Cats show love for their humans in some interesting ways. They might meow in your direction for hours or bring a dead animal into your house because they think you're too stupid to hunt. But when it comes to physical affection like scratches and pets, many cats can't get away from their owners fast enough. If you have a cat that flinches every time you go to touch them, don't give up on cuddle time so quickly. According to Lauren Finka at The Conversation, there are steps you can take to increase your chances of petting a cat successfully.
Finka is a postdoctoral researcher who specializes in cat welfare and behavior. She writes that there is a right way to pet a cat, and the key is to let them be in control. If a cat comes to you for pets instead of the other way around, they're less likely to run away from the interaction.
Even if you are the one to initiate, it helps to read your cat's body language and adjust your petting strategy accordingly. Are they struggling to get away from you, whipping their tail, or nipping your hand? Those are strong signals that your cat is unhappy with how they're being touched, and you should move on to a new spot. Alternatively, if they're purring, kneading, or gently swaying their tail in response to your pets, you should continue what you're doing.
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Though dogs tend to be more receptive to petting than cats in general, this is the same advice veterinarians give to people looking to pet dogs. If you want an animal to let you pet them, you need to make sure the experience is enjoyable for them first and foremost. But dogs differ from cats in this area in some major ways. While many dogs may love getting rubbed on their lower back and chest, these zones are generally off-limits for cats. They would usually prefer getting touched on spots near their facial glands, like their cheeks, the base of their ears, and bottom of their chins.
[h/t The Conversation]