Why Do Cats Like To Be Petted?

Touch is the first sense a newborn kitten will experience. They use this sense to find warmth and comfort usually offered to them by their mother.

A mother cat will show love and affection to her babies by keeping them warm, grooming, and nursing them.

Mother Cat Shows Off Motherhood Affection To Her Kitties – Bing video

Just like humans, cats also enjoy affection. Some breeds, however, are known to be more affectionate than others, while some cats will shy away from human touch, it really just depends on the cat.

Mostly, cats love to be petted, but only when they want to be, and it has to be to their liking, of course.

They will be quick to let you know if you’re not doing it right, or if you’ve touched a sensitive spot by scratching or nipping your hand.

For some cats, being petted can be a relaxing experience, a time to feel comforted and stress-free. It’s also a great way for owners to bond with their feline companions.

If your cat enjoys bonding time, it might not care where on its body that you pet it, while others have specific spots that they thoroughly enjoy more than others. 

Vetmeduni Vienna : Press release 10-16-2013 – Cat Owners Can Carry on Stroking their Four-legged Friends

Reasons Cats Like To Be Petted

If you’ve heard your cat purring while you’re petting it, obviously you are doing something right and making him very happy. Perhaps your cat is a very social animal and loves all the attention he gets when you pet him.

Cats who commonly suffer from anxiety look forward to petting as a form of stress reliever, so just know that if he comes to you for petting often, it means he trusts you.

Petting your cat also releases pheromones from different parts of a cat’s body.

Pheromones are a type of chemical substance produced within the body and released by touch through their scent glands and are also found in their urine.

When you pet your cat in certain areas, he releases pheromones onto your hand, marking you as part of its so-called tribe. This makes a cat very happy, and even though you can’t smell the scent, your cat and other cats can.

Tips On Petting A Cat

  • Gently put your hand out. Let the cat smell your hand. If the cat rubs its head on your hand, then proceed in petting
  • Start under the chin
  • Stop and wait for the cat’s reaction. If it continues to rub its head against you, it’s most likely signaling you to continue petting

How To Tell When A Cat Wants To Be Petted

Cats can sometimes seem rude. Sometimes they want to be petted, other times they don’t. They will certainly let you know when they don’t wish to be touched, and it’s usually with the use of their teeth or claws.

They will also let you know when they want to be petted by displaying these methods: 

  • Bumping their head against you
  • Holding their tail up
  • Relaxing on you with lazy eye movements
  • Kneading
  • Purring
  • Meowing while pacing around you
  • Laying on you

Signs That A Cat Doesn’t Enjoy Being Petted

Not all cats like being touched, and there isn’t always a reason for it.

Sometimes it just depends on their personality, or it could stem from the fact that they left their mother too early and never had the chance to develop social skills. 

Some signs that a cat doesn’t wish to be petted are:

  • Constantly shaking its head
  • Thumping and swishing its tail
  • If a cat’s ears go backwards when you approach
  • Batting or biting your hand
  • If you advance your hand towards a cat and it moves its head away, that’s a good indicator that it does not want to be touched

Areas Most Cats Like To Be Petted

Under the chin

A cat can’t access this area, so perhaps it reminds them of when their mom used to groom them.

Lots of scent glands are under a cat’s chin, so every time you pet him there, he releases the scent of his pheromones onto your hand. Your cat can smell the scent and becomes more relaxed during petting.

Between the ears

Some cats like being petted between and behind the ears, while others don’t. Be careful not to touch the actual ear, as most cats don’t like the feeling of having their ears touched. 

Sides of their face

Most cats like having their cheeks rubbed and petted. Their cheeks also contain scent glands, and to them, there is nothing better than leaving their scent on their beloved humans.

Base of the tail

The base of the tail or end of the vertebrae can be a sensitive spot for some cats. Some like being petted in that area, and some don’t.

Chances are if your cat enjoys this area being petted, then they will also enjoy a good scratching in that area as well. 

           Where to Pet a Cat? – FAVORITE PLACES and TIPS – YouTube

Areas Some Cats Don’t Like To Be Petted

Front and back paws

A cat’s paws are sensitive areas with many nerve endings, so unless you trained your cat at an early age to experience the handling of their front and back paws, you will find that most don’t like it. 


One would think that when a cat rolls over, exposes his tummy, that it’s a submissive invitation to pet them. Be prepared for the cat to lunge at your hand with both sets of claws, ready to dig in as a form of defense.

Mostly, cats dislike having their bellies touched.

           Why Cats Don’t Like Their Belly Rubbed – YouTube

Final Thought

Not all cats react the same way to being touched. It’s important to regard their body language, which will help in determining a cat’s likes and dislikes.

Once you figure out that part, you will find that petting is actually quite relaxing for both the cat and you.

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