Ticking cats can have extremely unpredictable results. Felines appear to be really enjoying the fuss and attention, but will suddenly turn round and bite/scratch you. Many owners assume that this is because the cat is ticklish, but the sensation has stopped being fun and become annoying.
Cats feel the sensation of tickling, especially on the paw pads, belly, back, and tail. The form of tickling is called knismesis, but it will not make a cat laugh. She will just feel fingers brushing against her skin. This could be pleasurable, or it could be annoying. Every feline reacts differently to the sensation.
If your cat enjoys tickling, do not assume that this is the norm. Tickling can quickly become overstimulating for cats. You need to understand your cat’s physical and verbal cues. This will show you when she has had enough. Tickling can be pleasurable for cats when done occasionally.
Table of Contents:
Can You Tickle Cats?
Most cats are ticklish, and are like people in their reaction to tickling. Some cats enjoy the sensation, at least initially, while others will angrily reject it.
If you wish to tickle your cat, learn how she feels about it first. It is inadvisable to assume that cats enjoy tickles. Every feline is different, seeking human attention and affection in unique ways. Never assume that two cats will enjoy the same type of physical interaction.
If a cat approaches you for attention, you can attempt tickling. A cat headbutting or nuzzling into you is asking for affection. If your cat enjoys tickling, it’s probably safe to do so.
You’ll know if a cat is enjoying tickling by her reaction. A cat staying put and permitting you to continue tickling is a sign of approval. Your pet will also release some verbal cues. Here are the differences between happy and agitated feline sounds:
|Contented Cat||Agitated Cat|
|Chirping and trilling||Growling|
|Short, high-pitched meows||Hissing|
|Burbling||Deep, elongated meows|
You will notice that purring is absent. This is not because it should be assumed that purring is good.
It’s true that cats purr with pleasure. They also make the sound when pained, though. It’s a form of self-soothing, according to Current Biology. Cats sometimes bury a cry within a purr.
Tickle your cat in short, controlled bursts, especially if she is new to the experience. If your cat tries to leave, allow her to do so. If you force your cat to stay, she’ll react physically.
How to Tickle a Cat
If you want to tickle your cat, follow these steps.
- Wait for your cat to ask for tickles
- Start by tickling the top of the head
- Slowly move to preferred ticklish spots
- Avoid sudden movements
- Stop at the first sign of distress
A cat’s skin is sensitive. It can become overstimulated, turning pleasure into pain for your cat. Your cat will instinctively react to such discomfort. This usually involves biting or clawing your hand.
Do Cats Laugh When Tickled?
Cats are not capable of laughing. They do not smile either.
This is not because cats lack humor. Most cats have a mischievous sense of fun. The feline species has just evolved not to show emotion. It’s the same reason why a cat will never reveal that she’s in pain. It’s seen as a sign of weakness.
Even if a cat were capable of laughing, tickling would not elicit the reaction. There are two types of tickling, as the Encyclopedia of Human Behavior explains:
Gargalesis is a form of tickling that leads to involuntary muscle spasms and giggling. Humans and primates are the only species capable of experiencing this form of tickling.
Knismesis is the physical sensation of tickling, without the mirth. You will experience knismesis daily. It’s the awareness of something brushing against your skin. This could be a human hand, a tree branch, an insect crawling on your skin, etc.
Knismesis is how cats experience tickling. This is why every cat reacts differently to the sensation. For some pets, it’s will be annoying and unpleasant. For others, it will be soothing. It depends on how your cat feels about physical contact, and where you touch her.
Where are a Cat’s Ticklish Spots?
Every cat has her own unique physiology. This means that different felines have varying ticklish spots. Almost all cats will be ticklish in these locations, though:
- Paw pads
- Below the chin
Some cats are also ticklish between the ears and down the side. You can test this on your own pet. If your cat shows any sign of discomfort, let her go. You’ll be scratched or bitten otherwise.
Are Cats Ticklish on Their Feet?
