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Why Do Cats Like To Be Petted?

Petting a furry friend is one of the great joys of owning a cat. Their warm, cuddly bodies make for the best lap accessory.

Having the presence of a cat brings lots of peace and relaxation to an owner. Not only is it near impossible to not pet your fuzzy little guy, but it’s also actually good for you! Believe it or not, it’s been proven that petting a cat reduces stress!

While we love petting our fur babies, it seems that most times, they enjoy it as well. Giving your cat a good pet down his or her back seems to put them in a good mood. We know why we love petting the warm, furry bodies of our cats, but why do they? 

Why do cats like to be petted? There are a few reasons why cats like to be petted. Those reasons vary from needing your scent, to inaccessibility to certain areas.

Why Do Cats Like To Be Petted?

Do you ever find yourself sitting on the couch and your cat comes up and flops to its side for a pet? It seems strange because the stereotypes about cats are that they are cold and distant, but lots of cats enjoy being petted.

The thing about petting a cat is that you have to do it when they are willing and wanting to be touched. Just like humans, cats don’t always want to be doted on and petted when they aren’t in the mood.

However, when a cat chooses to come up to you for a pet, it gives you the chance to have it! For an owner, petting a cat is one of the benefits of owning a cat, but why do cats like to be petted?

While science hasn’t yet made it possible for humans to get into the mind of a cat, we do have pretty good ideas as to why they do some of the things they do. Just like most things cats do, cats like to be petted for more than one reason.

Let’s go through all of the reasons your cat may love your pets.


You might think that your cat wants you to pet them because they love you and want you to show some affection to them. However, that’s not always the case.

Cats may be coming to you for pets because they want your scent. Cats are creatures of scent. They can tell a lot about scents and it’s one of the ways they remember things and claim them. 

You might see your cat rub against things as they pass them. Things like the table, chair and even you.

This is how they claim their territory and what belongs to them. When your cat is asking you to pet them, it’s possible it’s just an exchange of scents going down.

Don’t be too sad though, because if your cat is claiming you, this means they consider you apart of their “pack” and see you as sort of their family. 


One of the ways cats like to be petted is under the chin. A good chin-scratch puts any cat in a good mood.

You might find that your cat loves to be petted, but just under the chin. Well, that’s because certain areas like the chin, ear, cheek, and general head area aren’t easy places for a cat to access on their own.

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Their lack of easy access to their head makes them come to their owner to fulfill that duty. While it isn’t a loving gesture, it means that cats need their owners for some things, despite how independent they might be.


Another reason cats may like to be petted is that it reminds them of how their mothers used to groom them. Mother cats often groom and protect their young kittens and lick their head.

Cats tend to view their owner as a “mother type” and may be doing so when they ask you to scratch their chin. Cats may expect their owner to groom them in the way of petting them because it is what their mothers did when they were young. 

Cats tend to view their owner as a "mother type"

How To Pet A Cat

Cats are unique creatures all with their own personalities, likes, and dislikes. I say that because, while lots of cats enjoy petting, and may even demand it, some do not.

You might hear stories of a friend who has a cat that isn’t the most cuddly creature and doesn’t like to be touched. Every cat has their own preference for how much contact they want from humans so it’s important to keep that in mind.

When trying to pet a cat, there are some helpful tips that can be utilized to make it go down smoothly. 

The Right Approach

The first thing you need to know when trying to pet a cat is that the approach is huge! Especially if you are meeting this cat for the first time!

If you swoop down at a cat to pet him or her, chances are they will run away and be very wary of you moving forward. Going too fast will make it hard for a cat to trust you because they will look at you as a threat.

Approaching a cat needs to be done slowly with your hands in front of you. It may sound strange, but cats are skeptics and need reassurance that you are of no harm to them.

If you are going slowly and the cat you are approaching is still scared, it might be best to let them come to you first. First impressions are super important in setting a foundation of trust with a person and a cat, this means approaching them correctly. 

Let Them Sniff!

Let Them Sniff!

Cats use scents to learn and remember things. You’ll notice that cats will sniff all types of things, especially new things.

Every time I get a new book, my cat loves to smell it and inspect it. Cats do this with objects as well as humans.

By putting your hand out to the side with your fingers outstretched, you can make it easy for a cat to come up and smell your hand. They may decide to smell your leg and shoes as well, but it’s vital to let them do that. 

Be Patient

With cats, patience is key! Although it can be hard, it’s important that you are patient with your cat.

Cats are always on high alert for potential threats and trying to push yourself to be acquainted with your cat can set you back. Gaining a cat’s trust takes time but is definitely worth it in the end!

Petting The Right Areas

Another component to petting a cat is to pet them in the right areas. Cats are particular about where they like to be petted. If you’ve had a dog and think that you know all the sweet spots, you’re going to be in for a surprise.

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Cats like to be scratched and petted mostly on the head! Scratching your cat under the chin will be sure to keep them happy. As well as the tip of the head, between and around the ears, and cheeks.

These are the places that cats enjoy being rubbed the most. If you are giving your cat a scratch in one of these areas and they close their eyes then that means that they are enjoying it! When petting a cat on the back, make sure you go with fur and not against it. 

Pet Only When Relaxed

You never want to pet a cat when they are feeling scared or annoyed. A good time to pet your cat would be when they are laying on the couch.

It’s also important to pet him or her gently. Never spank your cat like you would a dog, this will irritate them and likely cause them to bite you. 

Areas Not To Pet

It’s good to know the places that a cat likes to be petted but it’s just as good to know what places to avoid! Petting your cat in an area that they don’t like can make them angry and possibly scratch or bite you.

To avoid an unhappy cat, you need to know where not to pet them. Places not to pet include the stomach, tail, and paws!

When a cat is comfortable around you, they will roll onto their back and their stomach will be exposed. As enticing as it may be to rub your cat’s stomach, don’t make that mistake!

Cats aren’t dogs and hate for their tummy to be rubbed. Cats show their stomachs as a sign of trust and touching them there might break some of that trust!

The tail is another place not to touch your cat. Cats hate for people to touch their tails and may even meow if you do so.

Lastly, never touch your cat’s paws! Cats hate when people touch their paws and that’s why trimming their nails can be a hard task.

Avoiding the areas where cats don’t like to be touched will help you and your cat enjoy yourselves when it’s time for pets!

Know  When To Stop

It’s easy to get caught up when your cat is allowing you to pet them, however, it’s important to know when to stop. Even if you are petting your cat in an area that they approve of, you need to watch for signs that your cat doesn’t want any more.

For example, if you’re petting your cat and they are slowly swinging their tail, this means that they are annoyed. Some more signs that your cat has had enough include soft biting, hissing, fidgeting, flattening of the ears, and swatting. If you ignore the signs that your cat is giving you, they may start to attack. 


Cats love to get pampered with treats, toys, and petting. Cats enjoy a good pet because of their need for scent, grooming, and inaccessibility to certain areas of their body.

While cats love to get petted, there’s a right way to go about petting a cat. Especially when dealing with a cat that has never met you.

By following helpful tips you can learn what to do and what not to do in regards to petting a cat. Like everything with cats, things go by their terms! Remember that and you’ll be golden.