I spend most of the day hanging out by the glass doors in the living room, watching the birds and squirrels in the backyard and sunning myself. My favorite position for sunbaths, as it is for many cats, is lying on my back. I love the feel of the warm sun on my belly fur, and if my back is itchy, I can scratch it by rubbing against the carpet. Heavenly, right? Well, not exactly because my human always seems to spoil things. I’ll be dozing and all of a sudden there’s this hand tickling my stomach! It’s so annoying. I really hate my belly being rubbed — and my human can’t seem to keep her hands off it! So I do the logical thing: I bite her hand (not too hard) and give it a couple of bunny kicks, then run away. You’d think she would get the hint, but the moment I’m on my back, napping, she’s right there again! I’d really like some peace, and this must stop. What’s the best way to keep her hands away from me without making her think I’ve gone feral?
My Belly Is Off Limits
I know what you mean — humans seem to have some weird cat belly fetish. And the curious thing is that 63% of cats do not really like their belly being rubbed. (Okay, I’m not really sure if the correct percentage is 63 — I haven’t taken a poll — but judging from the cats I’ve talked to, more dislike it than like it.) And to take their obsession even further, humans have all sorts of theories about why cats either accept or reject belly rubs. They say that when we lie on our backs, it’s a form of submission, and that cats who allow belly rubs are showing trust. Well, that’s not exactly correct. Dogs show their bellies to express submission — for cats, it’s actually a fighting move that puts all four of our fiercest weapons (our front and back claws) at attention. So a lot of times, even if we are relaxed and sleepy, when we feel our bellies being touched, we are immediately alert and ready for battle! Often the fighting instinct trumps how much we kitties trust a human. Take Binga, for example — she’s the friendliest cat here and the humans can do almost anything with her — except rub her belly! So, your human may think she is making you feel good by touching your belly, but she is really doing the opposite and putting you in attack mode!
Unfortunately, human minds are simple and they cannot easily wrap their heads around the concept that cats react differently to belly rubs. Clearly you are one of those cats who hate having their bellies touched and your human isn’t getting it. There is no easy solution to this. Frequent negative reactions (“going feral,” as you put it) may hurt your relationship with your human, and of course, just lying there and taking it is not satisfactory. If you can’t find a good place to sunbathe that’s out of human reach, I’m afraid the bite-and-run technique is the best you can do. Hopefully one day your human will stop her thoughtless behavior.
I have a poll now — look to your right! Tell me if you like your belly rubbed or not!