Cat Talk: What Does “Elevator Butt” Mean?

For cat lovers, one of the most common feline postures can be puzzling. We know that cats communicate not only with meows and purrs, but also with scent and body position. A comical posture of happy, healthy cats, something I call “elevator butt,” actually communicates different information depending on the cat.

The pose looks similar to the canine play-bow, and in some circumstances has a similar meaning. The cat lowers her front end toward the ground, while elevating her nether regions and tail. Kitty looks sort of like a race car revving her engines.

Top 3 Things Elevator Butt Means

Romance

The technical term for elevator butt is lordosis. The lordosis posture serves as the intact female cat’s romantic invitation to males as a mating display. Some cats (both girls and boy kitties) also use this position when urine marking, to spray their pungent urine higher or with better aim.

Play And Attention

Many pet cats, of course, are neutered and out of the mating game. And kitties typically offer this pose to humans, with no romantic strings attached. In these instances, “elevator butt” simply invites attention from the human, for interaction and play—or simply a pet at the base of the tail. My old lady cat, Seren-Kitty, does this to invite a friendly scratch.

You Can Sniff Me

Cats identify each other by their signature odor. A kitty who keeps her nether regions shielded is like a shy human hiding her face. That can indicate fear, stress, or anxiety. Conversely, offering the elevator-butt pose places the cat in a vulnerable position and could be considered a declaration of trust. That’s not to say your cat really expects you to take a whiff—but the offer certainly speaks volumes.

Elevator butt aimed at humans is a declaration of friendship and an invitation to come closer and interact. For that reason, the pose can be a great indicator of your cat’s emotional state. By scratching or petting your cat in response, you reinforce the behavior so the cat will repeat the gesture. Petting also tells the cat you accept the offer of friendship.

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.