Study Suggests You’re Probably Petting Your Cat All Wrong

Owning a cat is a lot like living with a teenager. Most of the time, neither the cat nor the moody teen wants your attention. Every so often, though, they will give you a subtle sign that it’s okay to initiate contact. Be warned — they still might hiss and try to bite your hand (the teen, too). It sounds confusing, and even seasoned cat owners might not know the best practices for human-cat interactions. They often give cats less choice about being touched and are more likely to rub the “danger zones” of the belly and base of the tail. Older cat owners are the most likely to pick up and hold cats, another no-no because it robs the cat of its freedom of movement. Scientists have identified three areas of the body where almost all cats like to be touched: the base of the ears, the cheeks, and under the chin. That’s about it. For cat owners who like organization, researchers have come up with a simple guideline: C-A-T 


C is for choice and control. Bend down and offer a hand and let the cat decide if it wants to approach for snuggling. 


A is for paying attention to the cat’s behavior and body language. Purring and sitting near you means “give me more.” Flattening their ears or licking their nose means “that’s enough.” 


T is for touch, as in think about where you’re touching the cat. Again, the ears, cheeks and chin are good, but approach other areas with caution.