When it comes to being touched, cats have a few rules of engagement to follow
Flickr photo by John Morton
This seems especially true when having close physical contact with them, as cats can seem so eager to nuzzle and invite petting at times — even doing something called "bunting", characterized by head-butting — but at other times your touch will seem abruptly unwanted.
This can be alarming especially if you've got little ones who are eager to get up close and personal with their favorite feline.
There are some cats that never seem to want to be petted, and others only invite the contact when they initiate it. The vast majority of cats really do love to petted, and as long as you follow the "rules of engagement," as I call them, you can help avoid getting scratched or, worse, bitten.
The important thing to remember is that it's not personal.
By instinct, felines understand a couple of things about themselves that are unique to their species. In the wild, they know that they are seen as both a predator (to small animals like mice) as well as prey (think coyotes), so with that in mind, that makes the task of cracking the code of what cats find disagreeable a little bit easier for us.
Because of that knowledge, cats have a tendency to be on alert.
When a feline is in danger, there’s no place on the body that's as important to protect as the abdomen — that’s where all the vital organs are!
Granted, some of our furry friends seem receptive to an occasional tummy rub (usually from a trusted person). But, rest assured that if you start rubbing a typical cat's tummy, in turn you'll get a response that isn't equally warm. In fact, it's more likely that kitty will kick, scratch and bite your hand.
The places cats enjoy being petted are those where their scent glands are concentrated.
When you pet a cat in the areas of the head and chin, you'll delight your cat. It's not only that it feels good, but your cat's scent is inadvertently being transferred onto you — this is something that pleases cats greatly.
Other green-light areas are:
- Base of the chin
- Base of the ears
- Cheeks behind the whiskers
- Base of the tail
I promise you, if you stick to these unspoken cat rules, you will have quality time with your favorite feline, and reinforce the all-important bond between the two of you.
Lorrie Shaw leads the pets section for AnnArbor.com. Connect with her on Google +, on Twitter @psa2 or e-mail her directly.