Why Do Cats Wiggle Before Pouncing?
Cats are mysterious and fascinating creatures, and perhaps one of their subtlest behaviours that perplex owners is the tell-tale wiggle just before they pounce.
What is the cats’ wiggle all about?
It turns out, this wiggle has adaptive functions that help cats better snatch and capture their prey. Cats tend to wiggle their hind-end while rotating their front end, and they are believed to be ‘setting up’ their back and shoulder muscles to give them the agility, power and precision they need to drive those claws into their prey, and land further away after the pounce.
The Science Behind Cats’ Pouncing Ability
The wiggle allows cats to quickly and properly get into position and ‘charge’ up the motor activity they need to leap and pounce. This power charge is made possible by their specific body structure and natural reflexes – cats have flexible body spines with an average of 40 to 44 vertebrae, more than twice the number most mammals, including humans, have.
A combination of their bones, tendons and muscles are also at work in their head-to-tail alignment – which is why their wiggle is so unique! Those layers of muscle that allow the characteristic feline swiveling movement also help store up muscle energy so it is ready and released when the pounce takes place.
Other Feline Characteristics That Help with the Pounce
- Cats have a specially evolved spine – the tail is extra mobile and can act as a rudder during the pounce, helping them to adjust direction in the air.
- Cats’ whole body adjusts to their prey – during the wiggle their head and eyes focus on the prey and their feet angle themselves for the best position.
- Their powerful, flexible shoulder blades allow for the jump to be launched from swiftly and with power.
- Cats have retractable claws – this means they can swiftly draw them in to keep balance and provide momentum when they are in the air.
- If they misjudge their pounce and misdirect their landing, cats can twist their back midair and grasp objects with their rear legs, which helps them right themselves.
All of these elements work together to make cats one of the most skilled predators – and it all begins with the amazing wiggle before the pounce!
3. What signals does a cat give off before wiggling prior to pouncing?
A cat may give off a few signals before wiggling and pouncing, such as dilated pupils, lowered ears, twitching of whiskers, crouching down and tensing its body, and a growling sound.
1. What happens in a cat’s brain right before it wiggles before a pounce?
Before a pounce, cats typically experience an anticipatory state in their brain. This happens as they focus their attention on a stimulus – often a prey – preparing to pounce. This anticipation may be accompanied by increased activity seen in areas of their brain associated with motor control, sensory processing, and attention, while areas associated with fear and fear recognition may become less active.