Petting a cat sounds like one of the more mindless and simple tasks that a person could perform. After all, cats are one of the best first pets for kids simply because they require less maintenance than their canine counterpart. However, there actually is a sort of art, or maybe even science, to this seemingly simple task. There is in fact, a “best way to pet a cat”, so that is a therapeutic experience for you both.
Who knew that there was such a science to simply petting one of the best pet companions? Just like interacting with other humans, there is a sort of finesse that needs to be utilized in order for the interaction to go the best way possible.
Knowing When Your Cat Wants Attention
First, and most importantly, cats each have their own unique personality. A personality that you will want to get to know well. This can be accomplished through simple interactions such as petting them, giving them cat toys, and playing with them. The goal is to pinpoint how they express their moods, and if they ever show any signs of not wanting to interact at certain moments.
Knowing these signs, you can best determine when the best time to pet them and interact with them is. You don’t want to get “into their bubble” when they are not in the mood for such affections, or else you might cause them to show some aggression.
Signs of Enjoyment versus Signs of Displeasure from your Cat
Cats will show you whether they are enjoying their physical contact with you or not, and they won’t be shy about it. There are a few obvious signs that a cat will display when they are either loving the pets and rubs that they are receiving, or just aren’t happy about it at all and want you to stop.
Some of the positive signs that a cat is enjoying the attention that you’re giving them include them having their tail sticking straight upright and initiating contact with you, if they begin to knead and purr, waving their tail back and forth in a relaxed fashion, or even just their entire demeanor appearing to be relaxed and content with the attention. All of these are positive signs that what you are doing is something that they like.
The signs of displeasure are also just as obvious as the ones of enjoyment. If a cat is not enjoying the way that someone is petting them or interacting with them you may notice that they shift around a lot, might start moving their tail around quickly and almost aggressively, their ears may become flattened, and of course, they may try to bite at your hand.
Where to Pet a Cat
There are four ideal spots on your cat that, when they are in the mood for affection, they will be more than happy to accept pets. These spots include just under their chin, their cheek area just behind their whiskers, the bases of their ears, and at the base of their tail.
For under the chin pets, you will want to gently stroke along their jawline and up towards where their jaw connects to their skull. They will indicate that they are appreciating these pets by rubbing back against your hand generally.
The area of their cheek just behind their whiskers is also a great spot that most cats enjoy receiving pets or scratches in. Just be mindful not to pet over their whiskers or to crimp them by accident. Cat’s whiskers are incredibly sensitive. You could cause them some discomfort and cause them to not want to be pet so much by you.
The bases of the ears of a cat are always a favorite among felines when it comes to receiving affection. You may notice when a cat is in the mood for some pets from their owner, they often tilt their head in towards the person's hand, indicating to have the top of their head rubbed. You generally can’t go wrong with this spot.
The base of the tail is another spot that cats love to have pets or scratched. They will also indicate this to you when they rub against your leg and stick their back end up in the air.
Where NOT to Pet Your Cat
There are definitely more spots that are okay to pet and scratch on a cat than there are that are off-limits. Typically, the most “off-limits” is for a cat to receive physical affections is their belly. Some cats love it while others are completely opposed to the idea of anyone touching their belly other than themselves.
Cats are incredibly protective of their belly around people who they don’t know or consider to be a threat to them. They instinctively know that their belly is where a majority of their vital organs live and will protect it at all costs. If you have a cat that rolls over and shows you their belly, or even lets you rub it, you can be certain that they trust you and feel very comfortable around you.
It's interesting to think that there is a science/psychology to petting a cat, but there is! Cats are generally easy-going and friendly creatures who love physical affections from their beloved humans.
Although, just like with humans, they can be “rubbed the wrong way” or just simply not in the mood for pets. It's important, as a cat owner, to know the best approach to petting your cat as well as signs to watch out for when they just aren’t enjoying the interaction with you at that moment.