Hi everybody! It’s Molly from Cat Behavior Solutions, here with your Bonding Tip of the Week! This bonding tip is: safe petting zones.
Most cats prefer to be pet from where I call the collar up. They like to be scratched under their collar, up around the ears, sometimes on the ears, on the cheeks, and under the chin (they love that one). They also sometimes like to be pet on their chest, but generally, they don’t like pets as much below the collar.
I think a lot of people who aren’t familiar with cats walk up to a cat and pet down their back. And maybe that’s because they’re worried about getting bitten and want to stay away from the mouth—who knows. But collar up is the way to go.
This is a big difference between cats and dogs. The safe petting zones for a dog are pretty much everywhere. Anywhere you touch a dog, they’ll be like, yeah, that’s cool, that’s awesome! For cats, though, they don’t really like their legs, stomach, sides, or back, with the area near the base of the tail being an exception.
The reasons for this have to do with what we touched on in last week’s bonding tip. I explained how to correctly pick up a cat, and one wrong way to do it was dangling the cat’s body—cats need to feel secure, after all. For this same reason, your cat’s hind legs are off limits. Their body’s balance depends on those legs, so touching them can make your cat either feel trapped or less secure. Plus, paws have lots of nerve receptors, so even though those toe beans are cute, they’re cuter if you stay away from them. Their stomach is another vulnerable area you should stay away from, unless your cat in particular happens to like it.
You’ll be able to tell when you’re petting the right spot: they’ll look relaxed, they’ll purr or bunt you, or maybe their tail will be upright and slowly waving from side to side. And a lot of the reason they like collar-up pets, apart from it feeling so good, is because of all of the pheromones and glands in that area. If you pet their cheek, for example, it’ll deposit their scent onto you, which is how a cat marks their territory and shows affection.
So, your bonding tip: when you’re petting your cat, stay collar up, and he’ll enjoy it more. And, refer back to our bonding tip a couple weeks ago, where we set a five-second petting rule: only pet for a short time, and then take a break to see if they want to continue. Until next time, keep calm and purr on!
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