Your Cat's Petting Preferences

Discover where cats like being petted most. Your cat will thank you for it.

By Brad Kollus | Posted: Tue Feb 1 00:00:00 PST 2005

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man and catDo you know what your cat's petting preferences are? Susan Soennichsen and Arnold S. Chamove of the Psychology Department at Massey University in New Zealand decided to find out where cats like to be pet most. They conducted a research study on the responses of cats to petting by humans, and the results were published in the academic journal Anthrozoos.

Soennichsen and Chamove studied nine different cats. Each cat was petted for 60 minutes on four different locations on its body:

1. Between the ear and eye (the temporal gland located on the upper cheek).

2. The chin and lip area (the perioral gland).

3. The lower back at the base of the tail (the caudal gland).

4. On one of three non-gland areas, either the head, the back or the chest.

The researchers' results showed that cats strongly preferred being petted between their ears and eyes on their upper cheek the most (the temporal region), and the caudal region on their lower back near their tail the least. The perioral gland area on the chin and lips and the non-gland areas of the head, back and chest were preferred second.

The researchers theorize that cats like to be petted on their upper cheek or temple the most because they are able to mark us with their scent glands when we pet them there and this is their way of socially bonding with us. Cats rub against other familiar cats and objects with their cheek and temple for the same reason. If you want to please your cat the most pet it on its upper cheek and temple between its ear and eye. They will think you are the cat's meow!

- More Fun for You and Your Cat -

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Reader Comments

Tracy    Baxter Springs, KS

3/18/2015 8:31:01 AM

Patches has rules for petting her. First she walks up to you and flops onto her back. She lets you greet her by rubbing her tummy. Then she begins moving her paws to move your hands to under her chin. If you listen to her hints then she moves your hands to the top of her head. Next is the place under her chin. She then rolls over and has you scratch and pet her on the head and chin alternately for as long as she is willing. If you do it wrong, she will get mad at you and hiss and growl. She will walk away until she is over her anger at being ignored. Then after a while, she comes back to see if you are willing to listen to her. She will let you pet her until hunger or play demands her attention if you do it right.

PounceandPlay    Portland, OR

3/4/2015 4:21:25 PM

I'm curious why cats seem to always really enjoy being petted on the "lower back at the base of the tail". It makes me wonder if it is a spot they can't reach and it feels good. Like how we like to have our backs scratched.


3/3/2015 11:23:06 AM

My Taco Cat has his caudal gland about 1/2 way up his back.He is a 8 yr old Manx /Rag Doll. Because of his Manx genes his lower vertebra are different giving him a shorter spinal column.The Problem here is that his Caudal gland excretes oil that does't get used up . That oil gets into his long hair and then becomes matted clumps. The Fix? Shave that area . Taco has this 2"x 4" bald spot in the middle of his back! Anyhoo, does anybody have any input here! Meawhile Taco has a reverse Mohawk.

Angela    Bartow, FL

1/30/2015 10:46:55 AM

I have a Tabby that loves to be petted on his temporal gland and his upper back and tummy. He just purrs and kicks back and rolls over. Sometimes he will wag his tail fast. He acts like a dog. If he could bark, (which I'm trying to teach) I'm set. Don't like dogs.

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