Caitlin UltimoPet Lovers / Pet Parenting

How to Pet a Cat the Right Way

Tips for Petting a Cat

Petting a cat does a human good. Studies have shown that petting a cat releases endorphins that ease pain and stress, and it just plain makes us feel good. In fact, scientists have linked having a pet cat to lower heart rates and blood pressure. But how do cats feel about all this petting? It depends on how and where you’re petting her. For this reason, you should understand how to pet a cat and where to pet your cat. Here’s a guide for how to pet a cat that will help you make sure your cat is getting the most out of your time together.

Where Do Cats Like to Be Pet?

Cats are very particular creatures, and some like to be pet more than others. But there is a general consensus on where most cats like to be scratched. “Most cats enjoy under-the-chin scratches, and prefer that over top-of-the-head petting,” says Roxanne Bowen, an animal care technician at Bangor Humane Society in Maine.

Additionally, many cats enjoy being pet or scratched on the lower back end, Bowen remarks. The reason they like this spot varies, depending on who you ask. Some believe it’s simply because they can’t reach that area to scratch it themselves, while others believe it’s a show of trust and acceptance. Whatever the reason, it’s a choice spot for petting a cat. Why felines like their faces and chins scratched is much less of a mystery, according to Andrea Odney Szumowski, Behavior Modification and Rehabilitation Specialist at Animal Humane Society. “Cats that groom each other typically do not groom beyond the head and face area; therefore, cheeks, forehead and under the chin are places where most cats will enjoy being stroked or scratched.” Szumowski adds, “Be sure to go with the whiskers if you are going to stroke their cheeks.”

Where NOT to Pet a Cat

Like knowing where to pet a cat, knowing where not to pet cat is just as important—perhaps even more so.  Have you ever heard the saying, “rubbed the wrong way?” The person who penned it more than likely rubbed a cat against the lay of the fur and got the business end of the claws. Or maybe they rubbed the cat’s belly, which, according to both Bowen and Szumowski, is a big no-no for most felines. “When it comes to the belly, cats show their bellies for a number of reasons, but most do not actually want their bellies rubbed,” Szumowski says.

The cat’s tail also ranks high on the no-touching list. Pulling a cat’s tail is not only painful and traumatic for the cat, but it can cause nerve and spinal cord damage. Your best bet is to avoid the tail altogether.

Finding Your Cat’s Sweet Spot

Part of learning how to pet a cat is knowing where your cat’s sweet spots are. Petting your cat the right way strengthens your bond and establishes trust in your relationship. To find your kitty’s sweet spot, try a few places and take note of her body language. “Watch the cat’s response to your touch—if you stop, do they lean in for more? If you reach toward them, do they recoil?” Szumowski says.

Timing is also important, remarks Szumowski. If your cat exhibits loose, open body posture with a high tail, she will likely be more receptive to some cuddling time. If your cat’s legs and tail are drawn closer to her body, that means she’s not interested and is hanging out the “do not disturb” sign.

Also be on the lookout for mood changes signaling when your cat has had enough petting for the time being. A flicking or thumping tail, direct stare or twitching skin may be indications that your cat is over-stimulated, so you should withdraw contact, Szumowski advises.

To help your cat make positive associations with petting time, reward them with a tasty treat like Zuke’s Natural Purrz Savory Salmon Recipe Cat Treats.

Benefits of Petting a Cat

We already know that petting a cat is healthy for us humans, but it’s healthy for cats too. In fact, petting your cat regularly can:

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