Stroking a cat can invoke different reactions, both positive and negative. Felines are happy to receive human attention, but they’re also very particular about where it takes place and how. Knowing what parts of a cat’s body she likes to be petted can prevent unnecessary bites and scratches.
Cats enjoy being petted behind the ears, on the side of the face, the base of the tail, and underneath the chin. Most felines dislike having vulnerable areas rubbed, such as the stomach, legs, and paws.
Of course, learning where your cat likes to be petted is just half the battle. You’ll need to rub her preferred areas with the optimal level of consistency. You’ll also need to pay close attention to your cat’s body language as felines can quickly become restless and agitated.
Where Do Cats Like to Be Petted?
Every cat is different, so there is no answer to this question that is 100% accurate. As a species, cats appear to prefer physical attention in some places than others. There are four spots, in particular, that most cats find irresistible for petting. These are as follows:
- Under the Chin. Follow your cat’s jawbone with your fingers, all the way up their skull. You’ll likely hear a distinct increase in purring.
- The base of the Ears. When your pet rubs her head against you, she’ll use this part of her skull. This means that she’ll enjoy a tickle and stroke in the same spot.
- On the Cheeks. A cat’s cheeks are sensitive as they contain pheromones. Find the right spot to stroke her and a cat will be putty in your hands. Just don’t aggravate her whiskers.
- The base of the Tail. Many cats enjoy some gentle pressure where their tail meets the spine.
This covers the areas that most felines most enjoy being stroked and petted. If you’re looking to make a start on bonding with a cat, these are usually failsafe places to start.
Where Do Cats Hate to be Stroked?
Most cats are extremely sensitive to having their tummy touched. If you’re looking to befriend a feline, avoid placing your hands anywhere near her underbelly. You’re going to need to build up trust before you’re allowed there, if ever.
This can be a little confusing for anybody unfamiliar with cats. Some people may confuse feline preferences with that of canines. Cats often roll over and show their tummies to humans. It’s important that this action is not misinterpreted as it isn’t an invitation to touch.
When a cat shows her tummy, she may be expressing happiness and contentment. If she enjoys your company, she may roll onto her back in sheer glee.
If you are building a bond, she may test you by showing her belly. This is a cat demonstrating trust in you, exposing the most vulnerable part of her anatomy.
Ignore her stomach and you’ll show that this trust was well placed. Go for a belly rub, and you’ll be back to square one. You’ll also likely have several claw and tooth marks for your trouble.
This is the other reason a wary cat rolls onto her back, as Vet Depot explains. Although her tummy is vulnerable due to its extremely thin skin, this is a fighting pose. From her back, she can use her hind legs, claws, and teeth as a means of defense.
You have to remember that self-preservation is a cat’s natural instinct. While cats are born predators, they are also small enough to be prey. This means that cats are innately cautious.
If you attempt to touch her tummy, she will automatically assume that you mean her harm. Petting on the belly is not a source of pleasure for felines. If your cat shows you her tummy, accept the compliment and leave this part of the body well alone.
How to Pet a Cat’s Head
When petting your cat’s head, start by cupping the palm of your hand. Hold this out, and allow your cat to nuzzle her head inside. If your cat does this, you’re all ready to start petting.
There are three areas around a cat’s head that most felines enjoy having petted. Always start around the cheeks. This is where your cat releases relaxing pheromones. If these can be stimulated, your cat will feel extremely tranquil. This makes biting much less likely.
Once you have mastered the art of petting your cat’s cheeks, move onto her ears. The sweet spot for many cats is right behind the ears. Stroking here may see your cat half-close her eyes in pleasure. You could also try gently twisting her ear. Be careful as it’s not to every cat’s taste.
Give your cat a tickle beneath the chin. Don’t do this the way you would a baby or dog, however. Instead, trace the shape of your cat’s lower jaw. She will likely love this.
If she gives any signs of resisting, you should remove your hand. Your fingers are in biting range while engaging in all forms of head petting.
How to Pet a Cat’s Body
Petting a cat’s body is a slightly different experience. Unlike petting your cat’s head, there is only one direction to go with the body.
Stroke your cat with an open hand, from her shoulders to the base of her tail. If your cat purrs, apply a little more pressure. Never stroke her too hard, though.
You’ll have to be careful when stroking your cat’s body. Ensure that you never stroke against the grain of your cat’s fur. This can be painful. This also means that you should not scratch and mess a cat’s coat. Your cat grooms themselves regularly, so she’ll have her fur exactly how she likes it.
