Cats are amazing creatures that have all sorts of characteristics to amuse humans, such as how they wiggle their whole body before attacking their catnip-infused toy.
Many people consider observing a cat to be similar to that of a wild animal, as they still have all of their natural instincts that they would in the wild.
For example, while a domesticated dog will not stalk prey or hunt in your home, a cat will continue practicing its hunting ability throughout its life. This is where the wiggle comes in. But why do they wiggle before pouncing? Let’s find out.
There Are Many Theories
Unfortunately, many people have different opinions and assumptions about why cats wiggle before jumping onto their prey, but none have been confirmed as of yet.
This is because the only things that can confirm why this happens do not communicate with humans with words, because - well, they’re cats.
So, while we might not know the exact reason for the cute wiggle, we have collated a few theories behind it for you to consider.
It Prepares Them For The Jump
Some veterinarians think that the wiggle is a form of preparation before pouncing on their prey. Cats can’t just jump straight away - well, they could, but it wouldn’t be the smartest move.
Cats are cunning little creatures and like to take their time to plan before jumping the gun and ruining their hunting opportunity.
A wiggle before jumping can prepare the legs to jump to the best of their ability. When cats walk, their hind legs move simultaneously in different directions. However, when they’re jumping, their legs need to be used together.
So, wiggling their hind legs could be a way of resetting them and allowing them to work together rather than opposite one another. This could result in more successful pounces on their prey as they are more controlled within their movements.
A Cat’s Way Of Testing Strength
Another theory as to why cats wiggle before pouncing is that they are testing the strength of their surroundings before they jump. If the ground is not strong enough to hold their weight, then they might be in for a dangerous surprise when they jump.
A wiggle can ensure that they have enough balance, as well as determining whether the ground underneath them is strong enough to support their jump.
This could be used to explain the wiggle in both house cats and wild cats, as anywhere could provide them with uneasy footing.
Cats are meticulous and smart animals, so they’ll always check their safety before risking it for a meal. The wiggle could simply be a funny way of covering their own backs before hunting their prey down.
Biding Time To Make A Plan
Another common theory is that the cat is simply using their wiggle time to make a plan of action before attacking. A pounce is a big move for such a small cat, and their muscles need to be prepared for this action.
Think of how a golfer prepares for the swing of their club - you’ll often see them repositioning their feet, hands, stance, gaze, and more lots before they actually hit the ball. Sometimes they’ll even take a few practice swings as well.
Now compare this to how a cat prepares for their pounce. The wiggle is their way of getting their stance just right for their jump.
It could also help the cat by giving them a few seconds to strategize in their heads before jumping straight into action. This extra planning would most likely lead to more successful pounces and therefore meals.
It’s A Release Of Energy
When cats play and hunt, dopamine is released into their systems from their brains, and so this might be one of the causes of the wiggle.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that commonly comes into focus with reward-motivated behaviors, such as hunting.
Dopamine also releases energy into the body, charging the cat up and getting them excited. The wiggle might be a response to this - helping them get rid of some of the energy so that they can remain composed during the hunt.
Is The Wiggle A Learned Behavior?
Again, it can be difficult to know whether a cat’s wiggle is learned or instinctive behavior. However, the research seems to suggest that it is a mixture between the two.
The wiggle seems to be down to them both stretching their muscles ready for the pounce, as well as excitement for the activity about to happen.
Kittens play rather than hunt, but this is most likely getting them ready for their hunting instincts to kick in.
Kitten play will teach them how to perfect their skills and learn how to hunt without getting too excited that they scare the prey off. It will also help them build strong and lean muscles.
So, it might be an instinctive behavior for cats to play and work these skills unknowingly, for them to help in the future with hunting.
However, they might also learn that wiggling is the best way to remove any excess energy and get their legs in the perfect position for the jump.
Overall, there are a few reasons why cats might wiggle before pouncing. While cats are the only beings that can approve or deny these theories, plenty of research into these animals dictates that there is truth to all four of the theories we looked at above.
Cats most likely wiggle to get their muscles ready for the jump, as well as their stance. They can also use the time to strategize and ensure that they are ready for their attack.
It is also a good way of releasing some energy so that they are not too excitable, as this could ruin the attack.
Cats can both learn and be born with this behavior, and it is one of life’s little mysteries the exact reason why. So, don’t think about it too much and just enjoy the pleasure of watching the wiggle.
At Love4Cats, our practice involves consistent collaboration with licensed veterinarians and reputable industry experts. However, it's important to note that the content provided on Excited Cats is not intended as veterinary advice. While we strive to enhance your understanding of feline care, the information presented on this blog should not replace professional veterinary guidance.