Beware of the Belly!

A cat’s belly floof may appear sumptuous and inviting but beware! Always pay full attention to the cat’s face and body language before venturing there with your hands. When a cat is writhing on the floor in front of you with its belly exposed and giving you direct eye contact, this may be a challenge or a warning rather than an invitation for affection and a good ol’ belly rub, although some cats do seem to enjoy this kind of affection. In general though, the more excited and persuasive a cat may seem, the more likely it is to become easily overwhelmed. If you would like to keep your skin intact, it is vital to know when a cat is inviting you to touch or if it is testing you by offering you its belly but really meaning that it is willing to expose its most vulnerable part to demonstrate that it is not a threat but is prepared to defend itself if you go too far. Failing to understand feline communication in this way has led to many beaten up human hands and arms. After all, when a cat is in a belly-up posture, it can unleash its full arsenal of claws and teeth in a split second (I learnt this the hard way from my old cat, Dave!). Unless you know a cat very well indeed or you are a self-confessed feline body language ninja, it is best not to fall for the ‘look at my gorgeous fluffy belly’ routine. Their soft, fluffy belly may look irresistible but their eyes might be saying ‘Don’t touch me or I’ll rip to you to shreds!’ This may seem to paint a bad picture of cats but it must be remembered that it was not humans that tamed the cats, they CHOSE to come and live with us many thousands of years ago. They may be friendly for the most part but if we disrespect or misread them, they will let us know we have overstepped the mark, however indistinct that mark may be.

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