Cats are fickle. Sometimes it seems like they can’t get enough of your affection. They purr. They burrow. They even drool.
But other times? Not so much.
If you’ve ever been scratched or nipped at by a cat telling you to keep your distance, you know the confusion of…how the heck am I supposed to pet this cat?
All cats are different, of course, but there are a few ways to set yourself up for success when it comes time to show your love. We’re here to tell you where, exactly, to pet a cat.
Before you pet this cat…have you introduced yourself?
It’s never smart to surprise a cat with heavy petting – they become defensive easily. A good way to make the cat comfortable before your petting session is to extend your fingers to her face so she can get in a good sniff, determining whether or not you’re a threat.
Back of the Head: Most cats love slow, soft rubs down the back of their heads and necks. Just be sure to pet in the direction of the fur growth.
Under the Chin: Some cats like to be tickled by your fingertips underneath their chins. Just watch the cat’s face closely as you try this one out to be sure she’s enjoying it.
Down the Back: A cat’s back is probably the safest place to pet it. Use gentle pressure and slow, rhythmic strokes. The “sweet spot” is usually at the end of the back…yes, what is basically the top of the cat’s butt! Be sure to stop before you hit the tail – the tail is often off-limits!
Base of the Ears: Cats have a lot of scent glands concentrated here, which means it’s a good spot for petting. Use a scratching motion and not too much pressure.
Behind the Whiskers: Some cats are amenable to being scratched lightly on their cheeks, behind their whiskers. Resist the urge to cradle the cat’s head in your hand, though, as this can be interpreted as aggressive.
Avoid petting a cat in any of the following places.
Tummy: Unlike dogs, most cats hate to be petted on their bellies. This is mostly because they’re aware how vulnerable their midsections are and don’t like feeling exposed. But who knows…maybe cats are just ticklish?
Tail: Most cats don’t particularly like to be petted on the tail. And for what it’s worth, a cat’s tail is a good measuring stick for how stimulated (read: agitated) she’s becoming as a result of your petting. The more it starts to move, the sooner you should keep your hands to yourself.
Legs/Feet: Petting a cat’s feet or legs can also make her feel vulnerable or like she’s being trapped. And anyway, these aren’t the most fun or softest areas to pet?