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Petting Your Cat: A How-To Guide

Petting Your Cat: A How-To Guide
Petting Your Cat: A How-To Guide

Petting your cat

The simple act of petting your kitty cat may sound easy, but for people or children who have not spent a whole lot of their time around felines, it is very important to figure out the do’s and don’ts of touching and approaching a cat. If you happen to pet the cat in the wrong spot, or just using way too much speed or force can sometimes agitate or bother certain cats, causing them to scratch or bite. Some experts usually recommend letting it happen on the cat’s own terms. Look for permission to reach out to him/her, and be sure to let your cat have complete control over your interaction. There can be a few places where it is difficult to go wrong, certain areas where scent glands on the cat are just perfect to pet. Distributing their own scent saturates their environment with a comforting smell, which then in turn allows the cat to feel content and happy. Being sure of exactly where to make contact, and when to just stay away, can really help ensure that you and your cat enjoy some contact with each other.

Part 1:

Allowing your cat to approach you

Allow your cat to smell you before petting it so it can then become familiar and comfortable with you. Offer a finger or hand and give the cat an opportunity to touch his/her nose to you. If your cat shows doesn’t show any interest in your finger or hand, or just looks at it with a suspicious eye, then you might reconsider your decision to pet him/her.  You can then try again another time when your cat might be in an altogether different mood. Although, if your cat meows, smells your hand or finger, and then suddenly rubs his/her chin or side of his/her head right up against it, or happens to brush the side of his/her body right on you, chances might be he/she is now possibly open to being petted. Now you can open your hand and touch his/her body lightly.

Patiently wait for your cat to lightly bump his/her head against your hand or leg. When a cat happens to bump his/her head against your leg or hand, it is an immediate clue that he/she would like some attention. If you happen to be somewhat busy at that moment, try petting him/her one or two times, to let your cat know that you won’t be ignoring him/her. Read also: Keeping the Cat off tables and Countertops.

Go ahead and pet your cat one time if he/she hops onto your lap and lies down. Take notice if he/she fidgets a little bit. If he/she does happen to twitch or fidget, it just might be that he/she only wants to lay down right there at that spot and relax, because humans are typically a fantastic source of body warmth. If he/she does not twitch or fidget, you can then just continue to gently stroke his/her spine area, or in the sections outlined in part two.

You can pet a cat when he or she is laying on the side. Generally, cats really love to be petted when they’re laying on their sides. Gently stroke the side of the cat that happens to be facing upwards. If your cat purrs or meows, it might be displaying a good amount of pleasure. Try to avoid the stomach unless you have one of those special cats that likes it.

Allow your cat to give you some “lower range audible sounds” (also referred to as purring). A purr is one way that a cat says that it wants attention and feels sociable. When purring is accompanied by head bumping, hip bumps and ankle twining, it then means that your cat wants you to pet it right that moment. Often one stroke might be all that the cat really would like, similar to a greeting or handshake, rather than the alternative snuggling and extended hug.

The volume of a cat’s purr displays his/her level of happiness. The higher the volume that the purr happens to be, the more satisfied the cat will be at that time. A softer type of purring will mean that your cat is fairly content, a louder type of purring means your cat is pretty happy. An overly loud purr will mean over-excessive enjoyment, which can quickly lead to an annoying experience, so be cautious.

Keep an eye out for signals that your cat doesn’t want you to pet him/her anymore. Often even petting that seems to feel great to your cat can over time become irritating or over-stimulating, especially if it happens to be repetitive. If you are not particularly paying much attention, the signal to stop may potentially show up in the form of a inhibited, soft scratch or bite. More often than not, your cat will give a few very subtle signs right before a bite that he/she would not like you to pet him/her at all anymore. Keep an eye out for these types of warnings in advance, and if you so happen to see them, do not pet:

Part 2:

The areas you should focus on are the scent glands

Begin by scratching your cat’s chin softly. Use your fingernails or fingertips to lightly rub your cat’s chin, especially right where the jawbone is connected to the skull. It is also possible that your cat will “push” into your petting or stick out his or her chin, both are signals of pleasure.

You’ll want to focus on the area behind or between your cat’s ears. Then you can use the tips of your fingers and begin applying a soft amount of pressure. The base of your cat’s ears is typically a secondary scent-marking spot for all cats. If he/she so happens to bump his/her head against you (also known as “bunting”), he/she is claiming you as a form of “ownership”.

Petting your cat’s cheeks right behind the whiskers is key. If your cat just so happens to like this, he/she might turn his/her whiskers forward, essentially asking for some more.

Softly glide the back side of one of your hands along the side of your cat’s face. When the cat is then “warmed” up, you can use your finger to pet your cat’s “mustache” (directly above his/her upper lips) while at the same time encircling his/her entire face and also petting the top part of the head with your thumb.

