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How to Pet A Cat: 14 Tips to Strengthen Your Bond

Hey guys! In this article you are going to learn how to pet a cat!

To some people this may seem like a silly topic. On the contrary, it’s actually a great one. Especially for anyone who is interested in strengthening the bond between themselves and any cat.

Petting a cat is all about communication, and it can make or break the relationship.

When you learn how to pet your cat properly, you will build a relationship with that cat that is based off of trust and a mutual respect and understanding.

It’s very important to know that there is no one size fits all answer here.

Although infographics can be great, and very helpful, never trust the ones you see that give you a definitive chart about where to pet your cat. I wouldn’t be writing an article about it (and you wouldn’t be reading it) if it were that simple.

I Am Just Like You…

I’m absolutely not immune to the allure of a cat. Quite the opposite!

I see a cat, and I immediately want to go up to it, and pet and snuggle, just like anyone else! I mean, how could I not?

funny gif about wanting to hug every cat

Sadly… Forcing yourself on a cat rarely works. Just as with a person. Most of the time it will just push them away, or cause them to bite or strike at you out of self defense.

Let’s be honest, here! This is one of the things that people love most about cats. And at the same time, it is the thing people find most frustrating about them. You have to earn their friendship, their love, and devotion. This beautiful process is what makes a close relationship with a cat that much more special.

So, here are the 14 Best Tips for How to Pet A Cat!

How to pet a cat image with text for pinning on Pinterest

Tip #1 Allow the Cat to Come to You

Do not force an interaction. Especially if the cat is hesitant. Don’t make direct eye contact, just let them get used to your presence and the sound of your voice. Eventually they will come to check you out.

When the cat does come to you, allow them to sniff you. If they seem open to it, offer your hand, finger, or something with your scent on it for them to smell.

(Cats gather important information through scent.)

These next tips are great whether you are just establishing a relationship with a cat, or you already have a close relationship. I still do all of these things with my cats.

Tip #2 Soften Your Face and Eyes

image depicts how important it is to display a soft face and gentle eyes with a cat

Having a soft, gentle demeanor is very important.

Soften your eyes and face. Stay calm and relaxed. Do your best to present yourself as non-threatening as possible.

If you feel so inclined, you can even slow blink (An ultimate sign of trust between cat and human 🙂 ) If you’re real lucky, you may receive a slow blink back.

Tip #3 Allow Cat to Pet You

purpose of image is to show a cat petting a human

If a cat wants physical attention, they will most likely rub up against you, in one way or another.

They are marking you with their pheromones. Smelling their scent on you triggers a sense of comfort and familiarity within them.

Tip #4 Pay Attention to How the Cat Likes to Be Pet

This is a great tip no matter what! So often, I see people either pet their cats like they would a dog, and/or pet them with total disregard for whether or not the cat actually likes it.

This is a mistake, and I know it is usually unintentional. But cats are sensitive, and they are not dogs.

Although some cats may be tolerant of it, you are breaking their trust.

Your cat will show you exactly how they like to be pet. All you have to do is pay attention when they show you.

Which brings me to…

Tip#5 Get to Know Your Cat

Observe them. Pay attention to their body language.

Does their tail start thumping when you do a full stroke down their back? Do they start purring when you rub under their chin? Do they prefer long pets, or short ones? How do they act when you approach them?

Get into the habit of paying attention to, and reading your cat’s body language. This is guaranteed to strengthen the bond between you.

Tip #6 Quit While You’re Ahead

When you’re having a good pet session with a cat, don’t push it. Don’t let it get to the point where the cat becomes overstimulated and lashes out in order to stop you.

(Click here for a good resource for overstimulation in cats)

Again, pay attention to those subtle signs here, and respect your relationship with your cat enough to realize when enough is enough.

Do not mistake a cat getting riled up for playing! There is a difference between overstimulation, and playing. And pushing your cat’s buttons is not a game!

