Cat Petting

Let your cat choose when to be petted

Cats are more loving when people are in tune with their needs, researchers have shown.

Cats have a reputation for being stand-offish and perhaps not as friendly as dogs. While this is unfair, most cats do tend to appreciate interacting with humans on their own terms.

In a new study, researchers at Nottingham Trent University found that paying close attention to cats’ behaviour and body language and thinking about where to stroke them were key when improving interactions between cats and people.

Cute cat

Lead researcher Dr Lauren Finka worked in collaboration with animal welfare charity Battersea to develop a simple set of interaction guidelines, and found that when these were followed cats were significantly less likely to behave aggressively towards people and were also more affectionate.

The guidance for owners and cattery staff aims to address the fact that many people struggle to recognise when cats might not enjoy being petted.

It follows a simple ‘CAT’ acronym that encourages people to provide the cat with choice and control (C), pay attention (A) to the cat’s behaviour and body language, and think about where they are touching (T) the cat.

For example, try gently offering a hand to the cat and letting it decide if it wants to interact or not, usually indicated by it rubbing against the person’s hand. Owners should allow the cat to move away if it chooses, and not be tempted to pick it up or follow it, as this takes away the cat’s sense of control.

People should also pay close attention to their cat’s behavioural reactions — if they turn their head or move away during the interaction, their ears rotate or become flattened, they shake their head or lick their nose, the fur along their back appears to ‘ripple’ or their tail ‘swishes’ rapidly then take these as signs the cat may need a break from petting. Similarly, if the cat goes a little still, stops purring or rubbing against you, suddenly starts grooming itself or sharply turns its head to face you, then it is unlikely to welcome further stroking.

And in terms of where cats like to be stroked, most friendly cats prefer the base of their ears, around their cheeks and under their chin.

Whether your cat enjoys snuggles and playtime or has a more independent streak, cat insurance from Purely Pets can cover you against the cost of vet bills for illness and injury. Why not get a quote today?