Pet your cat from the forehead to the tail. Stroke your cat’s forehead, and then move your hand from the forehead to the bottom of the tail, moving from the head to the tail while repeating. Rub his/her neck muscles by massaging softly. Apply light pressure and then make it a slow, constant motion. You can work then in only one direction (the head to the tail), as cats typically don’t enjoy back-to-front petting.

Be sure to touch your cat’s tail and glide your hand along the side. If your cat so happens to enjoy what you are doing, he or she will arch the back in order to add some more pressure against your hand. When you move your hand back to the first place that you started, your cat might bump his/her head gently against your hand to try and summon you to do it once again. If your cat puts his/her ears backwards, moves away from your hand, or just simply walks away, this means it’s time to stop petting.

You can then scratch lightly as you are bringing your hand down alongside your cat’s back, but do not just stop at one spot and scratch right there only. Always keep your hand moving constantly. Apply some light amount of pressure at the base of your cat’s tail, although with some caution. This will be a different scent gland area, and there happen to be some cats that like getting scratched right at that spot. Other cats, however, do have a funny habit of abruptly snapping their jaws right at your hand when they’ve seemed to have enough. Read also: What messages do cats convey when they behave badly?

Part 3:

What you should avoid

Stay with the stroking direction from forehead to tail and do not reverse the direction. Certain cats don’t necessarily enjoy getting petted from their tail to their forehead.

Do not “pat” or tap on your cat. There are a few cats out there who do in fact like that, but typically most do not, and if you are not necessarily accustomed to hanging around cats on a normal basis, you are much better off not trying that action, unless you are actively looking for a scratch or bite.

Avoid petting the stomach. When most cats relax or are totally content, they may roll over right onto their back and expose or show their tummy. You shouldn’t always accept this as an invite to pet their belly, because most cats do not really enjoy that one bit. The reason for this is that typically in nature, cats have to be very cautious in order to protect themselves from potential future attackers or predators (not exactly like dogs, who will be quite a bit more confident in this area, and absolutely love having their tummies rubbed). The cats belly happens to be a vulnerable location where many of the vital organs will be located, so many cats are going to by gut instinct show claws and teeth if rubbed on this spot.

A few cats actually do like being rubbed on the tummy, but many cats also can interpret this as an invite to wrestle or play rough with scratching or grabbing with claws. The cats tend to wrap their claws in a grabbing motion around your arm or hand, then bite, and vigorously scratch at it with their back and front paws. This isn’t an attack necessarily, it is how certain cats will sometimes “wrestle”.

If a cat happens to grab you firmly with its claws, just stay still and allow the cat to release his/her claws. If at all necessary, go ahead and reach right over with your other hand and lightly pry the cat’s paw back to get the cat’s claws unhooked. Cats in general will often scratch fairly deep into the skin when they do not intend to if their claws happen to get completely stuck. Cats will use their claws to grab and hold on, so when they send the message for you to quit moving your arm or hand, the cat will stop if you stop as well.

Always approach your cat’s paws with a decent amount of caution. Try not to play with a cat’s paws unless you really are familiar with the cat and absolutely know that he/she loves having his/her feet played with. Just start by gently stroking your cat to get him/her to be completely relaxed, then you can ask the cat’s permission to pet her paws by just touching one paw only one time with your finger.

If your cat does not object to this, then you can gently rub that paw with just one finger going in the same direction that the cat’s fur goes (mainly from the wrist toward the toes). At any point that your cat pulls his/her paw away, flattens his/her ears, hisses, growls or just walks away, that’s a great time to just stop. Most cats do not really enjoy their paws touched at all, but they can always be trained into it for certain grooming procedures just like trimming claws through a slow, progressive system of rewards. Read also: Pros and cons of sleeping with your cat.


Are cats able to be trained?

Absolutely. Best thing to do is to grab a snack that your cat really likes and is always ready to “work” for. Next, use a reward-based technique for training, then teach your cat little by little but also very often.

Is it OK to pet a cat’s tail?

It sort of depends on your cat or it’s personality. There are some cats that will typically run away quickly when you touch their tails, but on the other hand, certain cats may be just fine with this. Make certain to be very careful when you are just learning how your cat responds to tail grabbing or petting. If you decide to pull your cat’s tail, you’re essentially pulling on a certain part of your cat’s spine, which can really harm your cat.

Why does my cat raise it’s butt when I approach it for petting?

This action typically means that your cat really would like you to pet him/her close to that specific location or to pet him/her lightly right around the back location of the spine. It is essentially about trial and error until you know just what the certain cat enjoys the absolute best. You will become much more adapted with what your cat likes in due time. Read also: Cat trilling: why it happens?



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