Signs a cat has had enough physical attention include, but are certainly not limited to:

  1. Tail lashing, or thumping
  2. Cessation of purring
  3. Swiping at you with their paw
  4. Eyes and facial expression go from relaxed to alert
  5. Biting [Some people believe that certain cats sometimes bite out of love. Whether or not this is true, encouraging such behavior is setting your cat up for failure, and yourself up for pain. When you are petting your cat, and receive a bite from them, this is more than likely a sign of overstimulation.]

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Tip #7 Most Cats Like to Be Pet Around the Face, Cheeks, and Head

Cats have glands on their cheeks, chins, foreheads, and around their mouths. These glands secrete pheromones.

So, most of them like to be pet around these areas. Facial pheromones are considered a cat’s “friendly pheromones” and rubbing them on you (as well as on objects around the house) creates a feeling of comfort and safety for them.

Tip #8: Most Cats Like Their Necks Scratched

All three of my cats love their necks to be scratched or rubbed. That is, as long as they’re in the mood for it. They also love to to be scratched behind their ears.

Tip #9: Massages

Giving a gentle massage is something you can experiment with. Not all cats like it, but it can be beneficial, just like it is for humans. People even go to school to become animal massage therapists.

I’m not talking full body massage, here. My cat Ellie Mae really likes an occasional gentle neck and shoulder rub. Cats get tense too!

Tip #10 Base of Tail/Back Could be Jackpot, or Big No-No

This can be based off of preference, and/or injury.

My cat Ellie (read her story here) does not like to be pet or scratched near her hindquarters. She occasionally likes a full body stroke, but it has to be gentle. She has had abscesses on her hindquarters a couple of times, and ever since then, those areas have been sensitive. So, be aware of any areas that could be painful due to injury, or arthritis.

My cat Nia (read her story here as well) loves the base of her tail to be scratched. But she only likes it for a short period of time, and only when she’s in the mood. A good example of getting to know your cat is that I know Nia wants scratches when she is laying on her side, makes a certain shape with her tail, and tilts her head a certain way.

Recognizing these behaviors is definitely not as difficult as it may seem. You’ll be surprised how quickly you begin to pick up cues when you train yourself to recognize them.

Tip #11 Stomach is Usually a No-Go

Cats will roll over onto their backs, and expose their stomachs when they feel comfortable and trusting.

But, it’s important to know that cats also roll onto their backs when they’re cornered in battle. Reason being, they can use all of their claws, and their teeth to defend themselves.

Most cats do not like to be pet or touched on the belly. If you go in for the pet when they’re in this position, don’t be surprised if they grab you with teeth and claws.

My cat Doja will go for the full-on grab when his belly is touched. Nia will tolerate it for a few quick pets, and Ellie doesn’t mind a gentle, short belly rub.

Tip #12 Don’t Come at a Cat Head-On and Try to Move Your Hand Over Their Head to Pet Them

showing how not to pet a cat

Don’t put your hand directly in front of a cat’s face, and then move it over their head in order to pet them on the top of the head. This will usually make the cat shrink, and become uncertain.

It creates distrust, and they may even strike at you, feeling that they need to defend themselves.

Instead, come from the side, or more toward the back of the head. That way it doesn’t feel, to them, as if you are being oppressive, or aggressive.

Tip #13 Closing the Eyes

Showing a cat closing their eyes, wanting to be pet

If you put the back of your hand or fingers by a cat’s face, and they tilt their head and close their eyes, you are in, my friend! This just makes my heart melt, and Doja does it often.

Tip #14 Give Yourself Credit

Being here, reading this means that you care a great deal about the cat(s) in your life, and they are very lucky to have you!

Go Try Out These Tips!

There is nothing like the bond between a cat, and their human. If you take the time to cultivate that bond, and to understand your cat’s needs, preferences, and body language you are going to form a very deep, trusting friendship.

Stay tuned for my future post on Understanding Cat Language.

Leave me a comment with questions, triumphs, or anything in between! I would love to hear from you!

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Audrey Youngman
Audrey Youngman
1 year ago

Very helpful article thank you.

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