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How Does a Cat Show Submission? Behavioral Tips & Tricks

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By Nicole Cosgrove

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Most cats enjoy being petted and scratched, but some may not know what to do when asked to “show submission” or “give paw.” Showing submission is a way for cats to show their trust and respect for their owners. It is often seen as a sign of affection between cats and humans. But how do cats show submission? There are several ways your cat can show submission, for example, by flattening their ears, purring, or exposing their belly.

Read on to learn more about this particular cat behavior.

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What Does Submission Mean in Cats?

Submission is a way for cats to express their respect, trust, and affection for their owners. It can involve both body language and vocalizations. When a cat shows submission, they may incline their head, flatten their ears sideways, tuck their tail, and even roll over onto their back in order to expose their belly. They may also purr or make a chirping sound.

They may also close their eyes or rub against the person’s leg. Cats can also show submission by offering their paw as if asking to be petted or scratched; this is sometimes referred to as “giving paw” or “shaking paws.”

cat owner looking at her pet
Image Credit: U__Photo, Shutterstock

Training Your Cat to Show Submission

If your cat does not naturally show submission, you can train him or her with positive reinforcement. Start by giving your cat gentle pets when he or she is calm and relaxed, then gradually increase the amount of time you are petting your cat. You can also offer treats or verbal praise when they show submission. With enough patience and consistency, your cat should start to show submission more often.

What Should I Do If My Cat Doesn’t Show Submission?

If your cat doesn’t show submission, it could be a sign of fear or distrust. Try approaching your cat slowly in a soothing voice and giving them treats while you pet them. You should also give your cat plenty of time to explore new environments and people on their own before expecting them to show submission. It takes a certain level of trust for cats to be comfortable with their owners in a submissive way.

What Are Some Signs That My Cat Trusts Me?

Signs that your cat trusts you may include eye contact, head butting or rubbing against you, purring, sleeping on or near you, licking you or allowing themselves to be picked up and held. Your cat may also show submission by offering their paw as if asking for petting or scratching. Showing these behaviors is a sign that your cat feels safe and secure around you.

cat owner belly rubbing her cat russian blue
Image Credit: Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock

Is There a Difference Between Showing Submission and Showing Affection?

Yes, there is a difference between showing submission and showing affection. Submission is usually a sign of trust and respect, while affection can be seen as an expression of love. Cats may show both to their owners, but it’s important to distinguish between the two behaviors so you can understand your cat’s needs better.

Our 9 Best Cat Behavioral Tips & Tricks

  • Spend time bonding with your cat through regular playtime and consistent grooming.
  • Provide an enriching environment for your cat; provide plenty of toys, scratching posts, and climbing/jumping areas.
  • Speak to your cat in a soft, gentle voice and avoid yelling or scolding.
  • Use clicker training to reward desired behaviors.
  • Offer a variety of treats to keep your cat interested in learning and maintaining good behavioral habits.
  • Encourage the natural behavior of scratching by providing sturdy scratching posts that are tall enough for your cat to stretch out while they scratch.
  • Praise your cat when they use the litter box, scratching post, or perform other desired behaviors.
  • Give your cat plenty of time alone so they can have a sense of privacy and security.
  • Gradually introduce new people, animals, or environments to help reduce stress when outside the home.
  • Teach your cat “show submission” by offering a treat or verbal praise when they offer their paw.

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Are There Any Risks Associated with Cats Showing Submission?

Although it is important for cats to show submission in order to build trust with their owners, it is also important that they are not too submissive. Cats should always be allowed some freedom of choice and control over their environment, as this can help reduce stress levels and prevent them from becoming overly dependent on humans. In extreme cases, if a cat becomes too submissive or feels like they have no control, they may become depressed or anxious. If you think your cat may be exhibiting signs of depression or anxiety it is important to seek advice from a veterinarian.

Other FAQs About Submissive Cat Behaviors

What is the meaning behind a cat showing submission?

Showing submission is a way for cats to show their trust and respect for their owners. It is often seen as a sign of affection between cats and humans.

cat owner talking to his pet
Image Credit: Aziz Acharki, Unsplash

Is it normal for cats to show submission towards other cats?

Yes, cats will always determine who is dominant and who is submissive with one another. Generally, the submissive cat will flat their ears sideways and tuck their tail to express their submissive status and prevent a potential fight. However, this does not necessarily mean that the cats are friends. It is best to watch their interactions and provide them with separate areas for sleeping and eating if needed.

What body language do cats show when they are feeling threatened?

Cats may flare their tails, arch their backs, hiss or growl when feeling threatened. They may also flatten their ears against the head and press against the ground in a low crouch. If you see your cat displaying any of these behaviors, it is important to back off and provide them with some space.

british shorthair cat having Arched Back
Image By: Alexas_Fotos, Pixabay

How can I help my cat feel more secure?

Make sure that your cat has plenty of hiding spots around the home where they can feel safe, such as under furniture or behind curtains. Also make sure to give them plenty of time alone so they can have a sense of privacy and security. Gradually introduce new people, animals, or environments into your cat’s life to help them become more comfortable. Finally, provide your cat with plenty of love and attention to help them feel secure in their environment.


Final Thoughts

Showing submission is an important way for cats to prevent fights with other, more dominant cats. In the case of cat-human interactions, a cat’s submissive behavior expresses their trust in their owners. Cats often show submission to their owners by lowering their heads and flattening their ears, offering a paw, or rubbing against the person’s leg. Showing submission is just one of the many ways that cats express their love and affection toward humans.

Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

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