Why do cats wiggle their butts (bums in UK English) before pouncing? I know the answer, or I think I do, but before I put pen to paper, I checked the excellent books that I have and I couldn’t find anything on this form of feline behavior. So, I am on my own.
Immediate preparation, mental and physical, for an effective pounce
I’ve seen the feline butt wiggle in play with my cat. However, I have not seen this form of cat behavior in all my cats therefore not all cats wiggle their butt before pouncing. It’s an instinctive preparation immediately before jumping forwards. When I watch the behavior, I’m drawn to the commonsense conclusion that it is no more than the cat psychologically and physically preparing for a pounce. The strong muscles of the cat’s hind legs are being flexed in preparation to apply maximum force and the cat’s mind is being focused and energized to commit to an effective pounce.
Human sportspeople show the same behavior
It’s a bit like the waggle in preparation for a golf swing. When golfers waggle their club immediately before swinging it to hit the ball they are preparing mentally and physically to strike the ball accurately with a good, rhythmical swing.
Track athletes jump up and down before setting off in a race. We also see it in tennis players at the net with the umpire before their match. As the umpire explains the rules, the competitors are jumping around, energizing themselves to start fast. The feline butt wiggle is getting the muscles ready to apply maximum force when leaping forwards.
Checking the ground
There may also be another reason. The cat is able to check the firmness of the ground on which he is resting before the legs push against it. This is another part of the preparation process before pouncing.
Another pre-pounce behavior
Another pre-pounce feline behavior is shifting their head from side to side before pouncing onto an object, normally a small landing area. When a cat shifts her point of view slightly it helps to obtain a more accurate three-dimensional view of the object onto which the cat is going to jump. This allows the cat to land more accurately.
On the Life Science website, John Hutchinson, a professor of Evolutionary Biomechanics at the Royal Veterinary College in London confirms what I have stated namely that science does not know the answer because nobody, as yet, has conducted a study on this probably because it’s not that important 😉.
He thinks that cats do the butt-wiggle (bum-wiggle in the English language) to help press their hind limbs into the ground to provide added purchase when they push off. And to quote him: “It may also have a sensory role to prepare the vision, proprioception [an awareness of one’s position and movement] and muscle — and whole cat — for the rapid neural commands needed for the pounce.”
He also refers to an aerobic warmup. This is also the point that I’m making about. It probably stretches the muscles. A further possibility is that it may just be because the cats are excited and it’s an expression of that excitement.
This form of feline behaviour extends to all cats including the wild cats and the big cats such as lions, tigers and jaguars.
These are my thoughts about cats wiggling their butts before pouncing. I would welcome any comments on the subject from visitors who might have an alternative viewpoint.