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Are Cats Ticklish? (Where and How To Tickle a Cat)

Posted in: Cat Care - Last Updated: May 25, 2022 - Author: Dexter Jones
Posted in Cat Care 
Last Updated: April 29, 2022  
Author:  Dexter Jones
are cats ticklish

Cats tend to react to tickling in a different way than their pet parents

They don't laugh when they get tickled. Some felines like being tickled but only for a short amount of time. 

Some forms of ticklishness, such as long tickles, become irritating and this annoyance may cause an explosive reaction in your cat. 

It can pounce on you, bite, scratch, or dash out of the room. It's important that you watch your cat's behavior to understand whether it enjoys tickling.

There are some positive and negative signs that reveal clearly how your feline feels about tickling.

Are Cats Ticklish? (in short)

In a word, yes, The best spots on a cat to tickle are the head, chin, face, and neck. 

They are not as sensitive as to irritate your cat from the first touch.

Avoid the ultra-sensitive areas, such as the belly area and tail, as tickling them can cause great discomfort to your furry feline friends.

how to tickle a cat

Can Cats Be Ticklish?

All cats are ticklish but their reaction to tickling differs. 

Some cats adore being tickled, others hate it even if it is a 5-second session. To know whether your kitty loves it, you have to carefully watch its behavior. 

Start slowly and gently and capture the cat's first reaction. If it's positive, keep tickling until your kitty lets you know that it had enough of your 'hooman' affection. 

There is no cat that likes being tickled for hours. The tickles may get irritating after a couple of seconds or minutes, depending on the cat.

How To Tickle a Cat

Cat's preferences are all very individual when it comes to tickling. 

Some purr in pleasure, some wiggle, others pounce on you demanding you to stop. Even those who like tickling will tolerate this bonding behavior only for a short period of time. 

Following your cat's body language is crucial to understanding whether it likes the tickling or not. 

If you neglect all your cat's warning gestures, it will attack you and hold a grudge against you. So to avoid being pounced on and scratched, you have to understand your feline's body language and respond to it adequately. 

Here are the most common reactions of cats exposed to tickling:

cats can be ticklish

Where Are Cat's Ticklish?

Cat Likes: "YES, I like that "

  • Purring. If your cat purrs as you tickle it, be sure you are on the right track. This sound denotes satisfaction and happiness.
  • Short meows. Meowing can have both positive and negative connotations. If meows are high-pitched and short, your kitty enjoys the tickling.
  • Nudging your hand. If your cat nudges your hand as you stop tickling it, it wants you to continue. By nudging, it tells you that it enjoyed tickling and would like to have more of it.
  • Kneading. Cats knead when they are in a good mood. So if your feline starts to knead your hand as you tickle it, it means that it receives pleasure and wants to show you its love and gratitude.
  • Licking. A cat that's being tickled may suddenly start to lick its owner's hand. There is nothing bad in it. It just wants to say thank you for your effort and reward you with care and attention. And of course, by licking you, your cat gives you green light to tickle it even more.

Cat Dislikes: "Get OFF now and RUN!"

  • Tense body. A relaxed body denotes that the cat is ok with being touched. On the other hand, the stiffened body tells two things. One, the cat feels uncomfortable and insecure. And second, its muscles are in ready-to-attack condition. So if you notice that your feline's body got tense, you are better off stopping tickling.
  • Long and high-pitched meows. If your kitty meows long and deep, it's a sign it doesn't want you to tickle it anymore. Leave it alone, or else it may launch an attack on you to protect itself.
  • Hissing and growling. While purring is a peaceful sound, pissing and growling are getting-ready-for-fight sounds aimed at warning and striking fear into the potential opponent. The sounds suggest that the cat is worried about its security and preparing itself for an attack. If you hear them while you tickle your feline, it's a clear sign for you to stop.
  • Swiping at you. Another sign that your cat is ready to hit you unless you stop tickling it is when it swipes its paw at you. You should stop immediately to prevent it from growing angrier.

