As natural predators, cats are all about watching, looking, and staring. Their astonishing concentration can even be a little unnerving for their owners. You may wonder why your cat is staring at you like it wants to eat you? Why is it narrowing its eyes like that? Many cat expressions do in fact have a meaning behind them.
So, why does my cat look at me upside down? When a cat rolls onto its back and looks at you upside down, it is relaxed and content. It may even be inviting you to play. Although it may appear that your cat is requesting a belly rub, this is most likely not the case.
In this article you’ll find a thorough explanation of the meaning behind this cat behavior as well as warnings on what may happen if you misinterpret your cat’s intentions. Additionally, we’ll discuss a few medical conditions that could be causing your cat to look at you upside down.
Your Cat is Happy and Relaxed
The most common reason a cat rolls over on its back and looks at you upside down is that it is feeling happy and relaxed. Exposing its stomach shows that it likes and trusts you, and the look may be an invitation to play. Cats can be picky about what kind of attention they enjoy, so figuring out how to pet and play with a cat inviting your interaction can involve some trial and error.
An Invitation to Play
A cat that wants you to play with it may roll onto its back or from side to side and look at you upside down. Although this can look similar to a dog asking for a belly rub, most cats do not enjoy having their stomachs touched and will reward you with a scratch if you try this. Instead, try twitching or dangling a toy just out of reach of your cat’s paws.
Your cat may also simply be feeling affectionate. If so, the relaxed posture and upside down look will often be accompanied by loud purring. A cat in this mood will often enjoy being pet gently between its ears or under its chin.
This expression of happiness does not always mean that your cat wants to be pet or played with. Like people, a cat may just be stretching out because it’s content and comfortable—and it just happens to be watching you at the same time. You can usually tell if your cat is feeling playful or content by how quickly it moves.
A cat that is looking at you upside down, but otherwise is almost completely still, is just relaxing. It might be disturbed if you try to pet or play with it. If your cat is reaching out its paws, rolling around, or pretending to grab you, it’s time to get out the toys.
Your cat’s eyes are another great indicator of its mood and can help you interpret that upside down expression. Partially closed eyes with small pupils mean the cat is mellow and calm. Wide open eyes with large pupils mean it’s ready to grab and chase and burn some energy.
The Upside Down Look is Unintentional
Another reason your cat may look at you upside down may simply be that its in the middle of doing something else. Cats are lithe, active animals that may not always think about the position they’re in. You’re looking at them, so they’re looking at you, and that’s all there is to it.
Stretching and Napping
One of the least complicated reasons your cat may be looking at you upside down is that you caught them in the middle of a good stretch. Cats spend a good portion of their lives napping and will often enjoy a good stretch upon waking.
Stretching helps to increase their blood pressure, which may have dropped while they slept. This increased blood flow helps wake their brain, get their muscles moving again, and flush toxins like lactic acid from their cells. Stretching also readies a cat’s muscles for activity, whether its next planned activity is sauntering to its food dish or pouncing on the nearest toy or foot.
Claiming the World
Cats have scent glands in their cheeks, chins, and foreheads that they use to mark things they claim as their own. They indicate this claim and transfer their scent to objects by rubbing their head against them, sometimes getting so enthusiastic that they roll all the way over, and you get that upside down look.
This is still a relaxed and friendly gesture. A cat that is claiming an area feels comfortable there. This kind of rubbing may even extend to you. Your cat may roll around in your lap and rub its head against your leg because it wants everyone to know you belong to it.
Obviously, cats also receive a certain amount of enjoyment from a good head rub and may extend this behavior for the pure pleasure of it. As long as the upside-down head rubbing does not seem to be traceable to any of the diseases or irritations discussed later in this article, it’s nothing to be concerned about.
A cat may also unintentionally give you the upside down look because it is trying to cool off. If a cat is feeling too warm, it may roll over, exposing its fur-dense stomach to the air in order to cool off more quickly. Although cats seem to like a certain amount of sun and coziness, cats can suffer from heat-stroke if they get overheated.
If you notice your cat trying to cool off in this way, you can help by making sure it has access to cool, clean drinking water. If the cat will allow it, you can also give it a gentle brushing regularly to help remove any winter undercoat it still may be shedding.
Although it may seem like giving your cat a haircut would help it cool off, the opposite is actually true. A cat’s fur helps to regulate its temperature, keeping it both warm and cool. This is why your cat may also expose its belly fur to the sunlight on a cooler day. It’s soaking in the warmth.
Confusion or Curiosity
Cats are constantly taking information with both eyes and ears, not to mention their nose and whiskers. If your cat is confused or curious about something it sees or hears, it may turn its head from side to side or even upside down trying to decipher the signals it’s gathering.
So, if you think your cat is looking at you upside down because it thinks you’re weird—well, in some instances, that might be the case! Our behavior can sometimes seem as odd to our cats as their behavior appears to us.
Medical Issues and Mating Behavior
On a more serious note, cats can suffer from neurological diseases that can lead them to hold their heads in strange positions, essentially looking at you upside down. If your cat has any of the following symptoms, it should see a vet immediately.
- Stumbling or falling
- Odd or erratic eye movement
- Inability to focus
- Turning in circles
- Drooling or vomiting
- Head constantly tilted or held in strange positions
Ear Mites or Itching Skin
If your cat seems it’s regularly looking at you upside down because it’s rubbing its head or ears on the carpet or some other surface, it may be suffering from dry skin, allergies, ear mites, an ear infection, or fleas. Besides the itchiness, symptoms may include:
- Red, irritated skin
- Hair loss
- Ear wax or ear “dirt”
- Scabs on skin
If these symptoms are due to allergies, your cat may also have runny eyes and cough or sneeze occasionally. Any of these ailments can be extremely uncomfortable for your cat and may become progressively worse. If you suspect that your cat is suffering from any of them, it’s best to see a vet as soon as possible and pursue the prescribed treatment.
With a female cat rolling on her back can sometimes be connected to her desire to mate. A female in heat may be extra affectionate one moment and all claws the next. She may also pace and meow loudly.
If you have an unsprayed female cat that is behaving this way, mistaking her unsettled behavior as simple playfulness can lead to a nasty scratch or bite. It’s best to give her space until she calms down and start making plans to have her spayed.
Barring any medical issues, if you’re getting an upside down look from your cat, you are most likely being told that it likes and trusts you, and responding appropriately to your cat’s trust will strengthen your bond. Sometimes your cat will be perfectly happy for you just to look back. However, you may find that your cat is especially playful in this mood, and it’s time to get the toys out.