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The Right Way to Pet a Cat

By Guest Author
published: August 23, 2023 • 2 min. read
fluffy cat getting pet

Table of Contents

Petting a cat might seem like it should be simple, but for many, it can lead to frustrating moments and confusion. Petting a cat is different than petting a dog and requires a little bit more intuition. 

People can often get the wrong impression about a cat (or cats in general!) from unknowingly trying to pet them the wrong way. Once you learn the best way to pet a cat, though, you can form a peaceful, loving relationship with your cat and avoid those confusing spats and scratches forever. 

If you’re petting your cat and she suddenly gets aggressive or runs away, it might be something called “overstimulation aggression” brought on by petting. This is physiological in pets and not a matter of temperament at all. Overstimulation aggression is characterized as negative behavior from your cat, such as hissing, scratching, biting or running away, as a result of disagreeable petting or excessive attention. 

Cats cannot handle being petted in the same pattern over and over again. It irritates their sensibilities and actually can give them a feeling similar to anxiety which makes them act aggressively.

How to pet a cat

To have a positive petting experience with your cat, follow these steps.

  1. Be observant

    Keep an eye on your cat’s body language, especially her tail, while you are petting her. Tail twitches are one of the best telltale ways to know how your cat is feeling. If your cat’s tail starts twitching or wagging aggressively or erratically, she is probably feeling stressed and not enjoying this particular way of being touched.
  2. Look for static electricity

    Cats become somewhat electrically charged all over their bodies when their anxiety is on the rise. You can tell by the arch in their back and the way their tails stiffen. Try to get a feel for the energy coming off of your cat’s body to know if she is enjoying this petting session.
  3. Learn what your cat likes

    Every cat likes to be petted in different spots and for different lengths of time. Some cats prefer head scratches, while others like long strokes down their backs. Some cats like belly rubs, while others will attack you just for looking at their bellies. If you’re willing to take the time and be a little intuitive, your cat will actually be your guide and tell you what she prefers. It can take a while to figure out what your cat likes, but once you figure it out, you will be set for a life full of happy cuddles together.

Cats are easily overstimulated, so even if your kitty runs off while you’re petting her, remember to not take it personally. She just needs some alone time. 

It’s also important to ensure your cat gets plenty of playtime during the day, so she can release her energy. Cats have primal instincts for hunting and playing, so try to get that energy out before you attempt to pet her, or she might be too overzealous. 

Living with cats can be a loving, harmonious experience once you learn each other’s preferences. Take the time to figure out how your cat likes to be petted, and she’ll be cuddling up next to you in no time.