The Hervey Foundation for Cats
The Pre-Attack Butt Wiggle: What is the Reason?

The Pre-Attack Butt Wiggle: What is the Reason?

Fierce hunters as they are, domesticated cats sure have some odd routines that strike them when the mood is right. Have you ever jiggled a toy in front of your cat only to have them snake their body around in several directions, pull at the carpet, dip down behind a shoe thinking they’re invisible, or, better yet, get low to the ground and wiggle their butt in the air?

Would it surprise you that this behaviour isn’t just common in housecats, but also in some big cats too? Before pouncing on prey, cats of all shapes and sizes seem to agree that wiggling their butts in the air is key to a successful hunt. 

Many Theories Abound

There are many theories as to why cats like to shake their hindquarters when getting ready to attack, and for many cats, only they will know the true answer to why they do it. Let’s take a look at some of the theories behind why cats like to shake their rump in advance of a pounce.

Some experts believe this pre-meal wiggle might almost act as a learned superstition to cats. Doing everything you can to prepare for a strong pounce can be the difference between eating or not. To them, wiggling their bum is just part of a successful hunting routine. While some may be pretty loose with their wiggles, potentially causing more of a ruckus than helping them catch prey, to them it is still a necessary part of a good hunt.

What part does this wiggle play in the actual preparation of a pounce? When done properly, it can help a cat get their legs ready for the best possible angle of attack. Shaking their butt lets them move their feet around just slightly enough for them to get the best possible footing. Some cats may do this to improve their jump while others might just loosely go through the motions – Note from the author: My cat June wiggles her butt before every pounce but doesn’t move her feet, nor even try to stay hidden. Athleticism is not the strength of every cat. 

Some experts also believe the backside wiggle is a way to determine the strength of their footing and check their balance. While the angle of attack is important, so too is the strength of whatever surface the foot is pushing off. By wiggling their butt and moving their feet back and forth, they can determine how solid their footing is. This ensures they have decent balance and helps them avoid jumping off a loose surface and slipping or falling!

The Dopamine Theory

Some experts believe the release of dopamine in a cat’s mind, much like a human’s mind, can influence their future behaviour. During a hunt, your cat might feel excited, and their brain will start to release dopamine into their system. Eventually, they might associate that feeling with all steps of the hunt, and when your cat thinks they are about to tackle another piece of prey, be it real or a toy, they might go through the steps that give them that dopamine hit. 

Final Thoughts

Sometimes there isn’t a totally clear reason as to why a human or an animal conducts certain behaviours. Why a cat will get low to the ground and wiggle their butt before pouncing can even be compared to why a golfer might settle into their feet and knees, wiggle their hips, and shake their arms before pulling their golf club down straight in front of them. While there, they might even do a couple of practice swings! All this is to ensure they are doing everything they can to guarantee the best hit possible, based on knowledge gathered over numerous previous attempts.

Think of your cat like the golfer mentioned above. When they are getting ready to pounce, they have their own routine. Some of it is from practice and has a practical application while other parts might be a little superstitious in nature. Either way, the behaviour is pretty funny to us humans, and we can laugh, but a bird or a squirrel might think twice!


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