LifestyleUnderstanding your cat's affectionate cues and preferring petting spots

Understanding your cat's affectionate cues and preferring petting spots

Cats like being petted, but not everywhere.
Cats like being petted, but not everywhere.
Images source: © Licensor

8:44 AM EST, December 29, 2023

As efficient predators, cats are notoriously mysterious and adept at masking their emotions. This has contributed to the pervading belief that cats do not form attachments to their owners, and their domestication is purely for practical reasons - the scent of a cat alone can keep rodents and other pests away from your home.

Anyone who has interacted with a cat knows that this outdated assumption isn't true. Cats can and do show affection, just differently. It all comes down to comprehending the specific signals an animal gives when trying to express its affection.

Petting Enhances Bonds and Makes Us Part of their Community

Cats enjoy being petted and stroked. Their skin is packed with nerve endings that transmit pleasure signals to the brain. This delight is evident when they start to purr, a classic feline sound that, coupled with slight body vibrations, signifies contentment.

Gentle petting evokes memories of their kittenhood when their mother's grooming created a bond. Cats view their human housemates as part of their family or clowder and crave closeness. Petting exchanges scents that facilitate mutual identification of "their own". Similarly, cats rub against our legs or nudge us with their heads, where most of their pheromone glands are located.

What's the Proper Way to Pet a Cat? There are Preferred and Avoided Spots

Petting a cat isn't difficult, but it is essential to heed the animal's signals. The approach should be gentle and somewhat slow to soothe the cat. During this time, a brushing session might be appreciated, promoting fur health and reducing tangles. The specific areas you pet are also important, as not all cats are comfortable with being touched everywhere. However, few would resist when their favorite spots are involved.

Areas like the cat's neck and head are extra sensitive - particularly the top of the head, which can be massaged gently with fingers. Cats love having their ears scratched and their chins stroked. Cheek strokes are also a hit, especially along their whiskers and above. But the real winner is a scratch at the base of the tail. Cats adore this, as their erect tail signals in response to the petting.

Can Cats Have Too Much of a Good Thing? They'll Let You Know

A cat doesn't require long periods of petting. Once a cat feels it's had enough, it usually retreats, while the ones with a touchier temperament may hiss slightly if the non-verbal cues aren't picked up in time. If the cat becomes stiff or swishes its tail energetically, you must understand that it's signaling it's had enough and would appreciate some alone time. If these signs are respected, the chances are that your purring pal will be back soon for more affection.

While petting, be sure to avoid the "no-go" zones. A cat's belly is extremely sensitive, and any attempt to touch it may be met with clawed resistance. Some cats also dislike being touched on their sides or near their paws - it's best to respect these preferences and focus on areas like the face instead.

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