Why Do Cats Run Sideways?

Why Do Cats Run Sideways
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Last Updated on May 23, 2023 by Pauline G. Carter

Cats run sideways to increase their speed and agility while hunting. This trait is common among many felines, including domestic cats, who often display this behavior during playtime or when chasing after prey.

Cats are fascinating creatures that have many unique traits and behaviors. One such behavior that often puzzles cat owners and enthusiasts is why cats run sideways. It is a curious sight to see a cat bolt in one direction, and then suddenly switch direction by running sideways.

This behavior is especially common among kittens and young cats, who tend to playfully run sideways when they are chasing after toys or other moving objects. However, adult cats also exhibit this behavior, especially during hunting and stalking activities. In this article, we will explore the reasons why cats run sideways and what they are trying to achieve through this behavior.

Why Do Cats Run Sideways?

Credit: www.hepper.com

Understanding The Sideways Run

Have you ever wondered why cats sometimes run sideways? This quirky behavior may seem strange, but it is instinctual and serves an important purpose. This article will explore the definition of the sideways run and the physical characteristics of cats that contribute to this behavior.

Definition Of Sideways Run

The sideways run, also known as a crab run or a zigzag run, is when a cat sprints at full speed with its body perpendicular to the direction of movement. This means that the cat is facing to the side while running forward.

Physical Characteristics Of Cats

There are a few physical characteristics of cats that make the sideways run possible. These include:

  • Flexible spine: Cats have a highly flexible spine, allowing them to make quick turns and agile movements.
  • Strong hind legs: A cat’s hind legs are stronger than its front legs, providing power and speed for running.
  • High shoulder blades: Cats have high shoulder blades, which give them a more pronounced shoulder swing while running.
  • Stereoscopic vision: Cats have excellent depth perception due to their eyes being positioned in the front of their head. This allows them to precisely navigate turns while running.

The sideways run is an instinctual behavior in cats, which they may use during play, hunting, or when escaping danger. Cats use this maneuver to quickly change direction while maintaining momentum.

The sideways run is a fascinating behavior exhibited by cats, and it serves a practical purpose in their daily lives. With their flexible spine, strong hind legs, high shoulder blades, and stereoscopic vision, cats are the ultimate athletes when it comes to quick movement and agility.

Reasons For The Sideways Run

Cats are one of the most curious animals, and their bizarre behaviors often perplex humans. One of the peculiarities of their behavior is the sideways run. Here are the reasons why cats run sideways.

Hunting And Prey Behavior

Wild cats such as lions, tigers, and leopards use the sideways run as a hunting technique. Likewise, domesticated cats apply the same instinctual behavior when playing or chasing objects. Here are some reasons why felines engage in the sideways run for hunting and prey behavior:

  • Ambushing: Running sideways is a fantastic tactic for cats to pounce on their prey while still moving. It allows them to stay low to the ground and maintain momentum while attacking.
  • Stalking: Sideways running is also an optimal way for cats to get close to their prey without being detected. It assists them in closing the gap between themselves and their target before pouncing.
  • Aesthetic gesture: Lastly, the sideways run can also be exhibited as a playful way of showing off their physical agility during hunting or chasing. It demonstrates their prowess and catches the attention of any curious onlookers.

Playful Tendencies

Behaviors like running, jumping, and playing are in cats’ nature, and they can be equally excited about feet, roaming, and chasing toys. The sideways run is a classic display of a cat’s playful nature, and here are some reasons why they indulge in it:

  • Expressing excitement: Cats are known for their playfulness, and they get agitated when they see their favorite toy. Running sideways can be a clear sign of your pet’s increased excitement, anticipation of winning, or an invitation to play with you.
  • Entertainment: Domestic cats love entertaining us with their clumsy behavior, and running sideways is one of their classics. It is their way to have fun while providing their owners with a delightful sight.
  • Stretching: Lastly, running sideways could be a cat’s way of stretching its muscles. It provides them with both physical and mental benefits and helps them stay fit and healthy.

