How To Pet A Cat | The Do’s And Don’t On How To Show Love To Your Feline Friends

Our fluffy feline friends are aloof, yet lovable parts of our lives. We tend to shower them with attention and affection when we get the opportunity to do so.

But, contrary to what some cat-parents may think, not all cats enjoy this physical affection we so desperately want to show. So how to pet a cat?

Showing your cat the love it needs may not be as simple as a cuddle or a pet. This may seem like a very natural and obvious part or cat-ownership, however, there are ways of doing it wrong.

Petting even the friendliest of cat breeds is not as simple as it sounds. Here’s a quick guide on how to pet a cat in such a way that will make them feel comfortable and loved.

snowshoe cat one of the blue eyed cat breeds
snowshoe cat

How to Pet a Cat: Remember that Cats Are Social Creatures

Cats are highly intelligent and social parts of the animal kingdom, even though we tend to peg them as solitary creatures. They have a way of creating unique bonds with unlikely friends like birds, dogs, and lucky for us, humans.

grey cat jumps through grass with tail in the air
Now that is a tail

But, they tend to be lone hunters even though they prefer to be a part of a “pack”.

Aloofness can cause some confusion in cat-parents but felines like to be petted. However, the bad news is that you might be doing it wrong.

How Cats Show Affection

Cats tend to gravitate towards each other and when they greet, they have a specific way of showing their affection and respect. Cats will lie close to each other, bump their heads or rub against one another where the scent glands are located.

white cat and tabby cat

If your furry companion is showing these signals around you, the battle is almost won. Knowing exactly how to reciprocate their affection is key to having a loving relationship with your feline partner.

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How to Show Affection to your Cat

1. Read And Know Your Cat’s Body Language

Just like their human counterparts, cats have a very fine-tuned body language that you can use to your advantage.

When any cat, especially a strange one, approaches you, don’t immediately try to reach out and pet it. When a cat approaches a human, it might have many different meanings – from wanting food to wanting playtime.

grey and white cat sniffs leaves

Before reaching out your hand in an attempt to touch the cat, make sure that the cat gets familiar with your unique scent. This will set the feline friend at ease and they might allow you to touch them.

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2. Know Where You Can and Can’t Touch

Just like humans, cats have a way of showing when they are comfortable and when they are not, and not all cats are similar.

Knowing your cat’s preference, and paying attention to their reactions and body language, can make a big difference in their behavior when they are petted.

Cat rolls around in the sun why do cats roll in the dirt

⇒ Keen to get a better understanding of why your cat behaves as it does? Check out my posts on What Smells do Cats Hate, Why Does my Cat Lick my Nose?, Why do cats roll in the dirt, Why Does my Cat Lay on my Chest , Why Does my Cat Sleep on my Legs, How Often do Cats Pee, How to Pet a Cat, Why do Cats Chase Their Tails?, What Does it Mean When a Cat Rubs Against you , Why Does my Cat Sit on Me? , Why do Cats Purr when you Stroke them? , How to Train a Cat Not to Bite, Why do Cats Knead their Owners? , Why do Cats Arch their Back, How to Get a Cat to Eat, Why Doesn’t My Cat Purr?, Why Does my Cat Attack Me and What Does it Mean when a Cat Headbutts you?

Most enjoy being touched above the head, behind the ears, down the neck, and around the chin. But they tend to scurry away when you touch their tail or their back.

Here’s a quick list of behaviors to look out for that will indicate that your fluffy friend might be uncomfortable:

  • They’re turning away from you
  • They’re showing aggressive behavior when you try to touch them
  • Rapid movements of the tail, like thrashing or thumping
  • Lowering their ear position
  • They’re shivering or rippling their skin
  • They lower their head or turn it away from you
  • They try to get away or protrude their claws

If your cat is showing any of these signs, you might want to stop petting them. Having a comfortable kitty is key to getting them to trust you.

grey maine-coon cat with green eyes looking to side

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3. The Golden Rule – No Belly Scratches

Unlike their canine counterparts, many cats do not enjoy tummy rubs. It may be very tempting to try and pet your fluffy friend on their tummy, but it’s an anxiety-inducing act for the cat.

