I’ve been a cat owner for quite some time now, and I can say I’ve seen cats do a lot of different things, but the cat sideways walk is most probably my favorite of all the strange little things cats do.
You’ve probably seen a cat walking strangely sideways with an arched back, or even hopping all over the room! If not in real life, then you’re certain to have seen it on online videos.
The reason for a cat walking sideways can simply be your cat being playful, but it can also be that your cat was suddenly scared or has noticed a potential threat nearby.
Why a cat would start walking sideways or doing the sideways hop really depends on the circumstances at that exact moment.
You might also hear the cat sideways walk being referred to as the cat crab walk, so don’t be confused – they have the same meaning.
Continue reading to find out more about why a cat walking sideways is a common occurrence, and learn when this behavior can be a potential clue to an underlying health issue!
Cat Sideways Walk: What Is It Exactly?
A cat walking sideways is often accompanied by arching their back and turning their entire body to one side. They may simply stand in this position, start hopping or even run around that way!
It might be best you see it visually:
Both kittens, adult cats and even old cats can display this behavior!
It might be strange when you see your cat do this for the first time, but you better get used to it as some cats absolutely love doing this odd little movement.
It can be compared to the Halloween cat pose, but they are slightly different.
Although both have the characteristic of the arched back and the body turned sideways, the Halloween cat pose is accompanied by hissing and their fur standing straight up.
What Are The Possible Reasons For A Cat Walking Sideways?
There is not one reason for your cat walking sideways, or doing a “crab walk” as some might call it. It really depends on the situation and specific circumstances.
Let’s investigate all the possible reasons as to why a cat would be walking this way!
Reason No 1: Your Cat Is Just Being Playful
This is one of the most common reasons for your cat’s sideways walk. All cats, no matter their age or breed are known to be huge fans of playtime!
If your cat is in a playful mood, you might catch them doing the crab walk! Kittens often do it while playing with other kittens, but adult cats do it too, especially if someone is encouraging them!
Your feline companion can be a very amusing little creature. When they get thrilled and something sets off their instinctive need to play, they may engage in this excited movement.
You might also observe your cat walking or even hopping sideways for a brief period when they catch a glimpse of themselves in the mirror. Personally, I find this very funny.
I fostered a cat that, for whatever reason, always did the sideways hop every time they saw themselves in the hallway mirror. Even though it was multiple times a day! I always found it strange but funny how they never got used to the mirror being there…
That kitty is happily adopted now and I’m sure they continued amusing their owners doing the same adorable thing in their new home too.
Reason No 2: Your Cat Was Startled
Usually, when your cat jumps sideways, it’s because something surprised them suddenly and unexpectedly. What could be the reason?
The most likely cause of your cat being startled is:
🐾 Loud noises
🐾 Bright lights
🐾 Sudden movement
Cats have extremely sensitive hearing and eyesight. For example, a glass falling to the floor can startle your cat, or a sudden voice your cat was not expecting (for example, because they didn’t see anyone in the room at first).
Also, it can be due to a car’s headlights being pointed directly at the cat. You might have experienced this before with a stray cat while driving or parking your car.
Have you ever been driving into your driveway and suddenly a stray cat pops up in your way – the pose the cat takes is the typical sideways pose I’m talking about.
The expression “scaredy cat” is well-known to most people. Some cats are easily startled and quick to engage their speedy cat reflexes, which can include the sideways pose or jump.
Not all cats are naturally fearful; some get startled more easily than others. However, it appears that kittens who are still getting used to their surroundings may be more likely to show off their crab walk.
Reason No 3: Your Cat Is Facing A Threat
Cats are known to be territorial and any new person or a pet “on their territory” (or near their cat food, for example) may be considered as a potential threat in the eyes of your cat.
Remember, cats are not the biggest pets out there. They are lean and slim and their size is not an advantage in an unfriendly encounter. So what do some cats do? They arch their back, fluff their tail and turn sideways.
By assuming this position, they appear bigger and more confident in facing a potential threat. Additionally, a sideways stance can make it easier for your cat to use its rear claws if needed.
