What Causes Cats to Prance?

Prancing can mean many things, so look for contextual clues to figure out what's going on.
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Your cat may seem a little nuts as he prances around, but there is actually a reason for it. Cats communicate their intentions and emotions through body language. So what is your cat trying to say when he stands on his toes and dances back and forth?

Excitement or Play

Some cats aren't shy about showing their pleasure at a yummy treat or affection. A prancing cat is usually a happy cat. Your furry friend may prance around your legs when you first get home, or if he smells the fresh can of tuna you just opened. Excitement and anticipation are often reason enough for your cat to do a little tap dance on the kitchen floor. Cats may prance around as they play with toys or other cats as well. When your cat engages in this type of prancing, he likely feels safe in his environment and is enjoying himself.


If you give a cat some catnip, expect some entertainment in return. Some cats can be heavily intoxicated by the smell and taste of the catnip plant, whether it is fresh or dried. Some cats are hardly phased by it, but others will go completely bonkers after just a few sniffs of the stuff. The intoxication of catnip only lasts a few minutes, but your kitty may prance around and behave erratically for the duration.


Cats really don't like to be surprised. A sudden loud noise or movement may startle one into a short prance. The cat may hold a tip-toed, arched-back posture for several moments until it has assessed and dismissed the perceived threat. This type of prancing is actually a defensive maneuver often accompanied by erect hairs along your cat's spine and tail.


Aggressive prancing is a little less enjoyable for everyone involved. If your cat assumes a prancing posture around other animals, or if he is hissing or growling as he does it, then he is acting aggressively. He will hold his back and tail up, much like a threatened or surprised cat, in order to make himself look bigger and more threatening. Cats engaged in struggles for dominance often prance toward or away from each other in an odd sort of dance. Unless the behavior is consistent or turns violent, it is best to let your cats resolve their disputes in their own way.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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