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Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

This article was written by TOBALIE in cooperation with Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

One thing is certain: it is not only our beloved pets who benefit from petting a cat, we humans also derive a clear advantage from it. The health-promoting and bonding-intensifying effect of petting an animal has been proven many times over. But, as already mentioned in the headline, petting a cat properly has to be learned. Stroking a cat, how does it work?

What are the benefits for the cat ?

Most cats like to be petted. Not only does it strengthen the human-animal relationship, but some health benefits for the cat have been proven many times. The prerequisite is always that the cat really wants to be petted and that we do not “force” it. 

  • The emotional bond between cat and owner is strengthened.
  • Petting can reduce stress in the cat and bring about a feeling of calm and relaxation.
  • Blood circulation is improved and pain can be relieved. 
  • Fear, anxiety and other uncomfortable feelings can be reduced by petting as it gives our felines a sense of security. 
  • Provides a positive occupation/distraction for the cat. 

Good to know: As mentioned in the introduction, we humans also derive our benefits from it. Among other things, petting releases the so-called cuddle hormone oxytocin (in animals and humans), which is known to make people happy. Furthermore, it has been proven that blood pressure is lowered and the immune system is strengthened. 

How do I know that the cat wants to be petted?

You should always be aware of one fact: cats are individuals with different preferences and needs. Not every cat wants to be petted around the clock. However, when cats do want to be petted, they usually signal it by sending body language signals. 

Posture: A relaxed and content cat will often tilt its head to the side or perhaps present its fluffy belly when it wants to be petted. She may also begin to purr or stretch. In general, their posture appears relaxed and natural. The ears point upwards and the tail is neither bushy nor fidgeting nervously.

Eye contact: A cat that wants to be petted will look directly at its owner with expectant, languorous eyes.

Approach: A cat that wants to be petted will come closer and snuggle up on its own.

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How do I know if my cat does not want to be touched?

On the other hand, it is also important not to pet the cat if it does not want to be petted. This can lead to stress, fear and panic in the cat. The following signals will be sent by a cat when it wants to be left alone:

  • A cat that does not want to be petted will turn away and keep its distance. 
  • It will appear tense, restless and will avoid your touch.
  • The ears are usually laid flat against the head.
  • The tail begins to wag, literally to whip.
  • Clear hissing and/or growling are clear signals that you should keep your distance. 
  • Even if it extends its claws and strikes at you, you should quickly get out of the way.
  • Snapping and biting are usually also signs that the cat does not want to be petted. Sometimes, however, they can also be so-called love bites

Why not every cat likes to be touched?

Not every cat is a cuddly tiger, there are also cats that do not want to be touched at all. This can have various reasons:

Bad experiences: Maybe the cat was once roughly touched or even mistreated. Such experiences are deep-seated and the cat is afraid of our hands.

Distrust: Some four-legged friends are simply sceptical and need time to gain trust. Especially strangers do not like to pet them.

Pain: If your cat suddenly doesn’t want to be touched or flinches in certain places, pain is a common reason. Please have your cat examined by a doctor. 

Character: Not every cat is a cuddler. Some cats are content to be stroked for a short time, others can’t get enough closeness and some just want to be left alone. Understand your cat’s preferences.

How do you pet a cat properly?

Some of you might be thinking, what can you possibly do wrong, but not every stroking movement is pleasant for our graceful domestic tigers. In order to make petting your cat as pleasant as possible, you should observe the following “rules”:

  • The cat should be able to decide when, how long and where it wants to be stroked. If it approaches by itself, you can pet it. If it is a strange cat, be careful and cautious at first. If the cat runs away, leave it alone.
  • Approach gently and avoid frantic or erratic movements. 
  • In general, be gentle and apply little pressure. Avoid scratching with your fingernails.
  • Rather stroke in the direction of hair growth. Cats with greasy fur, for example, may find stroking against the grain rather uncomfortable.
  • Every cat finds different parts of its body (un)pleasant. If you do not know the cat, avoid paws and tail. Most of the time, the belly area is also a red rag. Many cats find stroking these areas rather uncomfortable.  Chin, head, neck and sides of the body are more popular. 
  • Always pay attention to body language. Stop petting if she becomes visibly restless or suddenly shows the above-mentioned signals of aversion. 
  • Even if she falls asleep, keep your distance so as not to disturb her.

Where do cats like to be petted?

As already mentioned, cats are individuals with different interests and preferences. The areas of the body where they like to be stroked also differ from cat to cat. 

As a rule, however, our pets enjoy being stroked on the following areas:

  • Head area: forehead, back of the head, behind the ears, chin area, neck.
  • Back area: shoulders, flanks, entire back, base of tail
  • Lateral belly area

The following regions are rather unpleasant for many cats when touched, but of course there are also cats who prefer these regions.

  • Lower belly area
  • Eye area
  • Paws, legs
  • Area around the mouth
  • Area around the genitals
  • Tail

Excursus: Petting children and cats.

Special care should be taken with small children. Because of their lack of motor skills and sensitivity, very young children should not interact unsupervised with – especially unfamiliar – cats. 

Small children must first learn how to interact with cats, which includes proper playing, cuddling and petting. It is very important that children learn to treat cats (and of course all other animals) gently and respectfully. 

For our children, petting a cat has other advantages besides those mentioned above. By petting a cat, children can train their ability to empathise and develop affection.


Cats love to be stroked, and some cats just can’t get enough of it. This is understandable, because petting produces hormones that make people and animals happy. In general, there are many health benefits of petting a cat, for humans and animals alike. However, care should be taken to pet a cat properly – casually and gently. Always pay attention to their signals and body language.