Where Do Cats Like To Be Pet?

By Amanda Jondle, DVM June 09, 2019

Most cats like attention. Some like it in the form of food or treats, while others like attention with toys or play. Commonly, many cats enjoy attention through touch - petting, scratching, and stroking. These forms of touch can comfort and relax not only your cat, but you as well. Studies have shown that petting an animal can reduce a person’s stress level. Some cats may not be comfortable with petting or they may just need extra time and patience to find out what helps them relax. This is especially true with cats that may not have been socialized as kittens or cats that were adopted as adults with an unknown history. Given these intricacies, let’s explore the details behind petting your feline friend.

Where Do Cats Like to Be Pet?

There are a few prime petting places that your cat will most likely love. Since cats naturally like to leave their scent around their environment, the places are typically going to be where the cat has scent glands. However, the cat can also provide feedback regarding their preferred petting location through their behavior.

A List Of The Best Places To Pet Your Cat

  • Chin

The chin is a very popular petting place. Start at the front of the chin and gently scratch or rub along the underside of the chin, along the jawline towards the neck. If your cat really likes this, they may push against your fingers harder or start rubbing against your hand.

  • Base of the ears and forehead

Cats often headbutt items they like in order to leaving their scent. This is called “bunting.” Rubbing the base of the ears mimics this motion, and your cat will love you for scratching them here. Scratch or rub gently along the base of the ears and over the forehead. You can rub anywhere between the eyes and the ears to get some good head leaning from your kitty. Some cats also like for you to start at the base of the ears, scratch the forehead and then stroke over the top of their head and down their neck.

  • Cheeks

The cheeks and sides of the face are another prime petting location. Since cats have scent glands here, they love to rub their face on things around the house and would be happy to rub their face on your hand too. Gently stroke from near the nose, along the side of the face, to below the ears. You can also rub down close to your cat’s lips if he or she likes the area around their mouth being scratched as well.

  • Back

Many cats appreciate long strokes along the length of their back. Simply glide your hand over your cat's back from the head to the tail, keeping the movement of the hand in the direction of the fur. If your cat likes this, they may arch their back in a stretching motion or elevate their tail or rear end. Often, this will relax your kitty’s muscles and they will start to purr.

  • Base of the tail

As you stroke along a cat’s back toward the tail, you may notice that he or she may lift their tail or their rear end up. This may indicate that your cat likes to be petted or scratched at the base of their tail. You can just scratch this area if that is what your cat likes or apply a little more pressure here as you stroke down their back. This is another area with scent glands that many cats like. Some cats are extra sensitive in this location so just watch your cat’s reaction closely to make sure he or she is enjoying it and not annoyed.

  • Let your cat choose

Cats can be very particular with where their preferred, sweet petting spots are located. While one cat may like to be rubbed in one area, the next may be annoyed by that same thing (and not afraid to let you know it). Most cat owners will come to know in time what their cat prefers. For example, sometimes when you simply hold out your hand or finger, your cat will approach and rub you where he or she wants to be scratched or pet. Often, this is along the side of their face or under their chin. Moreover when you are petting your cat, always make sure to pet in the direction that the hair grows.

Where Not To Pet Your Cat?

Just as there are common places that cats typically like to be petted, there are also places most cats do not approve of being rubbed or stroked. Unlike their canine counterparts, this area is the belly. When cats lay on their back and expose their underside, they are putting themselves in an exposed and vulnerable position. A very relaxed, trusting, and calm cat may have no qualms about letting you gently rub their belly. Many cats, however, are not as trusting and will bite or scratch with their back legs if you pet them here. Some cats may expose their bellies and look like they want a belly rub, but they might quickly change their minds if you try. Consider the belly off limits for most cats, especially those that you don’t know well. Stick to the above mentioned areas that most cats enjoy and find the ones that your cat loves most. Another area to be careful around is the back and inside of the hind legs. Many cats consider this a sensitive area and don’t enjoy being pet here.

How Do I Know A Cat Is Enjoying the Petting Session?

Cats will often start purring if they are enjoying the petting session. Some cats will knead on your lap or on the blanket they are resting on as a sign of relaxation. Some cats might start sitting or standing up and become so relaxed and happy that they lay down on their sides or roll around. You may even put your cat to sleep.

During the petting session, cats will also respond by headbutting or bunting against you. If this is the case, then they are probably asking for more head pets. If they rub their cheeks against you, they may want more scratches on their cheeks. If they enjoy the base of their tail getting stroked, they will push their rear ends up in the air. So follow your cat’s signals to find out what they like best.

If you notice your cat starts twitching or thumping their tail, you might want to be careful and stop petting or change where you are petting them. This is a signal that your cat is uncomfortable and might strike back with a bite or scratch. When a cat doesn’t like being petted in an area, you may notice that they tense up, stop purring, turn and look at you, change ear position, jump up, run away, bite, scratch, or even hiss or growl. If you notice these signs, stop petting or change the way you are petting. Don’t continue with what your cat is annoyed with or force them to accept it.

Why Some Cats Don’t Like To Be Petted?

Some cats just don’t like attention in the form of petting, and that’s okay. Maybe your cat doesn’t have that social butterfly or cuddly personality. This could be from a lack of socialization as a young kitten, history of abuse or neglect, or just their personality. Some cats have higher anxiety levels and relax best in the quiet without disruption. Try to find other ways this cat might like attention, such as treats, toys, or extra playtime. Perhaps this cat is just happier left untouched and basking in the sun in their favorite spot. That doesn’t mean you can’t hang out close by.

Moreover, if your cat doesn’t like to be petted or stroked, consider that they might be in pain. Previous injuries can cause arthritis or other types of pain. Some cats are good at hiding when they are sick or injured, so pay close attention, especially to changes in behavior, likes, or dislikes. If you are concerned that your cat may be hurting, take them to visit your veterinarian.

Should I Pet My Cat While He Or She Is Sleeping?

While your cat is sleeping, you should be careful not to startle or scare them. By approaching them and startling them when they are asleep, you are more likely to make your cat anxious, scared, or more unlikely to enjoy being petted or touched in the future. However, if your cat is asleep on you or falls asleep while you are petting them, then you are less likely to startle them and can certainly continue petting them into a relaxing blissful cat nap.


Petting your cat can be an extremely rewarding experience for both you and your cat. It can strengthen the bond you have with your furry feline friend and make enjoying time together better and better. Keep in mind that you should watch your cat closely for signs of what they like and dislike. Lastly, remember to be patient and gentle at all times and have fun bonding with your kitty.

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