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Why Do Cats Play Dead – The Real Reason

Why Do Cats Play Dead – The Real Reason

Sometimes our cats can be incredible actors, and we find them playing dead. In these instances, you either rush to them to shake them awake, just to make sure they are playing. Or you know this game already, and you jump in to play with them for a little bit. Playing dead is usually more commonly seen in other animals, so why do cats play dead?

Cats playing dead is most commonly an act of submission. This act either signifies that they are stressed out, trust you, or try to entice you into playing with them.

To accurately know which signal your cat is sending you, knowing more about stress and discomfort warning signs is essential. If you can identify that they are not stressed out, then you can be confident that they are showing they trust you are trying to play with you.

Is It Normal For Cats To Play Dead

While it is not common for cats to play dead, it is not abnormal behavior. This kind of behavior is seen more so in younger cats and multi-cat households. Younger cats may play dead more frequently to try and get attention from you. Especially if you rush towards them every time they play dead, they will start to learn that they get attention from you quickly when they play dead. If you have more than one cat, they may play dead frequently to get your attention.

Honestly, the only time it is not normal is if your cat has never done it before. Even then, it could just be a rare, random occurrence. If they suddenly start playing dead more frequently, then maybe analyze their current routine and environment to ensure they are comfortable. Maybe something is causing discomfort, and they are using playing dead as a way to bring your attention to this.

The “normalcy” of playing dead is relative to each cat. If you know your cat well and see them do it all of the time, then it will always be normal to you.

Why Does My Cat Pretend To Be Dead

The three main reasons why cats pretend to be dead are because they are either afraid, showing trust, or playing.

When cats are afraid, they may play dead as a defense mechanism. Some other animals, like opossums, play dead to deter predators. While a predator might not threaten your cat, there may be something causing them discomfort. Cats are fans of routine and knowing their environment well, so if you shake up their routine or change their environment, they may feel stressed out and start to exhibit behaviors that show they are afraid.

They might play dead to show they are submissive in the situation, so whatever is threatening them will be less likely to focus on them. Or they might play dead to draw attention to the fact that they are unhappy. It is their way of getting you to look at what is going on and help them.

If your cat normally does not play dead and suddenly they do, reflect on recent changes you both have gone through and try to identify if anything changed that could be upsetting them. Perhaps you introduced a new person or pet to the home, and now your cat behaves differently. Take note of these changes and see what you can do to prioritize your cat’s comfort.

Playing dead might also be your cat’s way of showing you that they trust you. They are making themselves wholly vulnerable and submissive to show you that they know you would not do anything to hurt them. Maybe you recently adopted a cat, and after a few months, they are starting to play dead more frequently. This could be their way of demonstrating how comfortable they are in their new home and how much they love you. You will know if they display trust if they also do things like sleeping close to you, head-butting you, or rubbing their cheeks.

Your kitty may also be pretending to be dead to initiate some playtime. If you pay attention to them every time they pretend to be dead, they will become trained to play dead whenever they crave attention. It’s not like we can help ourselves; they look so cute when they play dead! Or, if you have other cats and pets, they might play dead to get them interested in playing. Your other pets will become interested and will come to investigate what your cat is doing, only to be pounced on, and then the playing begins.

How Do You Teach Your Cat To Play Dead

If you think playing dead is a cute trick, then you can totally train your cat to play dead! It is best to start when they are young, this is the easiest time to train them, and there is more of a chance that they will remember this behavior as they grow. Make sure you have some treats for positive reinforcement to help them learn.

Little rewards as you train are a great way to encourage them to continue the behavior. Then you want to choose what command you want them to learn. Many owners choose the word “bang” and hold up their hand like a finger gun to “shoot” at their cat. This hand motion and signature word will be what your cat remembers and what signals them to fall over and pretend to play dead.

To help them fall over, you can gently push them and help them lay down, so they understand the motion they are supposed to be learning. Be patient with them; training cats is much more challenging to train than dogs. They are naturally unruly and rarely like being told what to do.

Things To Consider:

Your cat playing dead is harmless unless they are trying to tell you that they are stressed out and afraid. The best way to ensure you can help them is to be able to identify other signs of stress. Take a look at your cat’s daily routine. Are they eating and drinking regularly? Going to the bathroom normally?

Do you see your cat playing and relaxing, or are they hiding and running from room to room? Identifying strange behaviors will help you make sure your cat is living as comfortably as possible. If you are unsure how to help, you can always ask your veterinarian for advice on relieving any stress your cat is feeling.