When you walk up to your cat, does it tend to stretch its arms and legs as a part of saying hello? This adorable and sweet behavior is certainly endearing, but what does it mean?
Why do cats often stretch when they greet you? Read on to find out!
Why Do Cats Stretch When They Greet You?
Cats stretch before greeting you for a myriad of different reasons. It may be due to established routines, as a way of showing affection or comfort, or for a completely unrelated purpose. The behavior is ultimately harmless, and in most cases, it’s positive!
10 Reasons Why A Cat May Stretch As They Are Greeting You
1. They’ve Just Woken Up
Humans tend to stretch and yawn when they wake up, and cats do the same! If you tend to approach your cat while it’s sleeping, napping, or otherwise lounging, it may stretch as a part of its routine of waking up.
2. They Want Attention
Cat stretches are quite adorable, and it’s only natural that you’ve probably cooed over your cat in the past when it stretches so cutely. Your cat, in turn, has learned that this behavior earns your attention.
As such, when your cat wants to grab your focus, it may stretch languidly to try and get you to react and give them affection. They may even use this behavior as a means of grabbing attention so you can attend to one of their needs.
3. They’re Comfortable Around You
In the wild and in general, cats tend to be creatures on constant high alert. For the sake of their safety, they’re always in a position that allows them to spring quickly into action at the shortest sign of danger.
So when a cat stretches around you, especially when they’re lying down or on their side and exposing its belly, this is a high honor. It’s a sign that your cat trusts you and sees you as a comfortable, safe person.
Your cat may greet you by stretching not because the stretch is a part of its greeting, but because now that you’re around, it feels safe enough to stretch out.
4. They’re Showing Affection
Cats don’t usually show their affection in the same big, showy, overly energetic way that dogs do. They find other subtler ways to do it in a language they’re more familiar with.
When your cat is excited to see you, especially when you’ve just come home from work, your cat may jump up on all fours and stretch as part of that excitement. This is especially true if your cat then continues to stretch toward you!
5. They’re Regulating Temperature
Sometimes, your cat’s stretching doesn’t actually have anything to do with you. Cats stretch all the time for a myriad of different reasons, and one of them is for the purpose of temperature regulation.
When a cat stretches, for this reason, it plants all four paws on the ground and increases the surface area of its body. This allows it to release some of the heat pent up inside in a quick, simple movement.
Your cat’s greeting may just happen to coincide with these movements, especially since you add your body heat to the temperature of a room.
6. They’re Releasing Energy
Cats need a decent amount of exercise every day to release stress and pent-up energy.
If your cat doesn’t get much exercise or is too lazy to move around, they might opt to release some of this energy by stretching.
Why, then, does it do this when greeting you?
The excitement from seeing you might add more energy to your cat, thus facilitating the need to release some of that tension – even if the tension is positive!
7. They’re Preparing For Something
Stretching can help a cat prepare for a certain action or reaction. It’s an instinct that harkens back to days spent in the wild. Stretching while standing in an upright position can be used as a means to prepare to pounce, run, or otherwise act.
When you come home, do you usually play with your cat or give them a lot of affection? Do you go to feed it or lie down on the sofa and call it for cuddles?
Whatever your routine is, your cat may have gotten used to it. So when they see you, they know that this routine is coming up, and stretches in preparation for springing into action, whether that be by launching into playtime or sprinting to the kitchen for food.
8. They’re On The Defensive
This isn’t a common cause for stretching while greeting, but it’s worth discussing. If you’ve just brought a new cat home, it may still be defensive and anxious around you.
So, while your cat greets you, it puts itself into a defensive stretch to prepare to either bolt or attack if you turn out to be dangerous. Over time, this instinct will dissipate as you earn the cat’s trust.
9. They’re Marking Their Territory
You likely already know the meaning behind another common cat greeting: the act of a cat rubbing its cheeks and body against your legs. Cats do that as a way of marking their territory, as they have scent glands in their cheeks.
Basically, it’s their way of saying “This human is mine!”
How, then, does this connect to stretching? Well, cats release pheromones through their sweat glands, which they can promote the spread of by stretching and allowing those pheromones to be released into the air.
When your cat greets you by stretching and rubbing up against you, they are claiming you as their territory!
10. They’re Just Relaxed
Do you ever feel so cozy that you just want to stretch? Do you tend to stretch as a means to help you relax even more? Well, cats can do this, too!
Your cat may be relaxed when it sees you, as they feel happy and content in its home. Stretching may just be a part of its relaxation and coziness, especially if your greeting is usually accompanied by some quality cuddle time.
Why Do Cats Sometimes Stretch Their Paws Out On You?
A cat’s act of stretching its paws and claws on you is often called “making biscuits” or “kneading”. This is a behavior that stems from kittenhood.
Kittens “make biscuits” on their mother’s stomach to facilitate the production of milk, so they can nurse and feed.
But cats don’t lose that instinct as they grow older. They continue to knead on the people they love, especially their owners.
It’s a sign that they trust you and are as comfortable and happy with you as they felt nursing from their mother!
Does My Cat Stretch Too Much?
There’s nothing wrong with a cat stretching, and it’s not really something a cat can do “too much” of.
As long as your cat’s stretches don’t involve sounds of pain or discomfort and don’t interfere with its everyday life, your cat’s stretching frequency is perfectly fine. Some cats just like to stretch a lot!
If you’re concerned that your kitty’s stretching may point to an injury or other problem, you can always talk to your vet about any concerning symptoms.
Cats can stretch as they greet you for many different reasons, and almost all of them are positive or neutral. This behavior is completely normal, so enjoy it in all of its adorable charm!