Why Do Certain Cats Hate Being Petted?

Some cats love being held, but pet them in the wrong place and you'll hear about it.
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While you think you're giving a kitty a little love, he thinks those hands of yours are like missiles coming right for him. Truth is, some cats simply hate being petted, whether it's in certain places or all over. Others have a better reason for their disdain for affection.

A Cat's Preference

Some spots on certain kitties are just off-limits for human hands. Whether the feline in question hates you trying to pet his belly or give him a nice head scratching, it may be nothing against you or your fingers, it's just that he doesn't like being touched in those areas. You may find a bit of resistance around the face especially, mostly because that's where those watchful eyes sit, and some cats aren't fans of you poking around there. But remember, mileage varies and it all largely depends on the cat's preference.

The Way They're Raised

Kitties raised in loving homes where they were constantly held and petted are usually more receptive to a nice cuddling and petting session. Contrast that with cats who had it tough out on the city streets with little to no human interaction. Those street dwellers will naturally be more cautious around human hands. But a feline's petting preference goes beyond whether they lived in a caring home or fended for themselves outside. If a cat is rarely given a tummy rub as a youngster, he may not care for them in the future. If his owners never held him, he's probably not going to be wild about someone picking him up and hugging him as an adult.


Kitties in pain don't much enjoy being touched on the areas that hurt, even for a soothing pat. An abscess on the back or a bad hip, for example, does not feel good when even the gentlest pressure is applied. And since cats are masters at disguising their pain, you'll often never know until you give them a gentle rubdown and suddenly they're latching down onto your hand.


Rather than pulling away when you pet them, some cats lash out. And although this can be a symptom of pain, it can also indicate you have an aggressive feline on your hands. While a swipe of the paw might seem a bit excessive for a back rub, petting causes some cats to become overly excited while it's irritating to others. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals notes that continuous petting in one spot, like the middle of a cat's belly, can quickly become more painful than pleasant, so the kitty's ears twitch, he smacks his nail and then snaps or swats at your hand.


Sometimes a little wicked weather will make the hairs stand up on a cat's back, while other cats become alerted to a kitchen door slamming a bit too hard. Whatever the reason, scared kitties are not too open for any sort of touching. A lot of times you'll freak them out by petting them, because they're already on high-alert and fretting about something. Don't worry, though -- most cats calm down a minute or two after being jarred out of their otherwise lazy cat life. But some cases of fear are caused by people themselves, mostly when a new cat is brought home. The kitty isn't quite sure of his new owners, so he responds by backing away and steering clear for a while. Letting the cat adjust to his new environment; petting him on his terms will probably secure more affection in the future.


Despite their affinity for sleep and rest, cats do sometimes get an urge to let out a little meow and kick it into high speed around the house. When this happens, forget about trying to pet them. They'll often smack you, give you a little nip or run full speed the opposite way. As with being scared, this excitement is usually short-lived, and they'll go back to their normal ways in a short time.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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