Stray Cat Rolling on Back: Should You Approach It?

You open the front door and walk outside the home to see a stray cat nearby that rolls on its back in front of you. With a love for cats, you wonder if you should drop down and pet them. You’ve heard this is a good sign, but not in all cases.

Should you approach a stray cat rolling on back? Never approach an unfamiliar cat and try to pet it right away. While a cat rolling on its back usually signals friendliness and trust, cats also sometimes roll on their back to trick you into an attack. In this way, he can use his claws, back feet and teeth.

Attacks from rolling on the back happen rarely, but it would be a mistake to pet a cat like this that you don’t know. We will never advise this. If you’d like to learn more about the circumstances surrounding when a stray cat rolls, keep reading.

Rabies Shots Cost A lot: Don’t Pet a Stray Cat

With a stray cat especially, you don’t know if they received their rabies shot. If he bites you, it costs $260 per dose for the rabies shot. You usually need three doses, which totals $780. That shows you the wholesale price.

It’s not uncommon for people to pay as much as $10,000 when finished. That’s why you shouldn’t pet a stray cat rolling on its back. Once the symptoms of rabies show up, the disease has a near 100-percent fatality rate.

Check out this video to understand how to safely respond to rabies:

With a familiar cat that you know, it usually isn’t a problem. In fact, they do this as a sign of affection, but you don’t want to risk getting bitten.

We’ve spoken previously about cats that roll in the dirt and some of the reasons that they do this. You can learn more about that here. A stray cat could be rolling on its back for the same reasons, but you want to make sure that you know the cat before you take that risk. We wouldn’t advise that you pet any cat that you encounter.

What if I’m Feeding the Stray Cat and It Does This?

One of the best ways to make friends with a stray or feral cat is through food. Keep in mind, feral cats differ from stray cats. A feral cat is not domesticated, and you should never fully trust a feral cat. They’re not domesticated cats, and even when you feed them, they may never fully trust you.

Some argue otherwise, but many say that once they reach adulthood, you can’t tame a feral.

Stray cats, on the other hand, may have had an owner at one point or another, which makes them less wild and more trusting of humans. After feeding a stray for a while, he may roll on his back as a sign of trust and a gesture of friendship. Still, be cautious and pet him at your own risk. Don’t pet the belly because this triggers a negative reaction in most cats.

For liability reasons, we don’t advise that you pet a stray cat. Do it at your own risk. You’ve been warned.

When a stray cat rolls on his back in these circumstances it may be seen as what’s called a social roll. I wrote about that here if you’re interested in learning more. However, it’s less dangerous with a cat that is yours or one that you know well. You must be careful with strays or unfamiliar cats that do this.

How to Know When a Stray Cat Likes You

You can use other signs to tell when a stray cat has taken a liking to you. Some of the signs include:

  • Purring
  • Rubs up against your leg
  • Relaxed posture
  • Tail up in the air
  • May meow at your voice

Many people report how they can eventually pet a stray, but ferals won’t let people come close to them or rarely. Never threaten or corner a feral because they may lash out even worse than a stray, and you risk being bitten. Signs of aggression include dilated pupils, hissing and ears back.

How Often Does the Stray Roll on Its Back

In particular, when cats—including strays—roll on their back frequently and expose the belly, it shows that they trust you. Pay attention to how often the stray cat rolls on its back. This gives you a sign of its level of trust. Cats will rarely do this unless they feel comfortable.

Cats that attack on their back are rare, but you don’t want to risk that when dealing with a stray. Better not to take the risk, at least not until you’re sure that it’s safe.

You have several stages that the cat goes through during the taming process, which include:

  1. Tail Tip Touch: First, you begin with softly brushing the nap of the cat’s neck down to its tail. You do this gently with one finger. Don’t apply too much pressure or the cat may become uncomfortable. For the first time petting a stray cat, you want to do it when he’s relaxed. You can tell because his attention won’t seem focused entirely on you. If he hisses, exercise caution, but don’t worry too much. This is a normal reaction.
  2. Firm Tail Tip Touch: After the cat becomes more comfortable with a gentle tail tip touch, you can gently increase the pressure slowly. Pay special attention to positive body language, such as a high tail and purring. Beware if his ears drop back or he tenses up. Stop immediately!
  3. Stroking the Head: Don’t start with this because strays will see this as a aggressive sign. They will think of you as a threat and may bite. While cat bites aren’t as harmful as dog bites, the bacteria from their bite has led to some people needing surgery.
  4. Under the Chin: Once the cat becomes comfortable with head strokes, at this point, you’ve got him. You might try for under the chin. The cat will have pheromones that get on your hand and will lead to a bonding experience since your cat will smell them. This often leads to him purring.
  5. Rolling on Its Back: At this point, the stray cat may roll on its back, and you can trust this better than if he does this right away. You should be okay under these circumstances, but don’t pet the belly because this can cause him to attack.
  6. Cuddling in the Lap: After the stray feels more comfortable, he may come up onto your lap automatically for cuddles. This shows that he’s ready to bond with you.
  7. Rolling on the Back as a Greeting: Kittens especially do this, and they may roll over on the back as a way to greet you. At this point, you should be safe to pet him, provided the stray cat has already shown you other signs that he feels comfortable.

How do you know if a stray cat likes you? Some of the signs of a cat that likes you include purring, tail up, relaxed posture and meowing at your voice. The stray cat may also roll over and show its belly as a sign of trust, but you should be careful with this sign. Pay attention for the other ones as well.

Why does my cat keep rolling on her back? Cats often roll on their back in front of you as a greeting. This shows you that they trust you because they will rarely do this unless they trust the person. Kittens are especially prone to this behavior, and it may mean that they want to play.


When a stray cat rolls on its back, it could be a friendly gesture of trust, but we would advise caution. In rare cases, cats do this in preparation for an attack. However, in most cases, they do it as a sign of trust. Pay attention for other positive signs before approaching a stray to pet it. One of the best ways to tame a stray is through feeding it.

Cats may roll on their back for different reasons. If you’re curious about why a cat might roll on its back and bite, I wrote another article about that here, which can help you to know how to respond to a cat that rolls on its back.

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