Tickling a cat’s feet is risky because feline paws are sensitive by design. The exposed pads on your cat’s paws serve the following functions:
- Releasing sweat
- Sensing ground vibrations
- Absorbing shock from falls
- Insulating heat
This makes cats protective of their paws. Those pink pads look irresistible while your cat is sleeping but leave your pet alone. Leaving paw pads exposed is a sign of trust from your cat. She is announcing that she feels safe around you.
Tickling your cat’s paws will be a violation of this trust. At the very least, your cat will hide her paws. She will likely move to a different, more secluded sleeping location.
There are exceptions to every rule. Some cats enjoy having their paw pads tickled. This is rare, though. Wherever possible, avoid touching your cat’s paw pads.
Tickling a Cat’s Tummy
Tickling a cat on the belly should be avoided. This is the most sensitive part of a cat’s anatomy. The skin on your pet’s tummy is thin, and touching it will invariably result in a violent reaction.
If a cat is lying on her back, never assume that she is waiting for a tummy tickle. Cats assume this position for two reasons.
- A demonstration of trust
- A state of heightened anxiety
A relaxed, happy cat may lie on her back and expose her belly. She is pointing out how much she trusts you. She believes that you will not touch the most delicate part of her body. Doing so will betray this trust, and your actions will not be forgotten.
A cat in a heightened state of agitation may also assume this position. This is a cat preparing to fight. Although the soft tissue is exposed, a cat on her back has access to all her claws. This makes her confident in her ability to defend herself.
This rule of never touching a cat’s belly can be tough. Longhaired cats, for example, will need their fur brushed. In this instance, seek expert help. Ask somebody to hold the cat in midair, and groom from arm’s length. This is the easiest way to avoid sharp teeth and swiping claws.
Tickling a Cat’s Back
The back is arguably the most variable location for tickling. Some cats love the experience. Others loathe it. You’ll quickly know how your own pet feels. If she does not enjoy being tickled, your hand will be batted away.
It’s usually safer to test the area with a hairbrush. Settle your cat with light petting around the head. When she is relaxed, run a brush down her back. This sensation will be akin to knismesis. If your cat hates it, the hairbrush will bear the brunt of her displeasure.
There is a risk that your cat will mistake tickling for the presence of parasites. If your cat recently had fleas, she may think they are back when you tickle her. She will react to this with scratching.
After a little back tickling, a cat may roll over onto her belly. This is not a request to continue tickling on the stomach. The cat is showing submission and thanking you for the attention.
This gesture makes it clear that your cat has had enough. Express further affection without physical interaction. Your pet needs to recover before she’s ready to be touched again.
Tickling a Cat on the Tail
Many cats love to be tickled just above the tail. There is a cluster of nerves located here. This means that every touch provides a great deal of sensation for a cat. Just be mindful that this part of the body quickly becomes overstimulated.
All the same, most cats love to be tickled in this location. It’s tough for a cat to reach herself. A tickle that doubles up as a scratch can be a huge relief. You’ll know if your cat is enjoying herself. She will raise her hind legs while dropping her head and front paws. There are two purposes to this behavior:
- Adjusting posture to gain maximum pleasure from the sensation.
- Releasing scent from the anal glands.
The latter is a compliment from your cat. She is offering you the opportunity to exchange scents. Cats only do this with other felines that they really like. If a cat shows you her bottom, she loves what you are doing and wants more.
Watch your cat’s tail while you tickle her. If the tail is still, or gently swishes, your pet is comfortable. If movements from side to side becoming more urgent, stop tickling. This form of tail-wagging is a sign of feline displeasure.
Tickling a Cat’s Head
The head is theoretically a dangerous place to tickle a cat. Your hands are close to a cat’s teeth. Most felines enjoy gently tickling around the head and neck, though.
Start with gentle sensations between the ears. You can proceed according to your cat’s reaction. Move down to the top of the neck. Many cats enjoy tickles here. Just be mindful. If the cat expects to be scruffed, she may flee.
The real sweet spot on a cat’s head is under the chin. Cats have scent glands here. The more you tickle, the more pheromones will be transferred to your fingers. These will make you increasingly appealing to the cat.