Science

Expert reveal you may be petting your cat wrong – and that’s why they snap at you

Petting cats allows owners to bond and show their pets affection, but if your pet snaps every time, you are likely doing it wrong.

Cat behavior experts have found felines loath being stroked against the direction of their fur, around their legs, sides of their bodies and throat region.

If your pet lets you caress these areas, they are likely tolerating the action with the hopes of getting fed after.

Dr Lauren Finka, an expert from Nottingham Trent University, told BBC Science Focus that the best way to stroke a cat is only around its face, such as the cheeks, base of the ears and under the chin.

Petting cats allows owners to bond and show their pets affection, but if your pet snaps every time, you are likely doing it wrong

Petting cats allows owners to bond and show their pets affection, but if your pet snaps every time, you are likely doing it wrong

‘This is probably because these areas of the face contain a lot of skin glands that produce scent,’ Finka told BBC. 

‘Cats are very motivated to use these areas to spread their scent, so these regions probably intrinsically feel quite nice to be stimulated.’ 

It was long believed that cats were first brought on as pets by the ancient Egyptians some 3,600 years ago, but recent advances in DNA testing show they have been by humans’ sides for around 10,000 years. 

However, felines were seen as royalty in ancient Egypt, donning jewels and feasting on food made for a king.

Today they are the world’s second most popular pet, after dogs.

Cats are known for being cuddly, curious and loyal, but they also have an evil side that tends to come out when petted incorrectly.

‘When it comes to petting, it’s best to remember that cats as a species aren’t inherently social or tactile,’ said Finka.

She explained that many pet owners might not know that cats also hate belly rubs.

Dr Lauren Finka, an expert from Nottingham Trent University, told BBC Science Focus that the best way to stroke a cat is only around its face, such as the cheeks, base of the ears and under the chin

Dr Lauren Finka, an expert from Nottingham Trent University, told BBC Science Focus that the best way to stroke a cat is only around its face, such as the cheeks, base of the ears and under the chin

This is due to it feeling vulnerable, as its vital organs are exposed, and they could see the soft stroking as a threat.

Finka also highlighted that just because your furry friend is rubbing up against you does not mean it wants to be handled, but she shared some signs to be on the look out for.

When annoyed, cats might very sharply turn their head toward our hands. Or they may turn their heads to look at us. They might also simply freeze or stop actively encouraging the interaction (such as stop purring),’ said Finka.

Your cat’s ears will likely rotate to the side or appear flattened on its head or them licking its nose or rippled fur.

Another sign of annoyance is if your cat starts trashing or twitching its tail.

‘These relatively subtle indicators are happening quite often in many cats I observe being touched, but people usually tend not to focus on them – or misinterpret what they actually mean,’ Finka said.

However, her research shows the opposite happens when you pet your cat around its face.

‘This is probably because these areas of the face contain a lot of skin glands that produce scent,’ said Finka. 

‘Cats are very motivated to use these areas to spread their scent, so these regions probably intrinsically feel quite nice to be stimulated.’ 


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