The Best and Worst Places to Pet Your Cat

One of the reasons we love cats so much is because they're particular about many things — including, of course, where they like to be petted. Some spots always seem to turn on the purring machine in your feline, while others inevitably draw out the claws. In fact, there's so much science to it that Dr. Marty Becker wrote an article on this very topic.

Check out the photo gallery below to see if your cat's sweet spots match the common places that felines like to be rubbed. And before you get to the last slide, try to guess the one place that many cats hate to be touched! Let us know if you got it right in the comments below.

Four Places to Pet Your Cat, and One to Leave Alone

Places to Pet Your Cat

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Good: Base of the Chin

Many cats love to be rubbed gently along the underside of the chin, especially where the jawbone connects to the skull. One reason is that a cat's scent glands are concentrated on the face, along the cheek and jaw.

Places to Pet Your Cat

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Good: Cheeks Behind the Whiskers

So what is it about scent-gland areas that cause cats to enjoy being petted there? When you rub these spots (like the cheeks behind the whiskers, pictured here), the glands release your cat's scent onto you. Cat experts call this "scent marking."

Places to Pet Your Cat

Russell Powell for vetstreet.com

Good: Base of the Ears

"Scent marking" is what cats do to make their environment smell familiar by leaving a signal of comfort or safety. That's the whole idea behind "bunting" — when your cat bumps his head against you — and it's why many cats love being petted at the base of the ears.

Places to Pet Your Cat

Russell Powell for vetstreet.com

Good: Base of the Tail

Here's another sweet spot that many cat owners know their felines love. If you've noticed that your cat ramps up the purring when you run your palm down his back and apply gentle pressure right at the base of the tail, you're in good company!

Places to Pet Your Cat

Russell Powell for vetstreet.com

Bad: Belly Rub

Like many of us, you may have gone in for a belly rub when your cat rolled over during a petting session — and wound up with scratch marks as a thank you. What is it about belly rubs that cause the claws to come out? Cats (even those who feel very safe in their homes) are constantly aware of their role as prey to other animals on the food chain. The most important area for them to protect is the belly, since that's where all their vital organs are accessible to predators. Of course, this doesn't mean that your cat doesn't trust you — it's just a natural defensive maneuver he inherited from his ancestors.

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