Last Updated: 3 months ago
Cats are strange creatures, and that’s something we can all agree with. They can be nice, and they can be a nightmare.
Sometimes they do weird things – like flop down in front of you for seemingly no reason. What does that mean?
Truth is, there are a couple of possible reasons for that to be happening! They might just like how it feels, or maybe catnip is involved.
There could be reasons we don’t even know about! Either way, if you want to try and understand your cat a little more, just keep reading.
Why Do Cats Flop Down In Front Of You?
So, there are six possible reasons (that we know of) to explain your cat’s flopping behavior.
We’re going to go through each of those in the sections below, then go through what is probably isn’t.
Remember – cats are weird, and they aren’t always easy to understand. We will say that it’s important to note that if your cat does it, it’s a good thing!
Cats are jumpy and don’t usually trust easily. This means that by them showing you their (adorable) bellies, which are their softest part, they trust you!
So, whichever reason you think applies to your feline friend, take it as a compliment.
They probably don’t want you dead, even if it looks like they do a lot of plotting.
#1 Your Cat Wants Attention From You
Cats will choose when they want to be pet or not. This is something most of us probably learned the hard way.
If your cat has done the flop in front of you, it could mean that they want attention from you and want to be pet.
This is likely to happen when you’ve been away for a while and your cat, whether they admit it or not, has missed you. They are likely to come to you and flop down in front of you.
However, just because they show their belly, doesn’t mean they want to be pet there! As a general rule, cats do not like their bellies being touched. This is likely because of their predator instincts.
They don’t want their most vulnerable part to be exposed, and when it is touched, they can go into fight or flight.
A lot of cats show distinct discomfort when getting belly rubs, so just avoid it altogether.
It’s also important to note that if this is a behavior that you don’t like in your cat, you shouldn’t respond to them.
Chances are, your pupils go the size of saucers (pink Puss in Boots) when you see this, though. Just remember that you will reinforce the behavior if you pet them.
That decision is all down to personal preference, though! We personally love the feline flop.
Again, if you want to pet them, avoid the belly and go to those adorable cheeks. Your cat will thank you for it. Don’t confuse a cat’s wants and needs for a dog’s!
#2 Your Cat is Marking Their Territory
Cats are naturally territorial animals, so it can be expected that your cat will want a way to mark their space.
They actually have scent glands in their tails, cheeks, face, and paws. To “mark” a surface, they will rub a part of their body on it and claim it as their own.
If your cat flops down and rubs themselves all over the floor (most likely carpet), they could just be marking their turf!
Doing this will spread their scent all over the area and let everyone know they’re in your cat’s space.
This can also be used to explain why cats like to rub against people’s legs.
You can see it as their way of saying that you are their human and belong to them. Remember – cats own us, not the other way around.
#3 Your Female Cat Is In Heat
A female cat that is unspayed may do the feline flop because she is in heat.
This is a normal part of mating behavior, and it’s more common for female cats in heat to do this.
Sure, this behavior is typically done when there’s a male cat around too, but it isn’t necessary.
The flopping behavior potentially has nothing to do with you at all in this case.
This kind of feline flop is likely to be pretty random and most likely not right in front of you like the above. If your cat is in heat, she isn’t doing this to get your attention.
During this time, she might also be more vocal than usual. She is also more likely to attempt to keep her butt in the air while she tries to roll and flop around.
This isn’t something you need to worry about, but if you don’t intend for your cat to have kittens, the best thing to do is get her spayed.
Doing this is probably better for both you and your cat in the long run.
#4 There’s Catnip
Catnip turns cats crazy, we all know that!
As such, if your cat is flopping and rolling around, it must just be because there’s some catnip lying around! Don’t think your cat is too good for it, either.
Any cat (even big cats like tigers and lions), enjoy catnip and will react to it! Catnip has nepetalactone in it, which is the primary ingredient responsible for the reaction.
When a cat comes into contact with this good stuff, they will probably roll around, rub their cheeks, and look a little crazy.
Catnip comes from an actual plant, so there’s always the possibility of finding it, too! It’s worth mentioning that a lot of cat toys also have catnip in them.
