You Should Never Touch These Parts of Your Cat

Unless you want to see a flash of claws, that is.

If you love the fuzzy faces, the swishy tails, and the whole never-have-to-go-outside-multiple-times-daily thing that comes along with cat ownership, you're far from alone. After dogs, cats are the most-popular pet in the United States; according to the U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, 36,117,000 U.S. homes house one or more feline companions.

However, despite the prevalence of these furry friends in American homes, many owners aren't well-acquainted with what makes their pets tick. Second to wondering what's behind cats' never-ending desire to lay waste to anything that's been placed on a tabletop, the biggest source of confusion among cat owners is about where your feline friends is where it's okay to give them a little scratch and what parts of your cat you should never touch.

"A cat is not a small dog, and they don't want to be pet like one," says veterinarian Dr. Liz Bales, founder of Doc & Phoebe's Cat Co. "Many dogs enjoy a good belly rub, but cats are an entirely different story. Cats are highly reactive to belly rubs and are likely to 'attack' a hand that tries to give them one. When a cat is resting and shows you her belly, this means that she is relaxed and trusts you. Make no mistake: this is not an invitation for your hand."

In addition to avoiding their bellies, many cats will eagerly tell their owners that any part south of the neck is a no-go. "Many cats (mine included) enjoy being pet on their head and neck but not necessarily any lower down on their body," says Dr. Gary Richter, a veterinary expert with "A good rule of thumb with cats is to let them tell you where they enjoy being touched. They are certainly not shy about telling us what they like and what they don't!"

So, where should you pet them?

If you want to play it safe, around the ears and under the chin are generally good bets.

However, as appealing as a fluffy tail might be, that's a definite no-no when it comes to petting. In fact, if you take it from researchers at the University of Lincoln, in the United Kingdom, petting your cat on or near their tail is a surefire way to irritate them.

And as for your inclination to keep petting your cat for hours? You should probably refrain. "A dog might like a petting session to go on all day. Not a cat. Cats prefer brief periods of petting. When a session goes on too long, then can become reactive and let you know by a swat of the paw or a bite," says Dr. Bales. "With a cat, less is more."

And while giving your pet the kind of affection he or she wants—and avoiding those sore spots—can make them even more dopily grateful to you, that's far from the only benefit. In fact, according to a review of research published in Frontiers in Psychology, petting an animal can increase oxytocin production, helping you form a closer bond with your pet, reducing stress, lowering your blood pressure, and improving your recovery time.

So, go ahead and give your feline friend some much-deserved affection—it might just do a world of good for both of you.

Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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