When faced with anything threatening, many cats will adopt this stance. It can be a neighbor’s dog, a stray cat in your backyard, or even a person they don’t know.
Reason No 4: Your Cat Is Scared Of Something
A possible reason your cat is displaying the sideways pose is that they’re scared of something, and this is more commonly observed in kittens.
Kittens are fast to take the arched back position and make a sideways run when they discover something new because they are so new to the world and may find many things to be frightening.
The majority of kittens will quickly relax and resume their investigation when they realize there is no real danger.
Try to get rid of anything frightening your kitten, and if it’s not a true threat (and it usually isn’t), explain that to your cat. How? you might be wondering!
Sometimes all it takes to make your cat realize that something is not a serious threat is some simple, gentle interaction with the object of their fear.
I’m sure your little furry friend will quickly lose their fear and start doing the sideways hop for other reasons!
Cat Crab Walk Vs. The Halloween Cat Pose
The sideways position can be compared to the Halloween cat pose, but they are different.
They both have the characteristic of the arched back and the body turned sideways, and they can both be caused by the cat getting a fright or perceiving a threat.
The difference is that the Halloween cat pose is accompanied by hissing and fur standing straight up, while the sideways cat walk pose is not.
Reason No 5: It’s The Zoomies On Full Display
Another possible answer to Why do cats run sideways is that they simply have a case of the zoomies!
If you have a cat, you’ve probably witnessed your feline companion develop “the zoomies”.
This is a sudden, erratic bout of activity where your cat is sitting quietly one moment and in the next, they’re running back and forth across the room, as if they’re rushing after something.
This sudden burst of energy can result in many bizarre movements, including doing the strange sideways walk.
Your cat pouncing and bouncing around might be fun for a while, but after some time, it can get annoying looking around and worrying if your cat is going to knock something over, or even hurt themselves.
The most common cause of the feline zoomies is excess energy, so make sure your kitty has enough daily mental and physical stimulation!
Reason No 6: It’s Your Cats Way Of Saying “Hey, Hey – Look At Me”
Although cats like their privacy, they are also known for enjoying getting your attention. A popular way to get that is by meowing and following you around the house.
If you have a cat that likes to be the “star of the show” it might be possible they’re doing the crab walk in order to get your attention.
This can be especially true if they know you like seeing them do it, or if you reinforce it by giving them treats afterwards. If your cat knows they’re likely to get treats for it, and so they do it on purpose, your kitty is a smart one!
Reason No 7: Your Cat Is Angry
Although uncommon, there is a possibility of a kitty assuming the sideways pose if they’re angry. They can be angry at their owner for some reason, or angry at another household pet.
If your cat is hissing while running sideways, step back and give your cat some room. Your cat will calm down after some time, but in the meantime, it’s best to not encourage encounters or cuddles!
Your cat might look funny to you (and the crab walk pose is pretty funny-looking), but things are never funny to an angry cat!
Don’t worry – your cat will calm down eventually, but you should try to discover what made your feline friend angry in the first place!
Is The Crab Walk Something You Should Be Worried About?
Your feline friend doing the crab walk is absolutely nothing to be concerned about! As you can see, the reasons your cat is doing it are harmless.
An exception is when your cat is doing it because of the presence of a threat. In that case, try to remove the threat and protect your cat from a dangerous encounter.
Cats are known for being feisty, so try to deescalate the encounter with the potential threat ( such as another cat) as that’s best for your kitty.
Can A Cat Sideways Walk Be A Sign Of A Potential Health Issue?
A cat walking sideways can be a sign of a potential health issue. It must be noted that a cat doing the crab walk is different from a sideways walk that points to a health problem.
Of course, the cause is different, but also the walk itself is different. Nevertheless, they do have similarities, such as the head being tilted to one side, not walking in a straight line, etc.
A sideways walk that is a symptom of a health issue (and not simply playfulness), is most likely to be a sign of feline vestibular disease.
This is not to say that it’s the only disease, as there are other diseases that can cause a cat to walk strangely.
