Owning a Cat

The Art of Petting A Cat


Many people, who would otherwise like cats, dislike that they are picky about how they are handled.   Dogs seem to be content with all manner of human affection.  Cats, on the other hand, are animals that seem to require a formal introduction.  They dislike being too familiar too soon and are sticklers for their dignity. Some people find felines to be too high maintenance. Others feel like they are creatures who deserve the kind of respect that they demand. Cats can be incredibly affectionate creatures.  But they are also refined animals and do not take kindly to being grabbed or moved around. Those who master the art of petting a cat can develop a keen appreciation for all things feline. Most can establish a good relationship with cats.


First of all, put yourself in the cats’ place. How would you feel if someone picked you up when you are relaxing? If they grabbed your hair and messed it up?  Would you let someone you hardly know rub your belly? Might you become a bit standoffish?  You wouldn’t like this kind of treatment, well neither does your cat. Even though there are some animals who put up with rough treatment, your cat is most definitely not one of them.


Another thing to keep in mind is that you’re not going to be every cat’s friend. In this sense, cats are very much like humans. You may meet many people over the course of the day, or week.  Only a few of them are likely to engage in conversation further and even fewer will remain friends. Don’t be disappointed if you run into a cat that doesn’t let you pet it. It doesn’t know or trust you. It is naturally shy of humans. It has no idea what you want. Nothing personal.


Now that you understand a little about the cats’ point of view, you know how to make an acquaintance with a cat. Pet its head in ways that felines particularly enjoy. Like many animals, cats are primarily scent oriented. Rather than a handshake or polite words, cats get to know other creatures through scent. When a cat sees another creature it likes and wants to bring into its group, one of the first things it will do is a head bunt. This is a light or heavy rubbing of its head against another animal or person. Many of the cats’ scent glands are located on its head.


When it head bunts it is establishing a connection by exchanging its scent.  You may not be able to pick up on the cats’ scent, but the cat does. When a cat head bunts, it is saying “I like you and want you to be a part of my group, but I need you to have a scent like ours.” By moving its head against you, it is leaving its’ scent on you and inviting you to pet it.


Cats respond to petting most when it invites someone with a head bunt.  A good rule of thumb is to always start with the head. The head is where the scent glands are located. It is where the cat establishes social connections. You can start with the area below the ears, which often contain thin places that seem almost balding. There is a high concentration of scent glands here. Rub the area gently and your cat is likely to respond. After the head and ears, you can pet your cat on the cheeks and whiskers area, and especially under the chin.


Your cat may lie down on its side and let you continue to pet it. One thing to be careful of is to resist the temptation to immediately rub its belly. It is easy to mistake a cat laying on its side as presenting its belly to rub. Some cats like belly rubs. If your cat threatens to scratch or runs away or whines it doesn’t want you to.   After you pet your cats’ head, do a full motion from the top of the head, all the way down the back to the tail. Keep the stroking slow and relaxed. Abrupt petting is annoying to a cat. It may be fine for rough play, but not relaxation. The cat should purr to show signs of satisfaction; if you feel like your cat wants you to rub its belly, do so very slowly. If the cat enjoys rubbing his belly it will purr louder.


Petting a cat is one of the greatest joys that life has to offer and is a great way to reduce stress for both you and your cat. You need to know how to approach a cat in a way that will make it feel comfortable. Take your time, don’t rush, and enjoy the process of sharing affection with your feline.

Liked this article?  Check out “Why Cats Give Head Bunts.”


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