why do cats stand on their hing legs

Cat Standing Up On Its Hind Legs: Why Do They Do It?

We’ve all seen our cats standing upright at one time or another.

It is an unusual stance that makes a cat look a bit like a meerkat but why do they do it?

There are a variety of reasons a cat will stand up on their back legs.

It could be because of something serious like scaring off predators or it could be a more lighthearted situation such as simple curiosity or getting some extra snacks that are just out of view. 

Below we’ve summarised each of the reasons a cat will stand on their hind legs so by the end of this article you should have a pretty good idea of why you’ve seen your cat standing up. 

1. To Make Themselves Look Bigger

The first reason a cat may do this is a serious one, they may be trying to scare off a predator.

This is a survival tactic that is seen across the animal kingdom.

In situations where your cat feels threatened they may stand up on their hind legs as a way to make themselves look as big as possible.

black and white cat standing on hind legs

This stance will help avoid a fight by frightening away threatening animals. 

A cat may stand still in this position or they may move sideways in an effort to look as big and scary as they possibly can.

You might also notice the cat’s tail is fluffed up and their fur is standing on end too.

If the threatening animal moves closer, the cat may add to the intimidation technique by hissing or growling.

In this situation, the cat is feeling threatened and there will be something your cat perceives as dangerous nearby (usually another such as a fox or dog).

A cat that is standing up to ward off predators is actively trying to diffuse the situation but is also ready to fight if necessary.

Fortunately, this tactic is quite effective so the situation should settle down without any fighting. 

2. To Get The Attention Of Their Owners

A cat may stand on their back legs to try to reach your hand with their head for attention.

This often happens when the cat has been trying to get your attention, usually by brushing against your legs or ankles but is not having any luck.

grey cat sitting on hind legs

It can also happen when you have been petting them but then you stop and the cat still wants attention from you. 

They’ll stand up on their back legs and bop their head into you or stretch their paws out towards you. In this situation, the cat is calm and looking for attention. 

3. To Reach Treats 

A cat may simply use this as a tactic to reach something that is a little bit too far away (usually food).

Maybe the treats are on a shelf that is slightly too high for the cat to see or they can smell something tasty but aren’t sure exactly where the food is. 

cat standing up on hind legs looking out of window

The cat will stand on their back legs to get a closer look or to reach the snack.

This can be fuelled by a combination of hunger, excitement and curiosity.

Maybe they know they shouldn’t jump onto the counter or they are feeling lazy and don’t want to jump but instead want to get a closer look. 

Your cat may have learnt that when they stand on their hind legs you will give them extra treats.

This is why you may see your cat do this more and more often when you get treats from the cupboard. You can teach your cat to stand up as a trick too. 

4. Because They Are Simply Curious Or Nosy 

A cat propping themselves up onto their back legs may simply be getting a closer look at something that has caught their attention.

Cats are very curious and they like to know what is going on.

If they feel like getting a higher viewpoint will help them see what they want to see then that’s what they will do. 

cat standing on hind legs in garden

They may also do this when they have heard a loud noise or something they are not sure about.

They will stand up to try to get a view of where the noise came from before moving anywhere.

This could be because they are fearful or because they can’t quite figure out what the sound was. 

5. Because They Are Playing Or Excited

Cats also stand up on their hind legs briefly when they are playing or excited.

Maybe they are throwing a toy around or chasing their sibling around the house when you see them do it for a second or two.

black and white kitten standing on hind legs

It is normal for a cat to stop, stand up and throw their paws in the air before jumping around and continuing to play.

This is just your cat having fun. 

6. Special Needs 

Some cats stand on their back legs out of necessity.

Maybe they have been born without front legs or with a medical condition that has resulted in a development issue that has impacted their front legs/ paws.

white cat standing up on hind legs on a table

Either way, there are cats around the world that stand on their back legs and walk around using their hind legs because they don’t have any other option.

These cats are sometimes referred to as “kangaroo cats”, particularly on social media where there are a few popular accounts of cats living with only their back legs functional. 

7. Habit/ Comfort

There are also some cats that stand on their back legs out of habit. Munchkin cats are often seen standing up.

This is simply because they are short with stumpy legs and it is easy for them to stand up to get a better view of what is going on without losing their balance.

cat reaching for a fly

Other cat breeds such as Scottish Folds are also likely to stand up on their hind legs if something catches their attention. 

Shorter cats find it easier to keep balanced when standing up on their hind legs so they are likely to stand up more often than larger cats.  

How To Encourage Your Cat To Stand Up 

As we mentioned earlier, you can encourage your cat to stand on their hind legs as a trick. This can be achieved in 3 easy steps:

Step 1. Use a tasty treat to get your cat’s attention 

Get your cat’s attention with a tasty treat or a toy they love. Hold the treat in front of your cat to get them interested. 

Step 2. Encourage your cat to stand

Now your cat is interested, hold the treat or toy near your cat’s nose and then raise it up to encourage your cat to rise onto their back legs.

Do it slowly, it will likely take a couple of attempts until your cat gets it.

Step 3. Reward Your Cat

Once your cat stands on their back legs reward them with the treat or by playing with the toy.

Also, say the command you want them to associate with the trick e.g. “Stand”.

Now you can practice the trick over the coming days until your cat does the trick on command. 

It’s as easy as that! 

Is It Bad For A Cat To Stand On Their Hind Legs? 

No, if your cat is exhibiting this behaviour on their own (out of curiosity or interest rather than as a way of trying to get food from you) then it shouldn’t be a problem.

If your cat is standing on their rear legs regularly or for long periods of time then this could place stress on their hips.

If you have taught your cat to do this as a trick then make sure you don’t make your cat perform it too often or for long. 

In Summary 

There are a number of reasons why a cat will stand on their hind legs.

It is quite easy to determine whether your cat is doing it because they are curious or excited or because they are feeling threatened.

Watch what your cat is doing while they are standing up and what they do just after.

This will give you clues as to why they are doing it.

Cats don’t stand up on their hind legs very often or for long so don’t expect to see this behaviour too frequently. 

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