Observe your cat for signs of overstimulation. This may happen when your cat is touched too often in the same place. This makes your cat’s skin sensitive so she might bite your hand. As per Wisconsin Pet Care, the warning signs of overstimulation in cats include:
- Flicking and swishing of the tail
- Flattening of the ears
- Narrowing or dilating of the eyes, and carefully watching your hand
- Hissing or growling
If you spot any of these signs, cease petting. Open your hands, and let your cat escape. She will more than likely take this opportunity. Once your cat has had a chance to cool down, you can start petting her again.
Keep your hand close to your cat’s spine. If you start to drift towards the belly, your cat will become nervous. You want petting to be considered a source of pleasure, not anxiety.
Never clap or pat your cat. Your cat will interpret this as physical violence and respond accordingly. Cats do not enjoy roughhousing with humans, so keep everything gentle.
How to Give a Cat a Massage
Petting is not the only form of physical contact you can share with your cat. Some felines take pleasure from being massaged. This is likely to be the case if your pet is growing older and arthritic.
A massage will relax your cat and improve her circulation. AnimalWised has a step-by-step guide to massaging your cat. The instructions are as follows:
- Let your cat approach you. Your pet should be wholly relaxed before attempting a massage.
- Ensure that you have around 10 minutes free to perform the massage, and eradicate any distractions. Draw the curtains, switch off the TV or radio, and silence your cell phone.
- Set your cat up in a mutually comfortable position and speak to them calmly.
- Start by softly rubbing the side of your cat’s face with the tips of your fingers. If your cat purrs, you can apply a little more pressure.
- Continue to massage your cat’s face. Move up to behind her ears, then down to below her chin.
- Move down the neck of your cat, kneading as you go. This process should continue all down their spine, finishing at the base of the tail.
- If your cat allows it, finish by massaging the joints where her limbs meet the torso.
You should never attempt to force your cat into being massaged. While some felines will find this heavenly, others will resist it ferociously. If so, continue with basic petting.
How Often Should a Cat Be Petted?
A cat should be petted every day, if she welcomes this activity. It’s an important part of the bonding experience between feline and owner. Petting can be incorporated with play.
You should let your pet decide how often she wants to be petted, though. Your cat can be aloof on certain days and attentive on other days.
How Long Should a Cat Be Petted?
Petting a cat isn’t just about finding the ideal part of her anatomy. Cat owners often bemoan the fact that their pets are purring contentedly one moment, then biting and scratching the next.
There are several possible reasons for this. What’s important, as Cole and Marmalade explain, is understanding why felines react this way. Your cat will not be looking to hurt or injure you. She will, however, be keen to send a message that it’s time to stop.
Unfortunately, there is no hard-and-fast rule as to how long a cat will tolerate being petted. Every feline is different and will have a different trigger point. It may take a little trial and error before you discover what works for your cat.
Overstimulation is the main reason for a cat to bite the hand that pets her. If you continue stroking your cat for a prolonged period, her skin will become more sensitive. This means that she’ll become overstimulated and this will be painful. Naturally, your cat will bite.
This doesn’t mean that your cat has fallen out with you. The bite will be cat language for, “enough!” The bite will also typically be comparatively gentle and should not draw blood.
Why Does My Cat Bite Me When I Pet Them?
Some cats do not enjoy being petted. This doesn’t mean that your cat hates you. If you observe, you’ll doubtless discover other expressions of love language. Tactile touch can be something of an acquired taste for some felines. Reasons why a cat bites during petting include:
- Your cat was mistreated in the past. This has left her reluctant to experience human touch.
- Your cat has sensitive skin. This may be due to a skin condition, or a reaction to an allergy.
- They were never handled as a kitten, and as a result, consider human touch to be frightening.
- Your cat does not like being touched unless she specifically invites and controls the physical contact. This is a form of territoriality.
- Your cat is fighting a losing battle against their nature. Some cats bite because their instincts tell them that they should.
- Your cat is attempting to provide a love bite. Kittens, in particular, nibble as a sign of affection.
- Your cat’s skin may be over-stimulated from excessive petting.
If your cat tolerates petting in some instances but not others, look for a pattern. There will be a trigger point that breaches the limits of your cat’s patience. Never push your cat beyond this point.
Find out which parts of their cat’s anatomy your cat enjoys being stroked in and focus on there. Petting and stroking can cement a bond between owner and cat. This ensures that all the scratches incurred during the learning curve will have been well worth it.