Why Do Cats Run Sideways – Body Language & Meaning

We know cats are prone to odd behaviors, but it still never fails to scare us when we see our furry companion doing something a little bit odd. One of the strange things cats sometimes do is walk or run sideways. But, why do cats run sideways?

Cats run sideways when they are feeling extra playful or mischievous. Sideways running looks like they are almost hopping from side to side. Cats do this behavior to try and entice you to play along with them. 

Although sideways running may look odd, it is perfectly normal and not a sign that anything is wrong. Let’s dive more into this running behavior, how to recognize it, and what it can mean for your cat.

Reasons Cats Run Sideways  

Sideways running occurs often in cats, but here area few key reasons why its happening.

Your Cats Is Playful

The most likely reason your cat is running sideways is that you have caught them while they are in a playful mood. Cats act silly when they are ready for playtime.

The best thing to do when you suspect your cat wants to play gets on their level and engages with them. Cats love when we get on all fours at their height level to play. 

Your cat is feeling on guard or initiated by something in its surroundings

Your cat might also walk or run sideways as a reflex reaction when they feel scared about something going on in their surroundings. We have all heard the colloquial expression “scaredy-cat” before, and this phrase is not entirely inaccurate.

When a cat feels threatened, its instinct is to run out of the way or escape the situation as fast as possible.

Your Cat Is Trying To Avoid Something

Similarly, cats are very quick on their feet, so they will jump out of the way whenever an unpleasant situation unfolds around them. Cats can easily climb or hide themselves away when necessary and are not afraid to do so when they want to avoid something. 

Your cat might run sideways to escape your embrace if you are trying to pick them up and they are not in the mood to be held. Your cat may also run sideways if they sense you are trying to take them to the vet or put them in the car. 

Cats seemingly have a sixth sense about knowing when something unpleasant is about to go down. Be careful if your cat is prone to running away because it is easy for them to slip out of your grip when they pull this maneuver. 

Your Cat Is In A Spirited Mood

Sometimes your cat may find itself with a lot of extra energy. Perhaps your cat has been asleep for most of the day and just woke up feeling refreshed, or they were not able to run around and play as much as usual. 

When cats have a lot of extra energy, they can often go into overdrive and start acting silly. Some pet owners call these crazy bursts of energy “zoomies,” as their cat will start zooming around their house.

When your cat starts acting more hyper than usual, that is your cue to ensure they are getting enough exercise every day. 

Your Cat Wants Your Attention

Your cat may also be running sideways or dancing around to try and get your attention. Cats often do this when you have just walked in the door from being gone all day, and they are trying to get you to pet them or feed them. 

Why Do Cats Arch Their Backs And Run Sideways

Cats arch their backs to make themselves appear larger than they are. Cats are relatively small animals within the animal kingdom, and they often arch their backs to puff themselves up when they feel defensive. 

They take this position in situations where their guard is up. When cats arch their back and run sideways, they either pounce or run away from the threat.

If you see a cat take this position, be aware that they are on the defense and maybe in a fighting mood. If another cat or another animal has caused them to strike this pose, you should try to defuse the situation as quickly and safely as possible. Male cats are more likely to fight than female cats, but cats are not afraid to fight when their safety is compromised. 

What Does It Mean When Your Cat Starts Walking Sideways 

If you notice that your cat has started walking sideways frequently and seems a little disoriented, you may need to evaluate if your cat has vestibular disease.

Signs of vestibular disease in cats may include a sudden loss of coordination, leaning or walking sideways, and unexplained nausea. 

Vestibular disease can happen to a cat at any age, and it is not a disease that becomes increasingly likely as a cat grows older. This condition develops when there is an imbalance within the inner ear.

If the vestibular apparatus becomes damaged, your cat will majorly struggle with its balance and ability to walk in a straight line. 

While it is not entirely known what causes cats to develop vestibular disease, often there is no underlying cause. However, certain breeds are naturally more predisposed to develop this condition, such as Siamese and Burmese cats. 

The good news is that this condition is treatable for cats. Typically vestibular disease will resolve by itself within a few days, and if not, your vet should be able to put your cat on medicine to assist with the side effects. 

If your cat has a history of inner ear problems, its chances of developing vestibular disease will also increase. Keep an eye out to see if your cat seems to itch or scratch at their ears, as this could be a sign they have an inner ear infection.

What Does It Mean When A Cat Hops Sideways

If a cat hops sideways and is not showing any other aggressive behaviors, your cat is simply trying to play. They may be jumping to catch your attention or the attention of another animal in the room. 

Cats enjoy roughhousing around and appreciate it when you take note of this behavior and play with them. If you find your cat is often in a playful mood and can be too rambunctious, you may need to purchase some other toys for them so they can get their energy out in a different way. 

Laser pointer toys are a great toy option for cats who like to jump and hop around. Cats can follow the laser pointer around a room and try to catch the light. 

Why Do Cats Walk Sideways When Playing

Cats walk sideways when playing to try and jump-start a play session. Cats will walk sideways to raise the energy of a situation and get someone to play along with them. Cats are quite light on their feet, so sometimes they may make sudden movements without really trying to do so. 

Why Do Kittens Walk Sideways  

Kittens often walk sideways while they are learning to get their footing. They are new to life and often are a little wobbly on their feet for the first few months. When kittens are young, they are also practicing their different postures. 

Kittens are also inexperienced in regulating their energy, so they could be experiencing a sudden energy boost that causes them to act a little extra clumsy. 

Final Thoughts

While running or walking sideways is one way that cats show excitement or playfulness, there are a few other ways cats will let you know when they want to play. Cats may also approach you and rub their face on your arm or leg to nuzzle you, which is both a form of affection and a way to get your attention. 

If you see your cat running in circles throughout your home or trying to scratch or chew on furniture, that can also indicate they are trying to get their excess energy out throughout the day.

While you may not enjoy either behavior, cats also will do a little bunny kick, gently bite, or swat playfully at their owner or another animal when they are ready for playtime. These behaviors can feel aggressive when done to a human, so it is best to encourage your cat to work through their energy in other ways. 


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