Home > Basic Training > How to Pet a Cat

How to Pet a Cat


how to pet a cat

I know this may seem very obvious and something you certainly wouldn’t need instructions for, but surprisingly, there are people who do it wrong. When it’s done incorrectly, kitty isn’t happy and people end up scratched or bitten.

Cats are social creatures. They have often been mislabeled as solitary animals but they form social groups that revolve around the availability of resources. Cats can form close bonds with other cats, humans, dogs and even animals you wouldn’t suspect such as rabbits, birds and more. Most likely, people are confused by the fact that cats are solitary hunters as well as having such a strong sense of territory.

Cats are also affectionate despite the myths you’ve heard about them being aloof. Cats show affection in a multitude of ways and some of those displays are often missed by an unaware cat parent. Cats show affection and strengthen bonds with other cats in their social group by grooming each other. This also helps the colony create a group scent which is important in identification. Cats who are friends will also rub against each other and lay close together.

Your cat uses that same behavior to strengthen the bond she shares with you. Rubbing, head bunting and being physically close are just a few of the ways she shows affection.

Most cats also enjoy being petted and touched but there are right and wrong ways to do it though. When petting a cat you want to make sure the experience is a positive one for her. Here are some tips.

black and white cat being petted

photo: istock

Respect Your Cat’s Personal Space

Just because your cat may enjoy being petted doesn’t mean she wants it all the time. Be respectful of her personal space because there may be times when she simply wants to be alone. When she’s sitting at the window and is focused on a bird outside may not be the time to startle or distract her just for a little petting. There may also be specific locations in the home that she prefers to be “people-free” zones. My cat, Pearl, for example, views the top perch of her cat tree as a people-free spot. When she’s up there, even though I could easily reach her, I leave her alone. Her body language let me know long ago about this preference and I respect it. I will admit though, it’s very tempting when I see her up there but having her trust is more important.

Correctly Interpret Your Cat’s Body Language

Just because your cat approaches you doesn’t mean she wants to be petted. She may be meowing because she wants food or is asking for playtime. If she rubs up against you or leans against you, she’s likely showing affection, and based on what you know about your kitty, being petted is probably desired.