wikiHow to Pet Cats in the Right Spots

Two Methods:Establishing TrustFinding Your Cat’s Spots

Cats are enigmatic creatures. They slink around your legs, preening for pets. However, when you begin to pet them, they bite you and run away. To lower your risk of upsetting the cat, as well as the risk of being bitten, take some time to learn about your cat’s tendencies and proclivities when it comes to petting them. When you do, the cat should love you!

Method 1
Establishing Trust

  1. Image titled Pet Cats in the Right Spots Step 1
    Take it slow. When you encounter a new or unfamiliar cat, don’t just charge at it and begin to pet it. Cats, like people, don’t really trust strangers. Couple this with the fact that you are 10 times the cat’s size, and it is understandable why it might be afraid of you at first.[1]
  2. Image titled Pet Cats in the Right Spots Step 2
    Allow the cat to approach you. When the cat wants your attention, it will let you know. When entering a room with an unfamiliar cat, go about your human business until the cat approaches you and gestures that it wants your attention. [2]
    • Such gestures include the cat rubbing up against your legs, purring, rubbing its head or cheeks against you, sitting in your lap, or meowing at you.[3]
  3. Image titled Pet Cats in the Right Spots Step 3
    Start small. When dealing with a new cat, it is best to start by gently scratching the top of its head, between the ears. Don’t engage in full-body pets, ear scratches, or tail pets until the cat has become completely acclimated to you and you, in turn, know the cat’s boundaries.[4]
  4. Image titled Pet Cats in the Right Spots Step 4
    Don’t pet a cat when it is on its back. A cat will often roll on its back, exposing its belly to you and looking as cute as it possibly can. To many people, this looks like an invitation to rub the cat's belly. However, it is actually a sign that the cat is showing submission to you and that it trusts you not to violate its personal space. Breaching this trust and going for the cat’s tummy is a surefire way to get bitten and clawed.[5]
    • While some cats genuinely enjoy belly rubs, most do not. If a cat you don’t know rolls on its back and stares at you, it is likely the dreaded “tummy trap” and you will probably be bitten or clawed when trying to pet it.[6]
  5. Image titled Pet Cats in the Right Spots Step 5
    Spot an irritated kitty. Most people get attacked by cats when trying to pet them as a result of miscommunication.[7] Just because a cat approaches you does not mean it wants affection from you. A cat may approach you to sniff you and check you out, because it wants to play, or because it is hungry. Some signs that the cat is not in the mood for affection include:
    • Flattened ears[8]
    • Dilated pupils[9]
    • Quickly thrashing its tail in the air or thumping it on the ground[10]
    • The cessation of purring[11]
    • Incessant body shifting or twitching[12]
    • Growling or hissing[13]

Method 2
Finding Your Cat’s Spots

  1. Image titled Pet Cats in the Right Spots Step 6
    Employ a process of trial and error. Every cat is different and enjoys different petting patterns. Some cats love to have their ears scratched while others won’t allow you to touch their ears. As such, you need to try petting your cat on different spots and gauge its reaction to that petting to identify what it likes or does not like. Cats will purr and relax themselves when they are enjoying what you doing, so pay close attention to these signals.[14]
    • A cat will often guide you through the petting process, forcing its head or the part of its body that it wants petted into your hand. The pets are for the cat, so let it run the show.
  2. Image titled Pet Cats in the Right Spots Step 7
    Start with the cat “safe” zones. Touch is one of your most important communication tools. While every cat has a different set of purr-zones, there are a few spots on which most cats enjoy being petted universally. The top of the head between the ears, under the chin and along the cheeks are all areas that most cats enjoy being petted so go for these areas first.[15]
  3. Image titled Pet Cats in the Right Spots Step 8
    Go for the ears. Try rubbing and gently twisting the cat’s ears. Ear-oriented cats also like to have a knuckle lightly rubbed inside their ear.
    • Be very careful not to hurt the cat or pull too hard.
  4. Image titled Pet Cats in the Right Spots Step 9
    Pet the cat’s cheeks and chin. The cheeks of cats contain scent glands which allow the cat to leave its scent on things and mark its territory. Scratch your cat's cheeks from the whiskers back toward the tail, or gently scratch your cat under the jaw and along the neck.[16]
  5. Image titled Pet Cats in the Right Spots Step 10
    Try full-body pets. Start at the crown of the cat’s head and, using your open palm, pet the cat lengthwise down its spine towards the tail.
    • This type of petting can be very enjoyable to the cat, but be careful. Cats are most likely to become overstimulated when receiving these types of pets, leading them to bite or claw you.
  6. Image titled Pet Cats in the Right Spots Step 11
    Pet the right area of your cat's body. Many cats like to have their backs scratched and even to have their fur brushed backwards briefly. Use some enthusiasm while scratching the back and at the base of your cat's tail. It can make the cat feel great, and it's a good way to detect the presence of fleas.[17]
    • Studies have shown that the tail is a metaphorical “danger zone” when petting cats. So, unless you know your cat really enjoys it, avoid petting its tail.[18]
  7. Image titled Pet Cats in the Right Spots Step 12
    Time your petting sessions carefully. Cats are more receptive to being pet when they are relaxed and feeling affectionate. Make sure you pet your cat when it wants pets, not just when it is convenient for you. Cats, in general, are particularly receptive to being pet after eating, but each cat is different. So, find a time that works best for your cat.[19]


  • Cats that are unwilling or unreceptive to getting pets from a human hand may enjoy a good brushing or grooming session. So pick up a brush specially designed for cats and see how the cat responds to the brush rather than your hand.


  • Don't overdo it— too much of a good thing can overstimulate a cat and cause him or her to want to bite.
  • Never physically punish or yell at a cat for biting you when you try to pet it. While you may not know what they were, the cat had its reasons for biting you. Cats don’t understand that you are punishing them or yelling at them in retaliation for the bite- and most cats don’t care. They will simply see you as a threat or a danger from that point on.[20]

Sources and Citations

Show more... (17)

Article Info

Categories: Cat Training