They often go into defensive mode due to the fact that the tummy is the most sensitive part of a cat’s body. They will target the belly area during fights with each other in a way to induce pain.

bengal cat on back

Approaching a cat’s tummy will surely cause them to react negatively, and you might subsequently get hurt.

However, many cats do enjoy getting their belly stroked once in a while. This is due to a good trusting relationship that might develop over time.

Cat rolls around in the sun

But, even if the cat does trust you, it might not mean that they will trust you with their most sensitive body part.

Be careful and stay clear of belly rubs, especially if you have a new or a strange kitty in your company.

⇒ About to become a fur parent? Check out my Complete Guide to How to Look After a Kitten.

The Right Spots to Pet a Cat

Cats have very unique and sensitive scent glands located on their bodies that are responsible for excreting a very lightly scented hormone which is unique to every cat. And this is the sweet spot.

woman asleep with grey cat in her arms from a distance how to pet a cat

Knowing where to pet a cat, gently, will make them feel safe and will more often than not leave them wanting more.

Here’s a list of all the best places to pet a cat:

  • Their cheeks
  • Behind their ears
  • Under their chins – if you’re trusted
  • Between the ears
  • The base of the tail

Getting to these spots might be simple for cat parents, but rubbing a strange or new cat behind the ears might be a feat. Remember to always look for signs of discomfort and aggression and then retreat immediately.

woman with eyes closed curled up with sleepy cat on bed

It’s better to keep the petting short and leave your feline companion in peace.

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How To Make Your Cat Feel Comfortable

The best way to ensure that a cat does indeed want to be touched is when they approach you. But how can we get your cat, or even a stray cat, to feel comfortable around you?

Take care with this well thought out approach to getting your feline friend to feel content and secure in your presence.

teen pretty girl kiss black cat close up portrait

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1. Greet The Cat Using Their Language

When cats encounter each other in nature, an observant cat parent will know that they tend to go in nose-first. They will lower their chin in order to get a good sniff. This is a neutral greeting in the feline world.

An equivalent to this will be to approach the cat with a closed hand. Allow the cat to have a whiff of your scent, whereafter he will decide whether or not to allow you to touch him.

Hand gently touching and rubbing a tabby cat's neck

2. Allow The Cat To Make The First Move

Cats are curious creatures by nature, and not many will ignore an extended hand. They will inch closer to inspect you and this might take some time.

A very simple way to help a cat or a kitten to become comfortable is by offering the cat a tasty snack.

Kitten licking finger

⇒ For all things fun with your kitty check out my guides to clothing for cats, the best toys for cats, great gifts for cats and my annual cat planner for kitty photo opportunities across the year.

A simple treat will invoke more curiosity and the warming up period might speed up. Cats love treats, possibly more than their human parents.

3. Match Their Energy

As animal lovers, our first instinct might be to rush forward, grab our furry friend and exclaim in joy, but it’s a mistake that may result in a scratch or a bite.

The best way to gain a cat’s trust is by ignoring it. That’s right, giving the feline some personal space and respect will spark their curiosity.

Grey lazy cat sleeping on woman's knees in the room

Remember to limit eye contact, keep a low and soft presence, and assess the cat’s reaction. If there are no obvious signs of discomfort, feel free to approach the cat gently and with care.

⇒ For everything you need to know about taking care of your finicky feline check out my guide to How to Groom a Cat, Ultimate Persian Cat Grooming Guide, the Best Cat Brush, Caring for Cats guide and my quick cat check up guide.

Final Thoughts On How To Pet A Cat

Cats are pegged as aloof and independent creatures, but it’s quite the contrary. They love getting petted, having their ears rubbed, and receiving snacks.

But keeping an appropriate distance is not something that comes naturally to animal lovers.

Woman and cute cat sitting on rocking chair in the front of the

We get excited and immediately want the furry friend to love us, but it is best to tread softly. Remember to stick to the guidelines and your cat will thank you for it.

Cats make the rules, we just try our best to follow them.

Sleeping young man with fluffy red cat

⇒ Don’t miss my guide to buying Cat Walking products, the 7 Best Escape Proof Cat Harness options and the Best Carrier for Cats.

Please Note: This how to pet a cat post contains affiliate links. That means if you click through on most of the links and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. This will not affect the price that you pay. I wanted to make sure that you were aware of this.

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