Health And Medical Conditions

Sideways running also might be an indication of health and medical conditions that need attention. Here are some possible explanations:

  • Arthritis: Cats can suffer from joint inflammation as they age, and running sideways might be a sign of their attempt to avoid joint pain.
  • Inner ear infections: A cat’s inner ear infection can result in loss of balance. Running sideways may be the cat’s way to maintain stability while moving around.
  • Nerve damage: In severe cases, nerve damage or neurological disorders’ symptoms could be manifested in a cat’s behavior, including the sideways run.

Cats have various reasons for running sideways, including hunting and prey behavior, playful tendencies, or health and medical conditions. Therefore, as a cat owner, it’s essential to understand your cat’s behavior, so you can identify whether it’s playful or suffering from an underlying condition.

Training And Modifying Sideways Run Behavior

Healthy Play And Exercise

Cats love to play, and they need plenty of physical activity to remain healthy and happy. Exercise is especially crucial for indoor cats, since they don’t have the opportunity to roam and burn off energy as outdoor cats do. Here are some ways to encourage healthy play and exercise:

  • Provide plenty of toys: Give your cat a variety of toys to play with, such as feather wands, balls, and catnip mice. Rotate the toys regularly to keep your cat engaged and interested.
  • Create a play area: Dedicate a specific area of your home as a play zone for your cat. Use boxes, tunnels, and climbing trees to create a fun and stimulating environment.
  • Play with your cat: Set aside time each day for interactive play with your cat. Use toys that require your cat to run, jump, and pounce, such as laser pointers and feather wands.
  • Make mealtime interactive: Rather than feeding your cat from a bowl, consider using interactive feeders that require your cat to work for their food. This will encourage physical activity while also providing mental stimulation.

Behavior Modification Techniques

If your cat has developed a habit of running sideways, there are several behavior modification techniques you can use to discourage this behavior. Here are some effective methods:

  • Redirect the behavior: When you see your cat running sideways, make a loud noise to distract them. Then, immediately redirect their attention to a toy or activity that they enjoy.
  • Use positive reinforcement: When your cat engages in desirable behavior, such as walking instead of running sideways, reward them with plenty of praise and treats.
  • Avoid punishment: Punishing your cat for running sideways can be counterproductive and may lead to further behavior issues. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement and redirection.
  • Consider environmental factors: Look at your cat’s environment to see if there are any factors that may be contributing to their sideways running behavior. For example, they may be feeling frustrated, bored, or overstimulated in their environment. Make changes to improve their living space, such as adding climbing structures or increasing playtime.

Remember, changing your cat’s behavior may take time and patience. With consistent training and positive reinforcement, you can modify your cat’s sideways run behavior and help them become a happier and healthier pet.

Frequently Asked Questions Of Why Do Cats Run Sideways?

Why Do Cats Run Sideways When Playing?

Cats run sideways when playing to surprise or catch prey.

Is It Normal For Cats To Run Sideways?

Yes, it’s normal for cats to run sideways when playing or hunting.

What Does It Mean When A Cat Runs Sideways?

Cats run sideways to confuse prey or play and have fun.

Do All Cats Run Sideways?

No, not all cats run sideways. Some cats prefer to run straight.

Can I Train My Cat To Run Sideways?

Yes, you can train your cat to run sideways by using toys and treats during playtime.


The sideways running behavior of cats is an interesting and complex phenomenon. While it may seem like a random quirk of their movement, there are actually several factors that contribute to this behavior. From hunting tactics and playfulness, to balance and agility, cats are naturally inclined to move in this unique way.

As cat owners, it’s important to understand and appreciate these behaviors, rather than trying to modify or suppress them. Allowing our feline friends to engage in their natural movements not only benefits their physical health and mental wellbeing, but also strengthens the bond between cat and owner.

So, next time your cat takes off in a sideways sprint, embrace their natural instincts and enjoy the show.

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