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May 14, 2023 |12 min read

Is It Okay to Pet a Cat?

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Cats are cute. Many people love seeing precious photos of adorable kittens and cats. In many instances, humans want to cuddle these fur babies.

But, some pet owners may wonder – is it okay to pet cats and do cats like being pet? And the answer primarily depends on the cat’s personality.

Cats may prefer different levels of being pet. It’s the same as humans liking different levels of touch. For instance, take breeds like the Maine Coon and Siamese cats. Both breeds are known for their high levels of affection.

Pet experts say Maine Coon cats are known for having dog-like personalities. They may even like to fetch, which is not an everyday cat activity but, most certainly is a common dog trait. While Siamese cats have some dog-like characteristics, too, they are most known for their vocal personalities. They are constantly demanding more from their cat owner. Pet experts also say a Siamese cat’s affection probably stems from their want of attention.

The most important thing to note is that petting is essential to a cat because it’s a type of communication between a cat and its cat owner. It helps to strengthen the pet owner-cat relationship. Cats also enjoy petting because they can transmit their scents and pheromones to you. And when pet owners pet their kitties, they show them they love them.

Signs They Like Being Pet

One of the first questions pet owners often ask is how would they know if the kitty likes to be pet? Cats usually display certain signs when humans are petting them to communicate to the humans how they feel. They also use body language signs to show their desire to continue being pet.

Cat body language signs that show they love being pet include:

  • Bunting its head against the pet owner’s outstretched hand
  • The cat will lean in the direction the pet owner is petting it.
  • The cat may start kneading – telling the pet owner, “I love what you are doing.”
  • The cat will also seem to be relaxed while being petted.

If the cat is showing the following signs as a reaction to being pet, immediately stop.

  • Arching its back
  • Moving away from the hand to avoid being pet more
  • Narrowing its eyes
  • A puffed-up cat’s tail that is rigid and held extremely high
  • Any hissing, crying, high-pitched meowing, or growling
  • Running away
  • Hiding

Sometimes, to help a veterinarian determine how to help a kitty become more accustomed to human touch, first, understand the root cause of their dislike.


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Reasons

Socialization

Some cats are not very comfortable with petting. Those uncomfortable with petting may not have been socialized well when they were kittens. Kittens must become accustomed to being touched and handled at an early age – when they are eight weeks old or less.

The cat’s biological mom could also be a reason why the cat avoids petting. The kitty may have had a mom who was shy and scared of human touch. The scared cats could have learned to fear human touch through their mom’s social conditioning.

Social conditioning

Others may grow to like being pet. And there are also those cats who love any physical touch. However, one of the reasons a cat may not like to be pet is that a feline mother or father may not know how to pet a cat.

Preference changes

There are times when cats may love being petted. But, then, the cat becomes reluctant to the petting, and the pet owner needs clarification about what happened. Sometimes, during a petting session, the cat may have been squeezed too tight or accidentally hurt. Therefore, the cat may be nervous about experiencing that pain again.

Alone time

There are also instances where the cat just had a bad day and wants to be alone. Maybe you’ve got an upset cat because it didn’t see as many birds through the window, or it didn’t catch the mouse it had tried to bait earlier in the morning. Humans have bad days too. Or, the kitty may feel sick, hungry, or thirsty. If the cat seems hesitant, listen to what the cat wants. Give the cat some “alone time.”

Wrong area

Sometimes pet owners are just petting the kitty wrong. One place to not pet is the belly. A cat’s stomach is one of its most vulnerable body parts. When a cat owner gives belly rubs, the cat may need to guard its belly. So, its paws and claws may come out to stop you from touching that area.

Sometimes, cats may give confusing signals. A human may be pleasantly petting the cat, so the cat may roll over on its back, exposing its tummy. This is a good sign, because the cat is displaying its relaxed, comfortable, and trusting the petter to continue petting. This rollover is not an invitation for the petter to pet the belly. Remember, this can be a sensitive area.

However, not all cats dislike being petted on its stomach. Some love it. Watch your cat’s behavior to determine whether your feline friend likes petting on the belly. Other areas to try and avoid petting include the cat’s tail, paws, and legs. Also, avoid the cat’s “private” spots, such as its genitalia.

One area to beware of is the cat’s lower back area, which is at the base of the tail. Some cats enjoy having their pet owners pet them in that area. An owner may rub that area, and then the cat arches its back, loving the attention its pet owner is giving it. But sometimes, cats are sensitive in that area and may find that location painful. Again, pay attention to the cat’s behavior.

Advice

Here are some tips if you want to find out how to build that petting relationship between you and your cat.

