There’s no getting around it because, if you have a cat, their backside is going to come up at some point. They’ll make sure it does. What is with a cat’s fascination with their own rumps? Particularly confusing is the part where some cats like having the base of their tail scratched, though admittedly, others will do anything to avoid it. Like all the excellent cat behavior mysteries, I had to take a more in-depth look at this strange affinity. It turns out that cats love that spot for a couple of very good reasons.
Why do cats like to have the base of their tail scratched? There are a ton of nerve endings at the base of the tail, so it feels nice to your cat. A kitty can’t reach that spot themselves as easily, so when you stimulate them in a spot that they don’t get a good grip on, with all those nerves, it makes them crazy. Be careful not to overdo it.
Why Cats Love Tail Scratches:
- Nerve endings make it feel nice.
- Cats can’t reach that spot as well as others.
- Scent glands in their backside let your cat mark you as their property.
What’s Going On at the Base of My Cat’s Tail
We’ve all seen it; cats lose their minds when you pet them at the base of their tails. You can give your kitty a back rub, or scritch under its chin and never get the same reaction. Though I once had a cat who lost it for chest scratches, he was very unusual.
Cats like it when you pet their backs. However, most cats sincerely enjoy a good top of the head and behind the ears rub, or a chin and chest scratch tremendously. What’s the big difference? Well, they can reach their backs pretty easily, but those other areas are harder to clean or scratch for themselves.
The same goes for the base of their tails. Felines can reach this spot, but not as well as other areas. More importantly, there’s a large concentration of nerve endings in that tail base area. That means it’s sensitive. When you scratch here, it feels great. Your pet enjoys it, and it may even help de-stress them and cause a calming effect.
Scientists have likened the sensation they experience with the sort of delight and satisfaction humans get from a good tickle or scratch. Needless to say, just like people, some cats are more sensitive than others. Similarly, some enjoy the feeling more while others are most uncomfortable with the sensation.
When A Cat Says No
Some cats dislike being scratched or petted by the tail. Sadly there have been too many great cats who were re-housed because their people thought they were clawing for no reason. However, a cat rarely ‘goes off’ on you without warning first.
Sometimes during play, they may attack you as a playmate, and that can come without warning. The idea of a surprise attack is very familiar to your cat. It’s how they’d catch prey in the wild, and their play is designed to teach and hone that skill.
Regardless of playtime, a cat will warn you when they aren’t enjoying your attention. Watch for these warning signs.
Kitty Warning Behavior
- If a cat has been purring and they suddenly stop, it’s time to do something else. Your cat was having a lovely time, but now they’re done. Kitty may be overstimulated, or just finished for now.
- Tail switching is a definite sign of an impending attack. The warning flicks of the tail are a sign of annoyance or feeling feisty.
- When your cat rolls over onto their back, this could be a sign they want a belly rub. However, cats attack with their tummy exposed because it allows them to use their more powerful hind legs to claw with since they’re so much stronger than the front legs.
- Unhappy noises are also a great cue to knock it off. Growls, hissing, and other mad or sad cat noises mean your pet is not having fun.
Because the area is so sensitive, the pleasure can turn to discomfort or even pain very quickly. When your cat has a change of heart about a base-of-tail scratch, it’s not just moodiness. You probably overstimulated them, and it’s no longer feeling as good as it did at first. Respect your pet’s wishes and keep an eye out for signs that mean stop.
Kitty Mothers & Surrogates
When cats are babies, their mothers pay a lot of attention to them. The simple act of cleaning stimulates the nerves at the base of their tails, among other areas of the kittens’ body. Young felines enjoy this attention, and when we pet them, it’s a similar feeling.
Whether you’re male or female, cat ownership is a lot like being the surrogate mom. Petting your cat and giving them scratches at the base of the tail reminds them of how it felt to be little and protected.
In addition to simply enjoying the base of tail scratch, it probably comes closest to feeling like when your cats’ mother cleaned them. Cleaning is a social activity for kitties. It’s a way to say hi, and stay healthy at the same time.
For your cat, a good tail scratch isn’t quite the same as licking, but since humans don’t like getting hair on their tongues, it’s a great substitute. Your pet is feeling the love when you give them attention like this.
Commemorate your favorite feline’s bizarre backside antics and love of tail scratching with a toy to scratch their own tails like the WendyMom Cat Arch Self Groomer and Massaging Brush from Amazon. You can grab one by clicking right here.
Scent Glands in Your Cat’s Backside
Beyond the pure enjoyment of a base of tail scratch, your cat may have ulterior motives for getting that itch scratched by you. Cats bonk you with their heads to mark you with their scent. In kitty social interactions, this sharing of smells is a hello, and a friendly conversation. However, their heads aren’t the only place they use to mark you with their scent.
Cats have special scent glands in their backsides. You may not smell it, but they can tell when they mark you with a little additional personal musk. It’s a way of telling other animals to back off because you are a claimed human. Sure, it’s possessive, but it’s also a form of love for them.
Cats Odd Backside Behaviors
More than just enjoying a good scratch at the base of their tails, cats do some odd things with their backsides. You may have noticed when you pet your cat near the tail-base, they lift up their butt.
It’s a sign they like the attention, but it’s also the kitty version of “Harder, please.” By pushing upward into your fingers, a cat gets more stimulation and enjoyment out of the scratch. You could try scratching harder, but it’s probably best to let them control how much more pressure they want with their actions.
Conversely, when your cat flattens their but out on the ground and dips away from you, they’re trying to relieve some of the pressure. If they aren’t otherwise trying to escape, then they may want a little less stimulation. However, if they’re trying to get away, then you should allow kitty to wander off.
More Strange Things Cats Do With Their Tails & Backsides
We’ve all had a cat stick their butt in our face at some point. You might think this is asking for a tail scratch, but it’s not. Cats have a couple of different reasons for showing us their stars, and neither one has anything to do with getting petted.
First, when your cat tries to shove their pooper into your nose and face, they’re saying hi to a trusted friend. Like dogs, cat social protocol involves letting your buddies sniff your butt. While your feline is less likely to go eyebrows deep in a strange cat than a dog might, they still use the scent glands on the backside as a greeting.
If your kitty is sticking a super stinky rear in your face, you may want to give them a little assist with that issue. Pick up a Master Equipment Pet Grooming Table to help clean them up right. Check prices and availability by clicking here.
Secondly, when your cat faces away from you while you’re petting them, it could be to ask for a tail scratch, but more likely, it’s something else. Turning their back on you isn’t a snub. In fact, it’s the opposite. A cat who profoundly trusts you to ‘have their back’ feels safe turning their tail on you. Surveying the kitty kingdom with you behind them is a sign of a contented cat.
Next time your pet tries to get a little bit too personal, you’ll know why they keep insisting you need a closeup of their butt. We humans may think that showing butt is declasse or insulting, but cat culture has a very different take on it.
Most cats love the right amount of pressure scratching the base of their tails. Unfortunately, what works perfectly for one kitty is far too much for another and nowhere near enough for a third. You’ll have to experiment to find what works best for your pet. Even so, they can change their minds mid-scratch.
Keep the warning signs in mind while scratching. Your cat isn’t an irrational monster who is waiting to cut you. However, we don’t speak the same language. You have to learn to be sensitive to kitty body language if you want to communicate with your pet.
What seems odd and unfathomable to us makes perfect sense to our cats. With a little effort, you can learn what your feline friend wants, and hopefully, avoid painful reminders that our expressions aren’t the same.