Why Do Cats Do The 'Death Wiggle' Before They Pounce? January 13 2022, 3 Comments

If you're a cat parent, chances are you've witnessed the "Death Wiggle" firsthand. It's the little shimmy-shimmy of their rumps that our feline friends make just before they pounce for the killing blow on their unsuspecting prey...which is often your foot sitting innocently underneath the bed sheets. 

This seemingly innocent, adorable rump wriggle has long been a mystery to cat parents (much like most of the quirky behaviors our cats exhibit). While there has not been any formal research studies conducted on the Death Wiggle, a professor of evolutionary biomechanics has a few ideas about why cats do this funny little wiggle. 

John Hutchinson, a professor at the Royal Veterinary College in London who studies animal locomotion, theorizes that the action of this twerk-like booty shake could help press the cat's hind legs down and give cats added traction for pushing them forward into the perfect pounce. It could also be a form of quick aerobic warm up or stretching to get their muscles ready to pounce, possibly to give them a better leap. 

According to Hutchinson, "It may also have a sensory role to prepare the vision, proprioception [awareness of one's position and movement] and muscle — and whole cat — for the rapid neural commands needed for the pounce." It's sort of like the cat's senses telling their brain. "GET READY! We've got a lizard to catch!"

This Death Wiggle could also just be for fun, a show of excitement that just can't be contained during the thrill of the hunt! Observing what seems to clearly be excitement in our cat's eyes right before they pounce on their favorite toy, I could definitely see this being a solid reason. Hutchinson says this "excitement" theory can't be excluded. 

 

If you notice your indoor cat has a liking for hunting real-life prey that sneak indoors like mice or lizards, the Bluetooth control Mouse Hunt Toy (pictured above) is a great way to get that kitty booty shakin' and that Death Wiggle activated! Channel that natural hunting behavior and excitement with its realistic mouse appearance and speedy movements, it gives your cat the ideal hunt: stalk, chase, and catch. 

The Death Wiggle may just be linked to our domesticated cat's wildcat ancestors because even big cats (like jaguars and lions) do the signature shimmy-shimmy before launching at their prey. Only when they do it, it's not as adorable when you realize you could be on the receiving end of the Death Wiggle. (It's still fairly adorable though).

While it may be some time before we have a peer-reviewed, scientifically approached study of the signature Death Wiggle, Hutchinson joked that "it must be done, somehow. I shall marshal some scientists, and some friendly cats, in due course." We couldn't agree more!