Stroking a Cat

Stroking a Cat

by Michael

Back of the head - good spot to stroke for the cat...

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Back of the head - good spot to stroke for the cat...

Stroking a cat is commonsense isn't it? We just do what comes naturally to us don't we? I mean we do what we like. Stroking a cat is one of the pleasures in our relationship with cats. It is relaxing and helps create a nice bond with our cat.

We nearly always stroke a cat in a way that pleases us. This is normal as it is what we know.

But what does the cat think about it all and what does the cat prefer? The answer must come in the way cats lick each other, particularly the way a mother licks its young. The sensation that a kitten feels when licked by its mother is brought forward to our cat when we stroke him our her.

Cats lick us. It is their way of stroking us!

So, I say that stroking a cat should mimic to a good extent the way cats lick each other. That might be the ideal or a starting point but I am not saying we should religiously stick to that style. It gives us some guidance.

The big obstacle for the human is that we are much bigger and stronger than a cat which can mean (
for men particularly) that we are a bit heavy handed (actually cats are very strong but generally we are stronger). The second obstacle is that we use the hand rather than a tongue! And a hand is much larger. But I don't actually see this as an obstacle. It is probably a plus point. Of course the third obstacle is that we are not in fact cleaning the cat. Stroking a cat is simulating the cleaning of a cat, no more, from the perspective of a cat.

Stroking a cat is perhaps the most common form of interaction between cat and human after putting some food down for her.

I find that cats prefer shortish strokes near and around the head and shoulders. This also, as it happens, mirrors to a good extent what takes place between cats licking each other.

Also the hind quarters (the top of the legs mainly) are I think a more sensitive area. Perhaps because it is the rear of the cat, a more vulnerable area generally.

It might also be useful to stroke a cat in those places that are inaccessible to the cat, under the chin and at the back of the head. This is where other cats lick their cat friends, siblings and offspring for obvious reasons. Sure, our stroking is not functionally beneficially in the same way a cat's lick would be but our cat still likes it because he or she thinks the fur is being cleaned and it is friendly action creating an emotionally warmer environment for the cat. There is some scent exchange going on.

We all have our own ideas and theories but going back to basics should guide us, I believe. But I am not saying we should mimic a cat's licking behavior religiously.

Here is a video of a cat licking another cat. It is nothing special except is gives us the clue as to what to do, I think. The cat licks the inaccessible areas of the head. This is something that would not necessarily come naturally to us (and I don't mean actually licking but stroking in those areas!).


Cats don't always just lick other cats in inaccessible places, of course. But these are the places that should, I think, take priority for us to stroke.

Associated pages:

How to Bond With A Cat

How to Make Our Cat Happy

From Stroking a Cat to Home Page

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Stroking a Cat

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Dec 21, 2009 To Dorothy
by: Ruth

Sadly Bryan had to be PTS at only 10 years old as he had cancer.He was always a caring cat and was my rock when my mother was ill and died horribly of cancer. He gave me so much comfort!
So when Bry was diagnosed and the vet said she could keep him going a while longer but he'd be in pain,I couldn't do that to him,I loved him too much.
Bryan had a happy life, as shortly after Bert died, along came Ebony,another needy kitten around the same age as him,so they grew up together and were always great friends. Ebby lived to almost 17 years old.
It's so sad that cats lives are so short in comparison with ours isn't it !

Dec 21, 2009 To Ruth (and Michael)
by: Dorothy

RUTH! What a tender loving story! Animals always come to us for the right reasons. Always to learn something new. Now I want to know the rest of the story. How long did you have Bryan? Bryan the hospice angel cat. Wonderful.

Michael, you are funny........


Dec 21, 2009 Comforting licks
by: Ruth

Dorothy you stroking Bigfoot with the washcloth, and your comments Micheal, reminded me of a very old cat we had at one time, our Bert.

We'd taken in a little kitten found in a pond in a carrier bag, with a brick in. We had 3 cats already and with Bert being old and frail we worried how he would cope with a kitten around, but we couldn't turn him away.

We called him Bryan. Bert lived another 3 months and Bryan was his 'carer' all that time. Tiny as he was, he washed all around Bert's head and ears every day and then curled up with him.

It was lovely to see. I'm sure he brought a lot of comfort to Bert as he used to purr like mad when Bry was with him.

Dec 20, 2009 I want some
by: Michael

Dorothy I want some of that :). Seriously, I like the idea of using a damp cloth sometimes. A damp cloth can be used to clean the coat of an old or infirm cat that finds some areas inaccessible but why not use it occasionally to mimic the lick of a cat more accurately?

Dec 19, 2009 I enjoyed watching that
by: Barbara

Cats are so innocently gorgeous aren't they? It's lovely to see them together like that, though I had to smile at the stranglehold and the licks getting faster and faster, I can well imagine after the video ends that it ends up in a scrap.

I'll try doing Walter's inaccessible bits when he comes on the bed tonight.

Dec 19, 2009 To Michael
by: Dorothy

This morning, after watching this video and posting a comment, I went upstairs to Bigfoot with a scratchy warm damp washcloth and started giving him short strokes around his head and ears and cheeks. Just like in the video. He melted into it like the memories of mom and litter mates came flooding back. Ahhhh, so nice. The scratchy wash cloth probably felt like a prickly tongue.

Happy Stroking everyone!


Dec 19, 2009 I learned
by: Michael

Hi Dorothy, I am the same as you. I kinda learned over the years. After a while you see cats as friends and don't see a cat. Then it falls into place.

Dec 19, 2009 Wonderful
by: Dorothy


Thanks for this. The video is wonderful, and the lesson an important one. I learned the hard way. The temptation to touch the lovely creature all over was strong, but the teeth and claws of my feline teacher sharp and quick. I think I've got it down now.


Dec 19, 2009 Stroking cats
by: Ruth aka Kattaddorra

That is a lovely video, I love to see cats licking each other.Like Jan, I could watch them for hours.
Our boyz never do it but Jozef used to lick both our late girlz, especially around the head and ears and they loved it, that is until his teeth 'slipped' lol and it ended up in a game.
I once read that when we stroke a cat, it feels to them like a giant tongue.They do love being stroked, and stroking a cat is good for helping people relax too.

Dec 19, 2009 Scent Exchange
by: Michael

Hi Jan...Rubbing each other and you (you are seen as a cat) is scent exchange. They are depositing their scent on each other and you to make their world more friendly. There are glands at the base of the tail and on the sides of the head for example.

We can't smell it. A cat's sense of smell is 8 (or is it 14 times) times better than ours.

Sense of Smell of a Cat touches on this

Dec 19, 2009 men are ...well men
by: Jan Plant

I could watch this for hours and you make some great points.I notice all my ferals when greeting each other always rub heads and entwine their tails.Any thoughts? They also rub heir heads on my legs when I first go out.I feel honored, but why do they do this?

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