Behavior Pet Body Language What to Do and What to Avoid: How To Pet A Cat

What to Do and What to Avoid: How To Pet A Cat

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Petting a cat probably sounds like a simple endeavor but if you are haven’t spend a lot of time around cats or if you have children who are only getting introduced to pets, it can present quite a challenge. As pet parents, you need to master this challenge!

How to Pet a Cat

If you want to learn how to pet a cat or handle cats in general, the most important rule is to let them come to you. Allow her to sniff you first to make sure that she is comfortable and if she is, she will try to touch your hand or finger with her nose. Pay close attention to how the cat responds!

If the cat doesn’t seem interested or simply stares at your hand suspiciously, acknowledge this and try petting her some other time when she is in a better mood. However, if the cat starts to meow after sniffing your hand and tries to rub her chin or brush her head or body against it, it means that she is open to petting. Seize this opportunity by opening the palm of your hand and gently stroking her body.

If your cat fidgets you should avoid petting her, but if she remains calm you can pet her more. You can also try when she is in her own bed.

Where to Pet a Cat

Knowing what areas of their body cats love to get petted on can help you extend your petting sessions.

For example, cats enjoy being petted on the areas where their scent glands are located. According to vets, these are the areas around the mouth, forehead, chin, cheeks, lower back, tail and paws. When you pet the areas with scent glands, you are spreading the cat’s scent and this makes them content and happy.

  • Chin – Gently rub your cat’s chin with your fingertips, especially the area where the skull connects to the jawbone. If your cat pushes into your stroke, she is letting you know that it feels good.
  • Ears – Stay focused on the area behind or between the ears, significantly approach carefully to avoid applying too much pressure. Cats prefer this spot because the base of the ears is another scent-marking area.
  • Cheeks – Start your tender progress here utilizing the area just behind the whiskers. Some cats love this but some cats don’t, so pay attention to her body language.
  • Back and Tail – Stroke your cat’s back slowly, starting from her forehead all the way to her tail and applying gentle pressure but don’t switch the direction since many cats don’t like that. This is also the direction in which you should run a brush when you comb your cat’s hair. Additionally, you can try to massage her neck muscles with gentle pinches.

Person stroking brown cat on white textile. Part of the "What to Do and What to Avoid – Learn How to Pet a Cat" article.
Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

Things to Avoid When You Pet a Cat

It is important to observe your cat’s behavior when you pet her and to know how to recognize signs that she isn’t enjoying herself. For example, if your cat’s tail starts thumping around, if she is growling or hissing, has enlarged pupils or tensed paws, it means that she is potentially irritated. To prevent this from occuring, avoid undertaking things she’s unlikely to appreciate.

For example, avoid giving your cat belly rubs – although some cats appreciate them, many do not respond well. Even if your cat exposes her stomach, it’s not always an invitation to pet her since a cat’s stomach is the most vulnerable spot and many cats react instinctively and aggressively if they are touched here. Even those cats that appreciate belly rubs might interpret them as an invitation to wrestle and play rough.

Another thing to avoid is patting the cat. Equally, all cats are unique and it’s potentially possible they’ll enjoy pats. But, if you’re lacking in experience with cats avoidance is the predominant path to take.

If you decide to approach your cat’s feet for petting purposes, proceed with caution. You should only attempt when extensively familiar with the cat and with absolute certainty regarding her trust for you.

Some cats may require more time to develop trust, be patient. Try playing with the cat first and use plenty of toys and once you receive the cat’s trust, she will ultimately accept your petting.

It’s essential to note that dilated pupils on a cat are not a cause for veterinary medicine. It’s a sign the cat is excited or anxious, you’ll have to judge which.


Cats are moody and frequently mysterious creatures. Should you be lacking in experience with cats, fundamental basics like petting a cat can present an abundance of problems.

The most important thing to remember is to let the cat come to you and obtain her trust. When the cat is established as comfortable and safe, she will generously allow you to pet her.

Read more about a cats tail language in this article. 


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