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Animals

Do Cats Actually Like Belly Rubs? A Vet Weighs In

A purrfect question to ask as a cat parent.

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Every feline friend has their own needs and wants — no two cats are the same. Let’s take belly rubs, for example: Dogs love them, but with cats, it’s a toss up. And do the ones that love them really like getting pets on their belly, or do they just tolerate it? Fortunately, Genna Mize, DVM, Technical Services Veterinarian at Virbac, is here to answer our burning question of whether cats do or don’t like belly rubs.

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Do cats like belly rubs?

Every cat responds differently to petting, but Dr. Mize tells Woman’s World they may not appreciate belly rubs. “The ‘undercarriage’ and tail area of cats can be quite sensitive, so the sensation of tactile touch in these vulnerable areas is often overstimulating for our feline friends,” she explains.

She also warns that cats are usually in attack mode when laying on their back. “When cats are on their back naturally, they are typically implementing this position to interact with prey as they can use all claws and teeth,” she says. “If you own cats, it is likely your hand has been victim to this act when your cat feels playful, and you fall for the trap.”

Dr. Mize adds that cats have scent glands in certain areas of their bodies, including their cheeks and paw pads. Cats prefer contact in these areas using fingers — or they’ll rub them against surfaces. These scent markers identify members of their colony, especially human family members and friends.

Most importantly, cats who don’t like belly rubs could scratch or bite you as a result of doing so — yikes!

What does it mean if my cat lets me rub their belly?

If your cat doesn’t mind belly rubs, that’s good news. Veterinarian Rebecca Schmidt, DVM, says it’s a sign of trust, as a cat’s belly is the most vulnerable spot on their body.

But always keep in mind how your cat responds to this type of touch to avoid breaking their trust. “Just know that cats who enjoy stomach rubs are the exception rather than the norm and [be sure to] watch their body language – twitching of the tail, pinning back of the ears, or their eye contact with your hand means it is time to back off,” Dr. Mize notes.

Are there other ways to show my cat affection?

Whether your beloved cat enjoys belly rubs or not, there are other ways to show them love. “Most cats enjoy gentle scratching on their chin and cheeks — again, back to their scent glands,” Dr. Mize says. “Some cats also enjoy a good scratch on their lower back above their tail.” 

Ultimately, your little one has their own unique personality and tolerance levels. Let your cat’s body language dictate how you show affection and communicate with them. “As any cat owner can testify, your world revolves around theirs, not vice versa!” she concludes.

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