How to Pet a Kitten

Two Parts:Petting a KittenGetting Your Kitten Accustomed to Being Touched

A new kitten can be a fun, loving, and playful pet, and petting her is not only a calming form of stress-relief for you, but it can also enjoyable and relaxing for the cat. When you first get a new kitten, it’s important to socialize her so that she gets used to being around humans, becomes accustomed to being pet and touched, and learns that being touched is pleasurable, safe, and rewarding. Not only that, but a properly socialized cat will put up much less of a fuss when you need to trim her nails, brush her teeth, groom her, administer medication, and otherwise touch her when you need to take care of her or want to show affection.

Part 1
Petting a Kitten

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    Sit down. When you are first letting your kitten get used to you, it’s best to get down to her level when you want to interact. Birds of prey are natural enemies of felines, so cats will instinctively fear anything looming over them.[1]
    • When you want to play and pet your cat, sit down on a chair, couch, or on the floor to make yourself seem less menacing. If it’s comfortable, you can even lie down on the ground.
    • You can use treats or toys to get her attention, but try to let the cat come to you.
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    Let the kitten smell your hand. Especially if you're dealing with a shy, semi-feral, or unsocialized kitten, allow the cat to smell you before touching her. Once she approaches, hold your hand out toward her and let her smell you.[2]
    • As long as the cat is calm and not scared, slowly and gently reach out and pet her.
    • Start by petting the areas that cats use most often to mark their scents. Many cats enjoy being pet in these areas, which include the base of the chin, ears, and tail, as well as the cheeks.[3]
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    Pet her chin. As the kitten becomes accustomed to you and gets used to you petting her, you'll come to learn her favorite spots where she likes to be pet. Many cats, however, liked being rubbed under the chin.
    • After your kitten approaches and smells your hand, slowly move your hand below her chin and use the back of your hand or your fingertips to rub and scratch under her chin and where the jaw and skull connect.
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    Scratch her cheeks. After a moment of petting her chin, slowly move your hand slightly up to rub the kitten’s cheeks just behind her whiskers.
    • If the kitten rotates her head and pushes her face into your hand, this is a sign that she enjoys your petting.
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    Rub around her ears. While some cats don’t like having their ears touched, many do like having their heads scratched at the base of the ears, behind and between the ears, and the area between the ears and eyes.[4]
    • Slowly move your hand from her chin to her cheeks to her ears, petting and gently scratching her face as you move between these areas.
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    Rub the base of her tail. The haunches, which are the buttocks and thigh area, is a favorite petting spot for many cats. Gently rub around the base of her tail. You'll know she enjoys it if she lowers herself down on her front legs and raises her back end into the air![5]
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    Stroke her back. Place your hand gently on top of the kitten’s head and gently stroke her back all the way to her tail. Some cats don’t mind being pet in the opposite direction (from the tail toward the head), but some hate this, so start with the head-to-tail direction first.
    • Once your cat is used to being pet, you can rub her chin, cheeks, and around her ears, and then stroke your hand down her back to her tail, where you can rub her haunches.
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    Practice being gentle. Kittens are delicate creatures and it can be easy to injure them by accident, by being too rough or dropping them.[6] Don’t squeeze the kitten, hold her too tightly, or grab her tail or ears.
    • When you hold her, place one hand behind her front legs and use the other to support her backside.
    • Older children must be taught how to handle the kitten gently and how to hold her properly, and they should never be allowed to grab the kitten by her scruff.
    • Children under five shouldn’t be allowed to handle kittens at all, because they don’t understand the difference between gentle and rough touching.[7]
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    Stop if the cat is distressed. Kittens and cats show distress, fear, and anxiety in many ways, and if your kitten exhibits any of those, you should stop petting her and leave her to calm down. Signs of fear and anger include:
    • Hissing, growling, and spitting
    • Ears that are turned back, sideways, or flat against the head[8]
    • An arched back
    • Fur standing on end[9]

Part 2
Getting Your Kitten Accustomed to Being Touched

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    Pet her daily. As long as your kitten is over five days old, she should be gently handled and pet every day to get used to being touched. This will help her bond with you and get her used to the smell of humans.
    • Socializing kittens and getting them used to being touched is most important during the first seven weeks of their lives (minus the first week or two).[10]
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    Let other people pet her too. As long as they're people you trust to be kind and gentle, get your kitten used to as many people as possible by letting friends and family pet her too. This socialization will increase the chances that she’ll develop into a loving and friendly adult cat.[11]
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    Get her used to you touching her paws. Many cats don’t like having their paws touched, but working your kitten up to this will help her learn to enjoy being pet, and will make clipping her nails much easier.
    • Start by gently rubbing your kitten’s chest between her two front legs, and slowly move your hand down one of her legs until you're touching her paw. Go back to her chest and repeat with the other leg. When you’ve done this, reward her with a treat.[12]
    • Gradually increase the amount of time you spend touching her paws until your kitten becomes accustomed to having them touched. Be sure to reward her with treats.
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    Work your way to touching the ears. Start by scratching the back of her head around her ears. Then with one finger, gently stroke one of her ears and go back to scratching her head. Repeat with the other ear and reward her with a treat.[13]
    • Each time you do this, gradually increase the amount of time you spend touching her ear, until it’s no longer an issue. When you're getting her used to this, don’t forget to reward her with treats.
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    Brush her weekly. Use a small brush or one that’s designed for cats. Brush in the direction that her fur grows (brush from head to tail) for a few minutes each week.[14] Not only will this get her used to being touched in different ways, but it will also help to reduce shedding and fur balls.


  • Most cats hate having their bellies touched, because this is a vulnerable area on their bodies (where all the vital organs are). If you try to pet your kitten’s belly before she's had time to start trusting you, she may react by scratching or biting. In fact, many cats will never want their bellies pet.

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Categories: Cat Training