Where Do Cats Like to Be Petted?

Cute cat being petted on the cheek

We all love petting our cats. Our furry little friends are curled up, warm and contented on our laps. They look up at us with those loving, blinky eyes as their purr lulls us into a state of cat-induced bliss. What’s not to love?

But do our furry companions enjoy being petted and where do they like to be petted? Cat behavior experts and many studies have examined cats' reactions to petting. The short answer is that some cats love it and some don't.

But there are some commonalities and trends in terms of where cats enjoy being petted. So in this blog we highlight some of cat's favorite spots for an affectionate pet.

Where Do Cats Like to Be Petted?

Gray tabby cat sniffing persons fingers before being petted

The answer to where do cats like to be petted is that cats like to be petted behind the ears, on their cheeks and below their chins. These and other parts of cats' bodies have scent glands. Petting a cat helps the cat spread those scents.

We explain these and other locations on cats bodies in more detail.

Before determining where a cat likes to be petted you need to determine if a cat wants to be petted. Some cats love petting, some don’t. And some allow it only in specific spots. So, if you don’t know a cat and you want to go in for a little petting. It’s best to start slowly. Don’t just tousle the top of their head.

If you’re trying to pet a cat who doesn’t know you, start by slowly placing your fingers in front of their nose in a non-threatening way. This will allow them to sniff you and get a better sense of you. This also allows the cat to make the decision on whether or not they want you to pet them and for you to gauge their initial reaction to see if your affections are welcome.

As noted by Daily Pawsyou will want to watch how the cat reacts to your

Infographic explaining five areas where cats like to be petted

invitation. If the cat moves closer to your hand and rubs their cheek or neck on your fingers, that is a good sign. Cats have scent glands in those locations, so by rubbing you in those areas they are essentially claiming you as their own. It is called bunting and it is a sign of affection.

And if that bunting is accompanied by the cat slowly blinking their eyes at you, which is another sign of affection, that’s a good indication the cat is open to being petted.

On the other hand, if the cat looks away from you, moves her head away from your fingers or moves their full body further away from, that is likely a sign they don’t want to be petted at that moment.

Some cats can become overstimulated very quickly by touch and simply don’t ever like to be petted. Other cats are reticent to be touched by strangers. And there is a chance that a cat loves to be petted, but they might not be in the mood at that moment. It’s not possible to know exactly what a particular cat is feeling in the moment, but if you get any of those negative signs it’s best not to force it.


Let's Get Started

Like humans, cats are often particular about where they like to be touched. and it might take you some time to learn what are the purrfect spots for your fur baby.

Orange tabby cat in furry masterpieces cardboard cat house

For most cats, though, their preference, according to most cat experts, involves parts of their bodies where they have the most scent glands.

Why? Because that way they’re also marking you with their scent as their own and not a threat. It's also the reason you will see cats rub their cheeks against people, furniture or their cardboard cat houses. They are marking you and those things as their own.


Cats Like to be Petted at the Base of their Ears

Small cute cat being petted behind the ears

This spot is probably most familiar to anyone who loves cats. We all know the joy of having a cat look up at us and then vigorously rub the back of their ears on our hands or looking down and they are doing the same to your lower leg. It’s iconic. Every cat is different, but if there were spot to say where most cats like to be petted, this would be it.

Cats have temporal lobes at the base of the ears which they use transfer their scent to people and things they are claiming is their own. Cats are territorial so rubbing their sins on objects helps find their way and recognize territory. Rubbing their scent on humans lets cats know later that that person is a companion and not a threat. So, if a will cat starts rubbing this part of their body on you, you’re in.


Cats Also Like to be Petted on Their Cheeks

Cats also have glands on their cheeks. They perform a similar function as the glands at the base of the ears. These glands are less oily and are used as a lubricant on the whiskers, which makes it easier to rub the cat’s scent on objects.


Many Cats Like Petting Under the Chin (Oh yes, right there!)
Orange and white cat enjoying being petted under the chin

Have you ever scratched your cat under the chin as they keep tilting their head back further and further to make it easier for you to keep scratching? It’s a beautiful thing. Some cats simply love to be scratched and petted under the chin.

Like the base ears, cats have glands under their jaws that they used to mark territory and people as their own.


Some Cat Love Being Petted at The Base of the Tail

Sometimes known as the “rump rub”, some cats love to be petted right where their back meets their tail. This one can be tricky, thought. Some cats can quickly become over stimulated when you pet them all the way down their back from their head to their tail. When this happens, you’ll sometimes see a cat’s back start to twitch. That’s an indication that they are over stimulated and should back off.

But even those cats will sometimes love a gentle scratch or pet right at the connection of their back and tail. You will often see them stand up straighter or otherwise push their backend up to pressure against your fingers.

This area includes glands that secrete oils to help keep cats’ fur healthy and soft.

 What About Belly Rubs?

Beautiful orange tabby cat showing its belly

When your cat is curled up on your lap and then flips over and stretches out, showing you their belly, it can be very tempting to go in for a belly rub. After all, your dog loves it. Why not your cat? While most dogs seem to love a good belly rub, that isn’t necessarily the same for felines.

Cats’ vital organs are located just under the skin along the stomach so that is an area they need to protect. Also, as noted in Meowingtons, the hair follicles on a cat’s stomach are extraordinarily sensitive. So, touching them can quickly cause overstimulation.

While many cat experts believe that cats showing you their bellies is a form of affection in the sense that they are demonstrating that they trust you. It doesn’t necessarily mean a cat wants you to pet their stomach. And with all four of their paws readily available to correct your error, you will quickly learn whether they like it or not.

That said, however, some cats love it. While our rescue cat Cleo absolutely hates it and will immediately scratch or bite any hand that dares enter that area, our orange tabby rescue Jupiter loves it! But then, Jupiter is a love bug. Pet him absolutely anywhere and he will just keep coming back for more.

So, in terms of the belly, it’s best to get to know a cat very well first and then maybe ease into belly rubs over time if that is something the cat seems to indicate they enjoy. But it is definitely not recommended that you try to pet this area on a cat you don’t know.



So, what’s the answer to where cats like to be petted? The long answer and general tips are explained above. But the short answer is that it is up to the cat. Studies, as noted by Hills Pet, have shown pleasant interactions with our pets and other animals lowers stress levels in humans. And that is something all cat owners know intuitively. But ultimately, petting a cat isn’t just about you. It’s about the cat and bringing them joy. So, if you interact in a way that’s loving and respectful, the cat will give you their answer.