Why Would a Cat Cry When Stroking Its Lower Back?

Some back problems make your kitty lethargic. Others make her freak out.
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A meow or purr is normal when you give your kitty a nice back massage, but stroking her lower back only to hear her cry in response is usually a bad sign. Your vet and his tools can determine the possible culprits, which range from temporary to degenerative conditions.


Underneath your kitty's pretty coat could be a nasty bump filled with pus, known in the human world as an abscess. In a lot of cases, your kitty did something or had something done to her to cause the abscess to form. Maybe she got into a fight with a neighborhood cat or tried to scoot under something and scraped her back. Bacteria, and often dirt and sometimes parasites, invade the wound, causing the abscess to form. The pus-filled bump causes your kitty a lot of pain, and a simple stroke of your hand can send her into a yowling fit. Although abscesses aren't always visible, they are raised, so if one is present on your kitty's lower back, you should feel it.

Feline Hyperesthesia

Feline hyperesthesia is no fun to deal with, for you or for your kitty. The condition causes a feline's skin to feel extremely sensitive and causes your cat to do some funky things. They include ripping out her own hair, especially near her lower back and tail region; reacting to your stroking with loud or irritated cries; and delivering a fury of paw swipes toward your hand on her back or worse. Her back may appear to twitch. If she has hyperesthesia, you'll normally hear your kitty react with a chorus of cries no matter where along her back you touch her, but because her chewing and gnawing at her skin is more common in the lower back and can lead to lesions, that area may be more painful.

Intervertebral Disc Disease

Just like a human, your kitty has discs between the vertebrae in her back. Some felines experience a hardening of these discs caused by intervertebral disc disease. The hardening leads to the degeneration of the disc, due to either the discs breaking over time or anything that causes the discs to sustain a blow, such as leaping off the counter onto the floor. The degeneration causes part of the disc to protrude into the spinal column, causing a whole host of problems, including lots of pain for your feline. She might barely eat, sleep more than normal, become incontinent and suffer from paralysis. Although the petMD website notes the disease most commonly affects discs in your kitty's upper back, it can affect discs in her lower back, too.

Spondylosis Deformans

Spondylosis deformans causes bone spurs to appear along your kitty's spine, especially at the lower portion of the spine. Bone spurs are little growths that pop up along bones. In the case of spondylosis deformans, they aren't usually a great cause for concern. The spurs are basically just there, hanging out but ultimately causing no trouble, although the condition itself is a problem and will cause degeneration of spinal discs. But as the VCA Animal Hospitals website points out, sometimes a spur presses on a nerve. If that happens, your kitty will be in pain, and that pain can worsen when you apply pressure to her back, even with a gentle stroke.

Considerations and Warnings

Other conditions may be affecting your kitty besides bone spurs, disc disease, hyperesthesia and abcesses. Something like a muscle strain in her lower back region isn't terribly uncommon, while more serious but rarer conditions involving the kidneys can cause pain around the area. If your kitty is letting out a meowing cry but not flinching or trying to pull away, she may be enjoying your little strokes. The only way to know for sure what's going on is by taking a car ride to your vet. X-rays, ultrasounds, blood tests and the works -- or just one of those things -- can shed some light on the problem.

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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