if the reason my cat is lying on her back is that she has gotten too hot?

One of the first things I noticed when my cat got overheated was the excessive panting she was doing. My cat never pants.

That is a behavior that she believes is best suited for animals she deems are undignified and beneath her.

I came to this conclusion about four years ago when I saw her scoff at our little pooch. I am pretty good at picking up on my cat’s body language, and I noticed that in addition to the panting, she was pacing back and forth, and it just seemed like she couldn’t find a comfortable position to settle in. 

Even though my cat did not display all the symptoms associated with overheating, I knew we were in trouble because of the panting and the restlessness.

Neither of which were common cat behaviors in my house. It is important to note that panting places a lot of stress on a cat’s body. Panting is especially concerning in older cats. Other symptoms associated with overheating include:

  • A rapid heart rate
  • Lethargy
  • Sweaty paws
  • Changes in behavior like aggression and irritability
  • Increased verbalization 

Is my cat not drinking and lying on her back an indication that she is dehydrated?

After spending several hundreds of dollars and a few nights without sleep because my feisty feline became dehydrated, I now keep the indoor temperature in my home between 75 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.

It was terrifying to learn from my vet that things can go south fairly quickly for a cat when body temperatures reach the point that they become dehydrated, as they don’t recover as quickly as their canine counterparts. 

There are a number of home remedies like Gatorade and placing drops of tuna juice into a cat’s water bowl. However, when a cat is dehydrated, time is of the essence.

Waiting it out to see how a cat responds to a home remedy could place them in both a vulnerable and a critical position.

Generally, cats who are dehydrated will require intravenous intervention. Some notable signs of feline dehydration include:

  • Gum discoloration
  • A loss of interest in food.’
  • Lethargy
  • The eyes appear to be unfocused and or sunken in