This means that you could have inadvertently brought catnip into the house! Your cat might have just found tiny remnants that they want to savor.
Catnip isn’t known to be harmful in any way unless a cat ingests large quantities. When that happens, they may experience diarrhea and vomiting.
In small doses, there’s nothing to worry about when it comes to catnip! This probably isn’t the reason for your cat’s behavior, but it’s always a possibility!
#5 Your Cat Wants To Play
We’ve already mentioned that cats are the owner of you, not the other way around. This means that our cats like to choose when and where they play with us.
If you have spent any time observing cats, you might have noticed a thing or two. When they play, they will frequently flop onto their sides or bellies before going crazy.
This might also apply to you and your cat! When they flop in front of you, it could be them telling you that they want to play now.
They are sending you a message and expect you to respond without a moment’s notice.
With that being said, this could depend on the behavior you have reinforced (or not) in the past.
For example, have you paid attention to and pet your cat when they flop to you in greeting?
If you have, then they have probably put two and two together to note that you are likely to respond to them the way they want.
If you haven’t reinforced their flopping behavior, then this is an unlikely reason for their flop. Cats are smart animals, and will learn pretty quickly.
#6 Your Cat Just Likes How It Feels
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and your cat simply likes how it feels.
We all do things that we like – walk on plush carpets, feel silk, avoid orange juice with bits, cats are no different!
Maybe you have some super comfortable carpets in your house that your cat simply can’t avoid flopping around on!
Floor textures are probably pretty important for cats, and depending on the weather and temperatures, preferences may vary!
Not only that, but if you have a rough mat, your cat might see that as a back scratcher.
You can try to determine if this is the case by taking note of where your cat likes to do their feline flop.
If your cat gravitates towards one area of the house and avoids another, see what makes them different. Chances are, there’s a different floor type that your cat prefers.
In hot climates, it would be pretty normal for a cat to seek out wooden or tiled floors to cool off a little.
If it’s already cold, then carpeted areas could be their go-to. After some observing, you will probably find out the reason soon enough!
What It Isn’t
On that note, it’s worth mentioning what this feline flop probably isn’t: a sign of submission. Again, cats are not dogs, and shouldn’t be compared to one another at all.
When a dog rolls onto their belly, they are often being submissive to another dog, human or any other animal.
Cat’s aren’t like this. They are the boss, remember? They chase bears up trees! The closest thing to submission researchers have found in cats is an act of “passive submission”.
This is thought to be done to “inhibit the development of overt aggression”.
Even then, this is typically only done by young male cats when they roll towards adult males. The opposite is very unlikely to happen.
This kind of rolling is only going to happen in interactions between two cats. In other words, your cat, or any cat, is not going to just flop at your feet as a way of being submissive.
A stressed or uncomfortable cat won’t show you their belly. That means that they are comfortable around you and trust you.
Because of this fact, the idea of them needing to be submissive is pointless in the first place! So, don’t take the feline flop as a submissive act. Cats are too good for that, and they know it.
There are thought to be six reasons why cats will engage in the well-loved feline flop:
- They want attention
- They are marking their territory
- Your female cat is in heat
- There’s catnip in the area
- Your cat wants to play
- They just like how it feels
This behavior is not indicative of submission to you in any way, because cats just don’t roll like that!
You can try to figure out which one(s) apply to your cat, but just remember that cats are strange creatures.
As soon as you think you figure out the meaning of something, it might just change.
Nonetheless, it would be fun to try and understand your cat’s behavior a little more, wouldn’t it?
See if you can figure out if they’re marking their territory, want to play, or just like a spot in the house! It will bring you and your feline friend closer together.
Dr. Linda Simon MVB MRCVS is a locum veterinary surgeon who has worked in London for the past 8 years. She graduated top of her class in small animal medicine from UCD, Dublin. She is currently a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Linda is the resident vet for Woman magazine and a frequent contributor to People’s Friend Magazine, the Dogzone website, Vet Help Direct and Wag! Linda also writes content for the CVS veterinary group, Vetwriter and a number of other establishments.