whats it called when cats get their hair up


whats it called when cats get their hair up

Cat fur sticking up

Cats are fascinating creatures with unique behaviors that sometimes leave us puzzled. One of these intriguing behaviors is when a cat's fur sticks up or bristles. You may have witnessed this phenomenon in your own feline companion and wondered what it means. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind cats getting their hair up and delve into the scientific term for this behavior, known as piloerection in cats.

Understanding piloerection in cats

Piloerection is a term used to describe the phenomenon of fur or hair standing on end. It occurs when the tiny muscles attached to the hair follicles contract, causing the hair to stand upright. This reaction is not exclusive to cats and can be observed in other animals as well. In humans, for instance, piloerection is responsible for goosebumps.

When a cat's fur sticks up, it can signify various emotions and physiological responses. Let's take a closer look at some of the reasons behind this behavior.

1. Fear or Aggression

Cats may puff up their fur as a defensive mechanism when they feel threatened or agitated. This behavior can make them appear larger and more intimidating to potential adversaries. By bristling their fur, cats aim to ward off any perceived threats and protect themselves.

If you notice your cat's fur sticking up during moments of stress or when encountering unfamiliar animals or people, it's likely a sign of fear or aggression. In such situations, it's important to give your cat space and avoid provoking them further.

2. Excitement or Playfulness

On some occasions, cats may get their hair up due to excitement or while engaging in play. This can happen when they are about to pounce on a toy or during energetic bouts of play with other feline companions. The raised fur adds to their overall animated appearance and is a reflection of their heightened state of enthusiasm.

3. Temperature Regulation

Cats are highly adaptable animals, but they still need to regulate their body temperature to stay comfortable. When it's cold, a cat's fur may stand up as a way to trap air and provide better insulation. By puffing up their fur, cats create a thicker layer between their bodies and the cold environment, helping to retain heat.

Similarly, when cats are overheated, their fur may stick up to promote better air circulation. By creating gaps between their fur, airflow is improved, allowing for increased body heat dissipation.

4. Enhanced Sensory Perception

A cat's tactile senses are crucial to their survival and overall well-being. When a cat's fur sticks up, it can enhance their ability to feel even the slightest vibrations in their surroundings. By increasing the volume of their fur, cats can improve their sensitivity to touch and better detect potential prey or threats.

Observing your cat's body language

While understanding the various reasons behind a cat's fur sticking up can give us insights into their behavior, it's equally important to pay attention to their overall body language. Cats communicate through a combination of verbal, visual, and olfactory cues.

When a cat's fur is raised, it's crucial to observe other signs of their communication to accurately interpret their emotions. Dilated pupils, flattened ears, and tail flicking can provide additional context and help determine whether a cat is feeling fearful, aggressive, or simply excited.


Next time you witness your cat's fur sticking up, you'll have a better understanding of the possible reasons behind this behavior. Whether it's a display of fear, excitement, or an adaptation to the environment, a cat's piloerection serves as a fascinating indicator of their emotions and physical responses.

Remember, every cat is unique, and their individual personalities and experiences can influence their behaviors. By paying attention to your feline companion's body language and providing a safe and comfortable environment, you can foster a strong and trusting bond with your furry friend.