Why Do Cats Only Like Short Tickling Sessions?

Remember, no cat enjoys long tickling sessions. Much tickling overstimulates the cat's skin, causing it to itch and ultimately discomfort. 

That's why the feline may all of a sudden get irritated by the tickling even if it liked it a few seconds ago. 

If your cat refuses to be tickled, don't insist.

It means it had enough and wants you to leave it alone. Next time, keep the tickling session short and start at the top of the head, moving your hand steadily to other body parts.

Why Do Most Cats Only Enjoy Short Tickle Sessions?

Most cats enjoy being tickled on the neck, cheeks, head, and face which are the most ticklish parts of their body. 

Use a short and gentle type of tickle around a cat's ticklish spots to make sure your furry friend receives pleasure from the act. A cat's paws, front legs, back legs, and a cats ears are a bit more sensitive, so not all cats love to be tickled there. 

There are also multiple vulnerable areas where most cats refuse tickles.

The first tickle spot to avoid is the stomach. Even if the cat exposes its belly to you, it doesn't mean it invites you to tickle it. Not even a touch is welcome. It may just mean that your kitty trusts you and asks you for playtime together. 

If you attempt to touch the ultra-sensitive tummy, your cat may angrily hit and scratch you. 

The same counts for the tail. Just be ultra-aware of your cat's body language.

What about a cat’s back? This area differs from cat to cat. Some cats enjoy having their backs rubbed. 

If you have a long-haired cat, she may enjoy the feel of a brush while being groomed. 

Knismesis in Cats

Some Felines also experience knismesis, which is a tickling sensation that humans also sometimes get.

Knismesis can be an itchy and irritating type of tickle, so one that cats will avoid as well.

This feeling is brought on by something lightly brushing the surface of their skin. It can be experienced as an annoying feeling and may induce a shiver response.

This tickle is thought to be advantageous for cats because it alerts them to insects on our body and gives us the chance to brush them off.

So, the theory os is knismesis response helps protect against bites or parasitic infections.

Gargalesis in Cats

Gargalesis is that familiar type of tickling that makes us humans, and primate,  laugh out loud. 

It is believed that this ticklishness may help with social bonding caused by sharing some uplifting laughter. 

Some researchers also believe that Gargalesis can sharpen fighting skills.

The theory is that gargaleisis allows reflex skills to develop that will potentially help their bodies protect themselves in case a predator attacks.

For example, these sharpened reflexes can help them protect certain vulnerable areas in the body such as the neck and chest.

But we'll let you guys think about that one! 

where are cats ticklish

Are Cats Ticklish on Their Paws?

The cat paw pad is supersensitive, even the lightest touch on their pads can be extremely ticklish and all cat’s reactions vary greatly. 

Most will find this area to be a tickling sensation overload! 

But, you will soon find out what types of ticklishness they like...and show you the ticklish areas to avoid!

Especially around their paws and pad area.

Are Cats Ticklish? The Verdict

Some cats love to be tickled if the tickles are short and light, but respect their tickle boundaries. 

After all, they are sensitive souls.

Prolonged tickling results in skin overstimulation, causing an unpleasant itchy sensation. You should keep an eye on your kitty's body language to see when it wants you to stop petting it. 

Normally, if cays enjoy your touch they may purr, knead with their front paws, make soft movements with their tail, seem relaxed or even nudge your hands when you stop.

Mine does that!

The best spots on a cat to tickle are the head, chin, face, and neck.  They are not as sensitive as to irritate your cat from the first touch.

Avoid the ultra-sensitive areas, such as the belly area and tail, as tickling them can cause great discomfort to your furry feline friends.

And lastly, if you think that your cat is displaying unusual behavior or your cat's body language is 'off' ensure you take them to the vet.

About the author

Dexter Jones has been a solid member of the ‘Mad Cat Dad’ club since time began! Dexter has been a keen cat writer for many years and lives in Croatia. He lives with his two tabby cats, Milly & Marly, who also flew in from the UK to start their new Adriatic island life together.