Why Do Cats Stretch When They See You? 10 Facts You NEED To Know

A white cat cat stretching outside

I’m sure any pet owner will know that when you return home, your cat is always the first to greet you with a meow, and after their greeting, they’ll often stretch out all four of their paws. But why do they do this? Well, there are many reasons why cats stretch their legs. 

Cats stretch towards their owners as a way to show affection and happiness of being in their owner’s presence. The other main reason cats stretch to stretch their muscles after laying down for long periods.

Here are 10 Reasons Why Cats Stretch

In this article, we will explore the various reasons cats stretch when they see you at the door and try to answer some of the questions pet owners may have.

To Show Their Affection:

Cats stretch out to their owners to show their love and affection. You can often see this when you come back home from work or a short holiday, and you’ll usually get greeted with a meow and two extended paws by your kitty cat.

As soon as they hear the door open, the cat will jump up on all fours and stretch their legs out towards you to show their happiness that you are back home again. So if you notice your cat stretching after you’ve come back from work or a holiday, then it’s probably because they’re glad to see you and want to show their affection towards you.

To Seek Attention:

As well as showing their affection to you, cats also stretch out when they want to get your attention. Some cats have an excellent bond with humans, and they like being close to us and getting our attention.

When you see your cat stretching out all four of their paws to the maximum, then it’s probably because they would like attention from you. 

To Cool Down:

Cats will usually stretch out both of their legs straight out behind them to cool down when they’re hot. They do this by cooling down blood flow through the muscles and dilating the capillaries so more blood can flow through the muscle tissue, which helps eliminate heat. 

When cats are stretching during warmer seasons of the year, such as summertime, they’ll often be seen stretching in front of a fan or by a cool breeze to help eliminate the temperature of their bodies.

However, if your cat is always stretching during summer, then you may want to consider getting them an automatic water sprinkler for their outdoor kitty pool so they can cool down and have fun at the same time.

To Stretch And Wake Up:

Many cats will also stretch first thing in the morning as this helps waken up their muscles and get them ready for a new day ahead. Just like we usually do when we get out of bed, cats will often stretch immediately after waking up from sleeping too. Stretching acts as a way to say hello to another day and wake themselves up thoroughly before starting a new day full of potential adventures and activities. 

To Prepare For hunting or Activities:

Cats often stretch out all four of their limbs at once to prepare for an attack. You can often see this type of behaviour in the wild where cats such as lions will stretch out both of their front paws and then both of their hind legs before they pounce on another animal, usually to kill it so they can eat it later.

This type of behaviour can be seen in smaller cats, too but at a different scale. For instance, most domestic cats will stretch both of their front arms out straight from shoulder to wrist along with extending either one or two hind legs forwards or backwards (depending on whether it’s one leg or both).

To Let Out Energy:

Cats are very energetic creatures and will often need time and space to exercise their energy during the day. If they don’t get enough exercise throughout the day, it could cause them to become restless, which could lead to them acting out by scratching the furniture, spraying around the house, or even being aggressive towards people.

To Eliminate Toxins:

When cats stretch their front legs and back legs all at once, they’re allowing blood to flow through both of their limbs as well as opening up their pores to allow toxins out so they can be released from their body.

 If your cat is stretching a lot during the day, then often it’s because they’ve built up some form of toxin in their bodies, causing them to have an upset stomach or possibly cause them to feel lethargic or nauseous.

It’s essential to take your cat to the vet if you notice they’re constantly stretching throughout the day, as this could be a sign of diarrhoea or some other form of sickness that needs to be treated. 

To Release Tension:

If your kitty cat is seen stretching over something or lying down and then pulling one limb after another up in the air before letting them go, then they are probably just trying to stretch out their muscles. Often cats will do this when they’ve been sitting still for too long and need a way to release some tension from their body.

Stretching is something that most cats will constantly do throughout the day, and you’ll notice your cat gradually getting more and more relaxed as they go about their regular day.

Many people wonder if it’s normal for them to see their cat stretching out so much during the day, but there really is nothing to worry about at all. It’s simply a natural way for cats to become limber, energised and prepared for any activities that may be coming up in their future.

As A Defence Mechanism:

A cat might stretch out its legs as a defence mechanism in case it has to spring into action quickly if it senses that there’s danger nearby. For instance, if a cat is sitting at home and notices a stranger approaching the house, they might stretch out both of its front paws, so they’re ready to pounce at the person should they feel like they’re about to cause any harm.

A tabby cat stretching a yawning

Stretching as a form of defence can be seen in the wild too. For instance, when a lion is stalking its prey, it will often stretch out one or both of its front paws, so they’re ready to pounce on its target and then claws them to death before eating them.

To Allow Them To Jump And Catch Prey:

If your cat is seen stretching out both of their front paws and then letting them go in the air and pull themselves up before repeating this process on the other side, they could simply be trying to stretch their muscles in preparation for catching prey. The same thing applies if they’re seen stretching out one or both of their hind legs while pulling themselves up over something, whether it be a human’s lap or even a piece of furniture. Of course, their leg will be pulled back down as soon as it goes fully stretched, but this behaviour is often carried out by cats so they can keep all four of their limbs easily prepared in case there’s ever any danger lurking nearby.

To Cool Down:

When it gets hot outside, cats will often lie on the cool pavement or grass and stretch out all four limbs until they can touch the ground fully with each paw. This helps to release some heat from inside their bodies as well as assisting them in cooling down after taking part in an intense activity such as playing with another cat or chasing prey (this would be true especially for lions and tigers.

To Mark Their Territory:

Lastly, cats will also stretch to mark their territory by leaving pheromone markings, so other cats know they live there. Pheromones are an odourless chemical released through a cat’s sweat glands, and this is then deposited onto the ground or furniture before being sniffed by other animals.

Where you see most of your cat stretching will depend on how happy they are in that particular area, and it could be more common for them to do it outside where there’s plenty of room rather than inside where space is limited. This is because they want to stretch out both of their arms and legs as far as possible.

They also want to leave pheromone marks on as many surrounding areas as possible, which is why you may see them stretching out both of their arms and legs at the same time.


You might be wondering what your cat is trying to tell you when they stretch. Sometimes cats stretch in anticipation of a meal, but other times they stretch because they want attention or because their bodies feel stiff and need to become more mobile again.

Whatever the reason for their stretches maybe, give them some love! They’ll probably come right back with plenty of purrs and headbutts.

If you enjoyed this blog post on cat behaviour, please share it with others who have pets as well so we can all learn about our furry friends together!

The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your veterinarian or other health care professional. You should not use the information herein to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease or prescribe any medication. If you have any concerns for your cat’s health, you should consult a certified vet.

Let me know in the comments below if you have ever noticed your cat stretching when you have come home from work or a long trip away.


Rochelle is a self-claimed crazy cat lady and proud cat mum to Owlie! She has owned, rescued, and fostered cats throughout her whole life. Rochelle created Cats On My Mind as a hub for likeminded cat parents to get all the information they will ever need to give their fur babies their best life!

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