Best Locations

Common locations where cats like to be pet is under the chin, on the cheeks, and behind the neck and the ears. Cats may favor being pet underneath the chin the best, because a pet owner’s hand is coming from below, and the cat won’t see the hand as threatening. Other spots include:

  • Top of the cat’s head
  • Neck
  • Along the sides of the cat’s body
  • On the shoulders
  • Along the back, towards the tail

Short periods

Cats don’t want to be pet all the time. These independent creatures want space. Therefore, don’t spend all day petting the cat. Cats like short-petting interactions, and then they want to quickly remove themselves from any extra petting if they received their quota petting for the day. If the cat wants to leave, let them.

Space

Reminder – cats are not humans. When a human is distressed, a typical response is for other people to hug that person. However, when cats are distressed, they usually don’t want to be pet – even if it’s the common impulse for a human to hug the kitty. Humans want to cuddle the kitty – show the kitty that they are there for the kitty. However, cats don’t like that. Petting the distressed kitty may cause the kitty more anxiety. Instead, allow the cat to roam and have its freedom. If the cat wants attention, he will seek you out.

Don’ts

In addition, cat owners should know what not to do when petting a cat. Stay away from these “Don’ts” may help quicken the cat-petting bond.

  • Pet owners think as long as they are friendly and careful with the cat, the cat will enjoy any petting. However, that is not true. It is important to think about petting from the cat’s perspective. Having a stranger start stroking your body may not appeal to the cat – especially to a cat not accustomed to petting.
  • If a cat is fearful or reluctant to be petted, do not force petting a cat. This can cause the fur baby to become more aggressive. To make the situation worse, the cat will become even more fearful the next time you pet the cat.

What about petting a friend’s cat?

Another important note is that cats are usually more susceptible to their owners petting them than a stranger. If you are a stranger to the cat, read through the following tips on how to pet a cat that is not your cat. However, this advice should not be taken as a substitute for the information a veterinarian provides or what the pet parent also advises to do.

  • Ask for the owner’s permission if it’s okay to pet the cat. The owner may be able to provide tips on the best way to relate to the fur baby, and the pet parent should know if the cat would like a stranger to pet it.
  • Get consent from the cat too. This can be done by laying a flat hand in front of the cat’s nose, so the cat can smell the hand and determine whether it wants to interact further with the human being. During this step, allow the cat to rub against the hand and explore it. Then, the cat may continue exploring – rubbing further along the outstretched arm.
  • Now, the petting may start. Carefully and delicately pet the sides of the cat’s face.
  • At this stage, the cat may guide the direction of the touch, rubbing along the hand with more pressure and using its body to instruct where else it would like to be pet.
  • If there are any signs the cat is becoming aggressive, stop the petting session.
  • This initial petting session will help establish the relationship; if all goes well, the pet may allow further petting sessions too.

Conclusion

Most cats do enjoy petting. However, if a cat is not enjoying being pet, do not force it. Talk to your vet or the person who knows the animal the most to learn how to develop a loving relationship with the animal. Sometimes, people can develop a close relationship with felines without petting them. It all depends on what the cat wants.

Petting is not the only way to show a kitty love. Another way is to take care of it and provide it with the best food and treatment. Feeding your cat PrettyPlease and using PrettyLitter is another way to show cats love.

 


References:

  1. AnimalPath.Org. (2023). Are Siamese Cats Affectionate? Yes and Here's Why.AnimalPath.Org. https://animalpath.org/are-siamese-cats-affectionate/
  2. Bollaert, B. (2022, December 21). How To Pet A Cat – The 3 Basic Do’s And Don’t’s.Cats.com. https://cats.com/how-to-pet-a-cat
  3. Coleman, E. (2022, September 6). Are Maine Coons Friendly? (17 Interesting Facts).MainCoon.org. https://mainecoon.org/are-maine-coons-friendly/
  4. Conklin, L. M. (2023, March 22). Where Do Cats Like to Be Petted?Reader's Digest. https://www.rd.com/article/where-do-cats-like-to-be-pet/
  5. Stregowski, J. (2022, March 8). 7 Places Where Cats Like to Be Pet.sprucePETS. https://www.thesprucepets.com/where-do-cats-like-to-be-pet-5191230
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Christina Scamporrino is a lifelong animal lover and began working in the petcare space in 2019. Christina’s passion for the community of feline owners and enthusiasts have led her to designing premium packaging for PrettyLitter cat litter, PrettyPlease dry food, wet food, and treats, and a litter box designed to solve common litter box issues.

Outside of her professional work in the petcare space, Christina is a longtime kitten foster and has worked with several cat rescues throughout Southern California. When given the option, she favors orange cats, but loves all cats equally.

Links

https://www.linkedin.com/in/christina-tasci-68ab815b

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