Five ways you may be petting your cat wrong

Five ways you may be petting your cat wrong


One of the main differences between cats and dogs is that cats are very finicky about pretty much everything, and if they do not like something, they will not be shy to let you know-or ignore you entirely!

This applies to everything from food to beds to where cats go to the toilet to who they like-and how they like to be petted! Cats are of course all individuals who have their own preferences, favourites and ways in which they like to be stroked, and what works for one cat might not work for another.

However, when it comes to cats in general and the ways in which they like to show and give affection, there are a few almost universal “rules” that the savvy cat lover will follow, in order to ensure that the cat in question enjoys your company. Read on to learn more about five ways in which you may be petting your cat wrong!

Rubbing the fur the wrong way

Rule 101 when it comes to petting cats is that you should never rub their fur the wrong way! Some cats will tolerate this, as there are always exceptions to any rule-but generally, cats like to be stroked in the direction of their fur growth only, and will not be very pleased if you mess up their coats!

This reaction tends to be most acute in short haired cats with short, straight fur, as the sensation of this being rubbed the wrong way is doubtlessly quite annoying. However, for cats that have soft, long fur that does not all lie in one direction in a straight line, they may be happy with their fur being rubbed in both directions, as their fur is softer and less apt to lie in one direction.

Dogs on the other hand simply seem to like attention, and will not be bothered about how they get it-but taking your cues from the way a dog likes to be stroked and trying to apply this to a cat is a bad idea!

Going straight in for the stroke

When you spot a cat that you want to say hello to, or your own cat comes up to you clearly looking for attention, the obvious thing to do from a human perspective is to go straight in and stroke them from the top of the head backwards. However, you may have noticed that if you do this, your cat turns their head to sniff at your fingers and wants to investigate your hand before they relax into your touch-and this is because we are actually bypassing one of the first stages of polite cat/human interaction as far as your cat is concerned.

When cats greet each other for the first time, or if one cat has been outside and come back in, you have likely seen that they will stand face to face and nose to nose, sniffing at each other before they greet. This is a polite form of introduction for cats, and allows the cats to find out about each other, what they smell of, and where they have been.

Unlike dogs, cats do not moderate and adapt their behaviour to communicate with humans-which means that you will have to make moves to greet your cat in cat terms! Hold your finger out for your cat to sniff before you start stroking them, and wait for the cat to rub your finger before you start petting them, and your cat will feel as if you have impeccable manners!

Tummy: yes or no?

Few things are more tempting to the cat lover than the soft, warm and fluffy cat belly, and if your cat allows you to stroke them here, you are privileged indeed! However, many cats will not tolerate having their tummy stroked, and may respond quite angrily if you take that bared tummy as an invite to pet it!

The problem here is that for a cat whose stomach is sensitive, the act of baring it to you is a sign of trust, rather than an invite-and so if you do then stroke it, your cat is likely to feel as if you have broken their trust.

Some cats too will allow you to stroke their tummy a couple of times before they will get annoyed-so always tread carefully here, know when to stop, and if you know your cat gets annoyed by tummy stroking, don’t try and do it!


Even cats that like a lot of fuss and are always clamouring for attention cat reach the point of overstimulation, when they become overly sensitive due to the stimulus that they are receiving. This is the point at which many cats will appear to be really happy but then stalk off looking offended, or potentially lash out!

Keeping an eye on your cat’s demeanour and reactions and not teasing them will help to avoid this issue.


All cats like different levels of pressure when being petted; some will only tolerate a light touch, while others will lean right into your hand and push against you! However, rubbing or pressing too hard, or trying to pat your cat, is something that cats really don’t like. Remember that cats are smaller and more delicate than dogs, and like a light touch, so don’t press too hard!



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