Are you aware that there are right and wrong ways how to pet a cat properly?
If not, you might find yourself involved in a bit of a skirmish with sharp teeth, raised fur, and nasty nails should you try to pet a cat the wrong way, even if it’s your own kitty.
If you are a new cat parent, then you need to know the correct way to pet a cat before an attempt at cuddling turns to violence.
So here is some advice on the right way to pet your frisky feline.
Now, it’s an established fact that favorable interaction with animals, particularly dogs and cats lowers stress in humans.
We can pretty safely assume that dogs enjoy all human contact, but what about your cat.
Do cats even like to be petted? Do they enjoy cuddling and being held? Do they even like affection at all?
Actually, yes they do, but it must be done properly.
When to Avoid Petting a Feline
Over the many centuries they have been domesticated cats have earned, some would say, a well-deserved reputation for aloofness.
But this is not necessarily true.
Most cats welcome it when their owners show them affection, and as cat owners everywhere can testify, they are more than capable of establishing a warm and loving relationship with their families.(1.)
Still, petting your cat, any cat really, can be a challenge.
The one thing you should know above all else when it comes to how to pet a cat, is that all cats are different.
Particularly if you are befriending a cat you don’t know, or a neighbor or friend’s pet.
You need to watch their body language.
If the kitty is staying away and not coming up to you, and you notice that her posture is stiff, then you probably shouldn’t try and pet them. If you do, just take it slowly and stay alert.
If the cat’s ears lay flat back against their head, their eyes widen and you can see the pupils dilate, if they crouch or lay their ears back flat against their head, forget about petting them.
Appropriate Ways of Cat Petting
The fact of the matter is, that while some cats can be standoffish, most cats enjoy being petted, having their ears or chins scratched, or being gently stroked.
But there is an art to it. Here are some correct ways of petting a cat.
1. Under the Chin
Cats usually like to be tickled beneath their chins.
Lightly rub with your fingers under your cat’s chin and you are apt to send him into blissful orbit.
Keep at it long enough and you’ll surely get a contented purr.
2. The Cheeks
Because cats have scent glands located on their cheeks and lips, they generally like having these areas rubbed.
Humans can’t see or smell the oily substance that seeps from these glands, but other cats can.
When you gently scratch these areas the glands release scent, which is the reason most cats like being petted there.
3. Forehead and Between the Eyes
Certain cats will indicate they are ready for a petting session by bumping their heads, sometimes quite firmly, against you.
This action is called bunting.
Your kitten is telling you that they would like you to pet the top of their head, and you can also try a light gliding of the fingers between their eyes.
4. From Head to Tail
If you want to see your kitty melt, then slide your hands in a smooth stroking motion from head to tail.
Cats like having their backs stroked in this manner better than simple hand pets.
A satisfied cat will contentedly relax his body muscles and sometimes even elevate his posterior when you touch the base of his tail.
5. Favorite Areas
Oftentimes a cat likes being petted on the head, chin and neck the best.
Occasionally, they also enjoy having the area behind their whiskers rubbed, although you should never toy directly with your cats whiskers.
Some cats may even like having their tails petted, but most cats dislike this and will pull away.
Take note of this and always allow your cat to determine what the petting limits are.
Where Not to Pet a Cat
Now here’s the part that’s sometimes hard to understand.
It’s easy to misinterpret your cat’s happy signals, by petting or touching them in the wrong way, or in a place where they dislike being touched.
And we all know that cats aren’t shy about expressing their true feelings.
Almost all cat owners have at one time or another faced that nice, gentle kitty who snuggles up to you and is thoroughly enjoying being petted, then abruptly turns around and bites or claws at you.
Now it’s easy to become angry and assume that your cat is just acting out, but the most likely cause for this besides illness that you might not be aware of, is that you’re just not petting them properly.
Here’s a for instance. If your feline rolls on the floor and then displays her tummy to you, this is her way of telling you that she trusts you.
A cat’s stomach is their most vulnerable area, and it is a compliment when they expose that area to you.
It doesn’t, however, necessarily mean that they want a tummy rub.
Attempting one may result in an unpleasant scratch or even a bite.
Now that’s enough to get you flustered and upset, but it’s your cat’s way of letting you know that it doesn’t want you to pet her stomach.
Lots of cats love nothing better than a great tummy rub, but most can be a little sensitive about having you touch this particular area, and some actually hate it. You have to know your kitty.
Yes, it’s true that dogs LOVE tummy rubs, but your cat is not a dog.
Having their stomachs exposed makes them feel open to attack.
Keep this in mind and don’t be offended if kitty states clearly that there are to be no tummy rubs!
Cats in general do not like to have their tails petted.
You may not know this, but for some cats, petting their tail in what you think is an affectionate and soothing motion may actually cause pain.
Furthermore, a cat’s tail is a good indication of how agitated its becoming due to being petted.
The harder it moves, the clearer is the warning that you should cease the petting.
Also, if a cat walks away from you during petting, just let it go.
It’s a big mistake to try and force an unwilling cat to accept unwanted petting.
Cats display their love for their owners in a variety of ways.
They might lay there and meow right at you for up to a couple hours at a time, or they might bring you their favorite toy so that you can play with them. But they can also be unpredictable.
Humans are a very social species, requiring closeness and touch and open displays of affection.
So our first instinct with a cat or kitten is to want to pet and cuddle them.
We think they’re adorable and want to let them know it.
Cats can be a bit overwhelmed by all of this, especially if they are meeting you for the first time.
With cats, interacting with people does not come naturally as it does with most dogs.
It is something they have to be taught to appreciate almost from the first day they are born.
Usually this important period occurs when they are between two and seven weeks of age.
For a human to establish a good relationship with a cat, their personal traits are of great importance.
The person’s gender can play a part in whether or not a cat will accept them, as well as their individual personality, and the way in which they choose to pet the cat.
If a cat seems to like you, but still resists petting, then perhaps you need to accept the fact that this particular feline just doesn’t like to be touched.
Don’t take it personally. It doesn’t mean that she doesn’t like you in particular, just the petting.
Certain cats may respond with aggression to physical attention that they just do not want, but others may just decide to up and tolerate it, almost as if they are grudgingly indulging us foolish humans so that they can be fed and have a safe place to stay.
This, however, does not mean that your cat is happy.
Even if your cat does not openly display aggressive behavior upon being petted, you will be able to tell that they are simply not enjoying it.
The way to develop a loving, trusting relationship with your cat is to concentrate on giving the cat as much control as they need during the times when you wish to hold or pet them.
Allow them to tell you through their behavior if they want to be petted or would rather that you didn’t, and let them indicate to you where they like to be petted.
Also, when your cat says it’s over, the petting must cease.
It’s only through respecting your cat’s space and feelings that you will manage to form that loving and devoted relationship that you will both cherish.
Now that you know all about how to pet a cat properly, you may also enjoy reading our article on how to pick up a cat right.