How to tell if your cat actually likes belly rubs

Many dogs will enthusiastically greet you, then flop onto the floor and roll onto their backs, hoping for a belly rub. While dogs often enjoy belly rubs, cats aren’t always thrilled by having you pat them on their bellies. Whether or not your cat likes belly rubs really depends on the cat, so if you’re looking to show your cat affection, you may want to avoid his belly, at least at first. Knowing how to tell if your cat likes belly rubs can help not only keep you safe from scratches or nips but also ensure that you’re giving your cat attention in the way he likes and wants.

Person patting a relaxed cat lying on its side

Do cats like belly rubs?

Sometimes. It really depends on the cat. Cats have very sensitive tummies, and the area can be ticklish. Additionally, a cat’s belly is a vulnerable spot. If your cat lets you rub his stomach, he’s showing a lot of trust in you.

Some cats are just fine with belly rubs, and they may even roll over next to you and ask for them. Other cats can react strongly, feeling threatened or uncomfortable when you try to rub their bellies. Every cat is different, and even if you gradually introduce the idea of a belly rub, your cat may just never be comfortable with it.

Because belly rubs are hit or miss depending on your cat, it’s important to learn to read your cat’s body language so you can tell how he feels about tummy rubs. If your cat loves tummy rubs, that’s great, but if your cat doesn’t like them, you’ll need to find other ways of showing him affection.

Signs your cat likes belly rubs

If your cat enjoys having his stomach rubbed, chances are he’ll make it pretty easy to tell:

  • Your cat may roll over even more, might stretch out, and might lift his legs apart, fully exposing his body to the sky — and to you. As you rub his belly, your cat should be relaxed and happy to stay pretty still.
  • Your cat may also purr while getting a belly rub.
  • He might reposition himself to get comfy, but quite likely, he’ll partially or fully close his eyes and relax.
Tiger cat lying on its back in the sun

Signs your cat doesn’t like belly rubs

If your cat doesn’t like belly rubs, it’s usually easy to tell.

  • He might tense up his body and draw up his legs when you touch his body.
  • If he’s been lying with his belly up and exposed, he might flip over or even jump up and walk away.
  • Your cat might also hiss or growl, and if he does, he’s sending you a strong warning to back off.

Some cats will react quickly when they feel threatened as you touch their bellies. It’s possible that your cat will curl all four legs up and grab your hand with his paws. He might bite at your hand, too. Remember, this isn’t a personal attack on you. Your cat is responding because he’s uncomfortable and may have been startled. He’s defending himself in a natural, instinctive way.

If you notice these signs of discomfort in your cat, stop rubbing his belly immediately. Some cats just aren’t fond of belly rubs, and it’s important to respect that.

Where to pat your cat

While your cat might not love belly rubs, there are other ways to pat him so that he enjoys the experience. Most cats love to have their chins and chest rubbed. Some cats are also used to having you pat their backs. Avoid sensitive areas like the paws, tummy, and tail, but watch how your cat reacts as you pat him to get a sense of what he loves best.

Keeping your cat comfy and happy during these patting sessions is a matter of paying attention to him. Cats are good at communicating with body language, so watch him carefully. You may start to notice signs when he’s getting uncomfortable or tired of the attention, and you may be able to stop patting him before he feels that he needs to get up and walk away. Showing your cat physical affection can be a great way to bond with him, but it’s always important that you provide that affection on your cat’s terms.

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