This is one of the biggest questions cat owners ask themselves. Sometimes, it is easy to forget that cats are not dogs and do not connect more closely with people than dogs do. Yet, everyone feels they know how to pet and treat a cat, even if they have never had a cat in their home. Cats can resist physical affection, but that does not mean that petting your cat is not part of your bond. Many cats are cuddly or enjoy the occasional pat or scratch. Here are some tips on petting a cat, whether your feline friend is outgoing or prefers to be alone. But first, let’s look at why petting your cat is essential.
Why Petting Your Cat Is Important
Petting an animal has long been shown to help relieve stress and anxiety in humans, but that doesn’t mean you are the only one who benefits. Petting your cat in a way that he enjoys is a social interaction with your feline friend that can help develop your bond. Petting your cat also detects any issues under their hair that you cannot see, such as fleas, ticks, scratches, bumps, or swollen or painful areas. It can be challenging to tell when a cat is sick or in pain, so knowing the early warning signs can help you get your cat to the vet as soon as possible.
Start by Introducing Yourself
If you’ve ever been around an unfamiliar cat, you know how confusing it can be. She appears to love you one moment and then scratches your arm the next. Nipping or scratching does not always indicate that the cat dislikes or dislikes being around you. It could simply mean that you are not touching them as they prefer. To begin, you must introduce yourself. If you start petting her immediately, she may feel threatened and retaliate. Slow down and let the cat make the final decision. Extend your fingers gently towards her nose so she can get a good whiff of you and know you are not a threat. Allowing the cat to make her own decisions and allowing the cat to come to you increases the likelihood of positive interaction. Many people believe they are kitty magnets when they are not! Cats frequently flee them because they are invading their space! That is not to say they are aliens from another planet. They intrude on kitty territory before the cat is ready. That is why people who dislike cats attract them — they ignore them, which gives the cat space. It immediately makes them want to get to know that person.
Where Do Cats Prefer To Be Petted?
Cats generally prefer to have their backs stroked or scratched under the chin or around the ears. Avoid their paws, tails, underbellies, and whiskers (which are extremely sensitive). However, every cat is unique, and it may take trial and error to figure out how and where your cat prefers to be petted.
For some cats, the perfect spot is right behind the ears. They will lean into your hand as though they’re begging you to rub there forever. Sometimes the ideal location is where your cat’s tail meets the end of her back, on the haunches. Every cat has their preferences, and some prefer deep tissue massage. The key to success is to give the cat as much choice and control as possible during interactions. For example, the ability to indicate whether they want to be petted or not, as well as control over where and how long we touch them.
Here are some signs to know for sure if your cat is enjoying it:
• Holding the tail upright and choosing to initiate contact
• Kneading you with their front paws while purring.
• Gently waving their tail from side to side while suspended in midair.
• A relaxed posture and expression, with ears pricked and pointing forward.
• If you pause while stroking them, they will give you a gentle nudge.
Areas to Avoid
It is also critical to monitor the cat’s behaviour and posture during interactions to ensure they are comfortable. Less is often more when it comes to touch. If your cat dislikes being petted, respect her desire not to be touched frequently. “Cats are like people; some enjoy a lot of physical contact with others while others enjoy very little,” Nigbur says.
Cats dislike being petted on their tummy, legs/feet, or tail. Of course, there are always outliers. Some cats will accept any form of affection, no matter where it comes from or who is doing it. However, you should avoid petting a cat you don’t know on its stomach or extremities.
Here are a few signs of dislike or tension:
• Shifting, moving or turning away from you.
• Remaining silent (no purring or rubbing)
• Excessive blinking, shaking of the head, body or licking of the nose
• Grooming in quick bursts.
• Rippling or twitching skin, most commonly on their back.
• Tail swishing, thrashing, or thumping
Know When to Stop
Even the most affectionate of cats can become overly touched, so pay attention to your pet’s body language while petting. If your cat is purring and relaxed but then tries to sit up, change positions, or make any other movements that indicate they are done, respecting that and letting them go reinforces that petting is a good thing and prevents your cat from avoiding human contact later on.
Whether cats make good “fur babies” is debatable. Cats are fascinating animals, even for their craze for climbing on things. Thankfully no matter if you have one black cat or a tabby cat, you can still figure out how your cat wants to be petted. All you have to do is watch them closely as they lie next to you and give it a try. You can also try different approaches and test which one they prefer. Soon enough, you will have the most affectionate kitty ever. Ultimately though, when it comes to cats, it’s essential to respect their boundaries and the wildcat within, even if that means admiring their cuteness from afar.