When the cat comes to you and asks you to be petted, it is enriching for both parties: the cat shows you its affection and you benefit from the relaxing effect of the touch of a (possibly purring) cat. However: You pet a cat differently than a dog, for example. In fact, there are a few pointers to keep in mind when petting your house tiger. Read more about feel-good spots and taboo zones here.
Why should you pet the cat?
Seen from the human perspective, there are a number of positive effects that come with petting animals: Touching the warm, soft fur lowers blood pressure – as various studies have shown – and can even strengthen the immune system. When petting, the “cuddling hormone” oxytocin is released, which triggers feelings of happiness, among other things.
Speaking of hormones, cats seem to be able to sense hormonal changes in pregnant women. Some animals then show an increased need for cuddles. Petting a cat while pregnant may be an even more intense experience. But wash your hands carefully afterward! You shouldn’t even touch a stray cat or strange cats.
Cats respond to loving petting in very special ways, for example when they, in turn, begin to purr comfortably, snuggle up, or otherwise give positive feedback. But be careful: the purr of all things can be misleading because cats also make the peculiar noise when they are in pain or stressed. The overall situation must always be taken into account here.
To ensure that petting is a pleasant affair for people and animals, you should follow a few rules. Most importantly, never force physical contact with the cat. Wait for the animal to come towards you – and correctly interpret the signals it sends out.
Back, Chin, or Flank: Where Should I Pet My Cat?
The parts of a cat’s body that it likes to be petted are highly individual. Some cats love to be petted on the croup or chest; others are ticklish and can only be touched on a few parts of the body – if at all. The paws and the cat’s belly are particularly sensitive areas – more on that below.
So you have to find out for yourself the places where a cat finds it pleasant to be stroked. The intensity of the stroking and the ideal rhythm must also be tested. Orientate yourself on the body language signals that the cat sends out and indicates whether it is comfortable being stroked. A relaxed cat ready to be petted will stretch out, seek physical contact, and snuggle up. Some cats make vocalizations like a comforting sigh, close their eyes, or begin to “kick”.
If the cat doesn’t like being petted, it (as a tolerant animal) remains unimpressed and passive or demonstratively turns away. It becomes a bit clearer when it actively withdraws and walks away, growls disapprovingly, or attacks the hand rabidly. Displeasure can also be seen from the tail: If the tip of the tail starts to twitch or even the whole tail starts to whip, you should stop stroking it.
Under no circumstances should you hold a cat while petting it or stroke it against the direction of fur growth. Cats don’t like being “muddled through”.
Some cats don’t want to be petted – not every tiger is a cuddly housemate. Respect if the animal just doesn’t care about touching and shows affection in other ways.