Why do our kitties scratch us when we stroke them?

Cat being stroked

One thing has been puzzling us at HiLife HQ this week - why do our kitties roll over and seemingly invite us to stroke their belly, but then scratch or bite us when we do?

We might think that we’re pretty good at knowing what our cats like and dislike, but in the complicated world of feline behaviour, things aren’t always what they seem…

Misreading body language
When our cats roll on their backs, it could be interpreted as quite an obvious sign they want to be stroked. When dogs roll onto their backs, it’s a common sign they fancy some fussing and a belly rub. With cats however, lying on their back is a greeting behaviour that shows a kitty trusts you. Giving them a belly rub, could then be seen as a violation of the trust – leading to a bite or scratch from a miffed moggie. This doesn’t mean they don’t want any affection at all, but they might just prefer a head rub instead.

It’s a natural instinct
In the wild, our kitties would refrain from lying with their bellies exposed, as it would leave them vulnerable to predators. This feeling of vulnerability could explain their reaction to being stroked whilst on their back, as it could provoke their instinctive fear of danger.

Although it’s common for cats not to enjoy being stroked whilst on their backs, those that show aggressive behaviours towards being stroked in general, may not have been handled enough as kittens, and therefore may require some training to prevent these behaviours becoming troublesome. If you are finding this to be a big issue with your cat, it may be time to contact your vet.

How to spot if your cat’s had enough

Many of us find stroking our cats a relaxing way to spend time with our pets, but we also want them to enjoy the experience too. If you’re not sure if your cat is happy with being petted, watch out for warning signs such as ears pointing backwards instead of forwards, and a twitching then lashing tail. You might also notice a ‘mini freeze’ where your cat is completely still for a few moments, this could be an indication that they’ve had enough of being stroked.

Many kitties of course, love being fussed and petted by their owners. It is ultimately up to you to decide if they appear to be distressed by the experience, and referring to this simple guide could help to decode some puzzling signs from your cat.

Does your cat have any pet peeves? Let us know on our Facebook and Twitter pages. 

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