Why Do Cats Walk Sideways?

Cats have some serious personality quirks. Any pet owner will tell you that. Whether it’s crying like a baby in the middle of the night or climbing people like a tree, there’s rarely a dull moment when you share your home with a feline. You may have noticed your cat moving strangely around the house (crab-like!?) and wondered just what’s going on. Why do cats walk sideways? Is it normal and should you be worried when you see this type of behavior?

Why Do Cats Walk Sideways?

There’s a Threat

There are several reasons why cats walk sideways. One is when they’re feeling threatened. Often this will be because of another cat, a dog, or a neighbourhood predator. By moving sideways, the cat can keep the threat in their direct line of sight as they move away from or towards it. They don’t have to risk turning their back on it. But also, by approaching or retreating side-on, a cat appears larger to its opponent. When doing this a cat will often also fluff up its fur and arch its back. It’s hoping that this display of strength will be enough to make the other cat think twice about starting a fight.

Kitten Play

Kittens will often practise this behavior using play. Walking sideways and fluffing up the fur is common in young cats. It’s easy to forget that we share our homes with little predators practising aggressive dance moves. It’s what cats do in the wild. Young felines are just using playtime to get into character. Owners often report seeing this behavior directed towards them. It’s no personal – it’s practise! You’ll find plenty of videos on Youtube of cats doing the crab-walk. Often owners find it hilarious, and especially so when it’s kittens doing it. The fact that these adorable balls of fluff are trying to look fearsome is just too much, really. They’re too cute.

Claws Out

Approaching side-on also makes it easier for cats to use their back claws during an attack.

A Fear

Sideways walking can also be in response to loud noises or an unsettling experience. If a cat is suddenly nervous or spooked by something, it may scurry sideways to get away.

It’s a Veterinary Issue

There are also some neurological disorders, illness, and injuries that could be behind the behavior. You should call your veterinarian if it happens often or if it happens after they’ve finished playing. This can happen because of a stroke, a bad tooth or an ear infection. Owners of outdoor cats shouldn’t rule out injury, either. The pet could have been hit by something or been hurt in a fight with another animal.


We hope that you’ve found this post helpful. We’ve got lots of other posts on this website which we think makes traveling and living with cats easier (or at least give you some helpful advice!). We’ll list some of our more popular ones below.  

Summary: Why do cats walk like a crab?

Kittens will often walk sideways during a play session because they’re practicing some of the skills they’ll need as adult cats. Adult cats do it because they want to look bigger and more menacing to an enemy. It allows them to defend themselves more easily or a better opportunity to run. But it should be clear that this behaviour is not normal when it’s happening regularly outside of play or without an obvious cause. You should take your cat to the veterinarian because there is likely a medical condition that’s causing it.