whats it called when cats get their hair up?

whats it called when cats get their hair up

Cat Hair Standing Up

Have you ever seen a cat with its hair standing up, as if it had been electrified? This phenomenon, commonly observed in feline body language, is quite fascinating. The raised fur on a cat's body can communicate a variety of emotions and messages. In this article, we will explore what it means when cats get their hair up and delve into the reasons behind this intriguing behavior.

Cat Body Language Signals

Cats are known for their unique way of communicating through body language. They possess a wide range of signals, including facial expressions, body postures, and vocalizations. One of the most visually striking signals is when a cat's hair stands on end. While it may seem alarming or strange to us, it serves a distinct purpose in the feline world.

Cat's Raised Fur

The technical term for a cat's raised fur is "piloerection." This phenomenon occurs when tiny muscles, known as arrector pili muscles, contract and lift the hair follicles. As a result, the fur appears fuller and stands on end. Piloerection is not exclusive to cats and can also be observed in other animals, including humans.

What's It Called When Cats Get Their Hair Up?

The act of a cat's hair standing up is commonly referred to as "puffing up" or "getting fluffed." These terms aptly describe the visual appearance of a cat with raised fur. It can be likened to a balloon expanding as it fills with air, creating a puff-like effect. This fascinating display of feline body language is often associated with specific situations and emotions.

Cats Get Their Hair Up

Now that we have explored what it's called when cats get their hair up, let's delve into the reasons behind this behavior. Understanding why cats exhibit piloerection can help us decipher their emotions and respond appropriately to their needs. Here are a few common triggers for a cat's hair standing up:

Fear or Threat

When a cat feels threatened or fearful, its natural response is to make itself appear larger and more intimidating. By puffing up their fur, cats attempt to create an illusion of size and deter potential threats. The raised hair also helps to make the cat's silhouette appear more formidable, potentially discouraging aggression from other animals.


In some cases, raised fur can indicate aggression in cats. When two cats engage in territorial disputes or confrontations, their hair may stand on end as a sign of assertiveness. Alongside other aggressive body language signals such as hissing, growling, and a stiff posture, raised fur is a clear indication that a cat is ready to defend itself if necessary.

Excitement or Arousal

Interestingly, not all instances of raised fur in cats are negative or threatening. Some cats may experience piloerection when they are excited or stimulated. This can occur during play, chasing toys, or engaging in energetic activities. While their reactions may seem dramatic, it is simply their way of expressing enthusiasm and anticipation.

Illness or Discomfort

Occasionally, cats may exhibit raised fur as a response to illness or discomfort. It could be a sign of pain, anxiety, or even an underlying medical condition. If you notice that your cat's hair is standing up persistently without any apparent triggers or it is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it is advisable to consult a veterinarian for a thorough examination.

Sensory Stimulation

Cats have highly sensitive skin and fur, allowing them to detect subtle changes in their environment. Sometimes, their hair may stand on end due to sensory stimulation, such as encountering a new scent, feeling a draft of air, or experiencing static electricity. This reaction helps cats gather more information about their surroundings and adapt accordingly.


Observing a cat with its hair standing up provides valuable insights into their emotional state and intentions. Whether it indicates fear, aggression, excitement, or sensory stimulation, raised fur is a significant aspect of feline body language. By paying attention to these signals, we can better understand and communicate with our feline companions, strengthening our bond and ensuring their well-being.