Most pets have favorite spots on their body where they liked to be scratched or stroked. But there are also areas where most cats or dogs hate to be touched. Learn about the good, the bad and the oh-don’t-stop spots for petting cats or dogs with our handy infographics. We’ll also go over how to tell when enough is enough and it’s time to stop the pets.
Nope! Not There!
First, let’s go over where is generally not a good spot to touch on a cat or dog, which will hopefully save both of you some angst. Dogs typically don’t like being touched on the top of their head or on their muzzle, legs, paws or tail. Cats also don’t like their legs, paws or tail being touched, and unlike dogs, their belly is a no-go zone. There are a number of reasons why these areas could be no-no’s for your pet, including sensitivity to touch or the fact that they make your pet feel uncomfortable or vulnerable.
Ahhh, That’s the Spot!
So where are the oh-so-good, leg-shaking spots? Cats generally like being stroked along their back, around their cheeks and the base of their ears, and under their chin. For dogs, the spot where the tail joins their upper back is a particularly good spot for a scratch. They also like under-chin tickles and rubs on the back of their neck near their collar. And of course, the good old belly rub is one the most favorite spots of nearly all dogs.
Read the Signs of When to Stop
Too much of a good thing is possible, which is why it’s important to read your pet’s body language while giving them pets. If they’re uncomfortable with the area you’re touching or want to do something different, they will quickly let you know by their posture, facial expressions and maybe even some low growls or quick hisses. Of course, running away from you is another clear indicator that you’re not in the right spot or they’ve had enough.
If you have a cat and a dog, it’s important to know that some of their body language has very different meanings. For example, a dog lying with their belly exposed is a submissive greeting or an invitation for a belly rub. However, this is a self-defense posture for a cat because it allows them to have all of their paws ready to react to a threat (i.e., it’s not an invitation for a belly rub).
Tails also present different signals between cats and dogs. A wagging (or whipping) tail on a cat suggests a potentially unpleasant interaction is about to happen while a relaxed, friendly cat will hold their tail high. On the other paw, a wagging tail on a dog is typically a friendly sign, but a dog with a tail held high signals agitation and possibly aggression.
Petting Is Good for Both of You
Petting cats or dogs can not only make them purr-fectly happy, it can also help relieve stress in their owners. Petting a dog can lead to lower blood pressure and a slower heart rate, and one study found that just 10 minutes of petting a dog or cat lowered cortisol levels (a key stress-related hormone) in college students. Strokes and rubs are also a good opportunity to give your cat or dog a calm and not-so-obvious health check to make sure they don’t have any lumps, bumps, ticks or other health concerns.
Where to Pet a Cat
We’ve taken the guesswork out of where cats love, like and hate to be pet with this handy infographic. But remember, every cat is different, so these go/no-go spots may not be right for every cat.
Where to Pet a Dog
Dogs have more “Yes!” spots than cats, but there are still areas where dogs prefer not to be touched. Learn about all the good and not-so-good spots here. But keep in mind that these don’t apply to all dogs — you need to learn the right spots for your dog.
Every pet is different, and while one dog may love the base of their tail being scratched, another may not. Over time, you will get to know your pet’s favorite spot and which body parts to avoid. And if you meet a new pet, always ask their owner the best place to pet their dog or cat (and if it’s OK to pet them in general).
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