Let’s briefly go over the most important information about feline vestibular disease.
Feline Vestibular Disease
A cat’s sense of balance and orientation in space is created by a sensory system known as the vestibular system. The vestibular apparatus is a structure found in the cat’s inner ear.
Feline vestibular disease is a disease that affects a cat’s balance and makes it hard for a cat to walk properly. Most cases of this disease are said to be caused by middle or inner ear infections, or by tumors within the vestibular apparatus.
Many felines with vestibular illness will circle around or lean to one side as well as having their head angled oddly to one side.
This description is very similar to cats doing the crab walk, and that’s why this body movement is considered as one potential sign of vestibular disease in cats.
I highly suggest you visit the vet’s office if you notice the following symptoms in your cat:
🐾 Lack of coordination
🐾 Falling while walking
🐾 Tilting to one side while walking
🐾 Strange eye movements
🐾 A head tilt
🐾 Any other similar symptoms affecting the cat’s balance
Why Does My Cat Walk Sideways?
If you’re wondering Why does your cat walk sideways, or Why does my cat run sideways – here is your answer.
Your cat walking or running sideways is most likely due to following reasons:
🐾 Your cat is just being joyful and is in the mood to play.
🐾 Your cat has been suddenly scared (by a loud noise or a bright light for example).
🐾 Your cat is scared of some unfamiliar object, especially if your cat is a kitten.
🐾 Your cat has perceived a threat and is walking sideways to appear bigger.
🐾 Your cat has the “zoomies”!
🐾 If your cat knows you find this behavior cute, they might do it to get your attention.
🐾 Your cat might be angry.
The most likely reason your cat is walking sideways is that they’re just in the mood for playtime. When cats are scared, their sideways pose is usually very short lasting and if you’re inside the house it is unlikely your cat sees a threat there.
Cat walking sideways is very rarely a sign of an underlying disease, such as feline vestibular disease. This disease also has other more prominent symptoms, but if they appear too, you should visit the vet.
Why Do Cats Arch Their Backs And Run Sideways?
As well as a cat walking sideways, cats can also hop and run sideways as well! If a cat starts running in this pose, do not worry – they’re doing it for the same reason as for walking sideways.
Why Is My Cat Walking Weird All Of A Sudden?
If you’re referring to your cat doing the “crab walk” all of a sudden, then there is nothing to be worried about. Sideways walking is an instinctive behavior, so don’t be surprised if your cat does it.
It doesn’t matter if a cat is a male or a female, young or old, and no matter the breed – almost every cat sometimes displays the sideways hop or crab walk.
However, if you see your cat walking weirdly for any other reason – that might be something you need to pay attention to.
It must be noted that a cat walking weird for an extended period of time can be a sign of a disease your cat is fighting, so I highly suggest you visit the vet if you suspect that’s the case.
How Do I Know If My Cat Is Sick?
If you suspect your kitty’s sideways walk is a symptom of disease, then I suggest you first pay close attention if your cat is displaying any other unusual behaviors (for example suddenly not using the litter box or sleeping more than usual).
If you see other signs your cat might be sick, then visiting the vet’s office is the right choice. A vet will most certainly get to the bottom of your cat’s symptoms and make sure they’re feeling better in no time!
When cats arch their backs and then run or hop sideways or backwards, it may look a bit strange, but it’s just one of many strange cat behaviors.
I am sure every pet owner finds their pet’s odd behaviors kind of cute. I most certainly do!
Some people jokingly refer to the cat sideways walk as the crab walk.
The sideways run and hop is typically an indication of fun and joy. The precise meaning of this movement, however, depends on the entire context.
Cats will also arch their back and dash sideways in an effort to look larger and more scary to possible threats. It’s also common for cats to display this pose when they’re startled, for example, by a loud noise or a bright light.
In most cases, the reason is simply your cat being in a cheerful mood! It’s very rarely an indication of an underlying disease, such as feline vestibular disease.
So pet owners – there is absolutely no need to be worried about your cat walking sideways. Just enjoy your kitty and their quirky personality!