ExcitedCats is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.

Can Cats Be Ticklish?

Cats as pets have generally been unpredictable. They move around the house on their own will, they find ways to reach hard-to-reach places, and always manage to land on their feet.

While versatile and unpredictable, they are also difficult to read when it comes to showing affection.

One day they may snuggle up on your lap and let you tickle their whiskers, another day they may swipe at you with their paws when you attempt to touch them in the same place. They will let you touch certain areas while never letting you even attempt to touch others. But is this behavior because they do not enjoy the physical interaction, or are they just ticklish?

cat face divider 2

The Ticklish Cat

Yes, cats do experience the ticklish sensation but not in the same way a human would. There are two types of ticklishness, one is experienced by the cat and the other by the human.

When a person is tickled, the natural response for that person is to laugh. The type of tickle a person experiences is called gargalesis, which evokes laughter. In humans, tickling is closely related to joy and laughter as tickling causes people to laugh out loud.

British Shorthair
Image Credit: PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek, Shutterstock

Cats, on the other hand, do not laugh. They experience a ticklishness known as knismesis, which does not evoke a humorous response. This type of tickle is like an itch, like when an insect walks on your skin or if a feather lightly brushes on your arm. In fact, cats’ ticklishness can either be pleasurable or an expression of annoyance, depending on the cat.

Ticklish Areas to Check

While these are common ticklish areas for cats, it is important to familiarize yourself with your cat’s preference of where she wants to be tickled. There are many tickle spots for a cat, and it may take time to determine what areas your cat prefers. If a cat purrs, nudges, and does not pull away from you, then you may have found a tickle spot that your cat enjoys!

  • Your Cat’s Head, Chin, Neck, and Ears – A cat’s head is a common spot for petting. If you find that your cat enjoys it, try moving on to her chin, her neck, or maybe behind hear ears. Give these areas some light stroking or petting and see if your cat moves her head toward you asking for more!
  • Your Cat’s Back – A cat’s back is a very exposed part of their body. Some cats may or may not enjoy being touched on their backs. For this area, it is important to read your cat’s reaction when you attempt to gently brush her back.
  • Your Cat’s Body – A cat’s body may be tricky, as this consists of the chest and belly. Your cat may approach you with her head up and neck extended, giving you a signal to pet her chest which is the area in between her two front legs. The belly, however, is the sensitive part of the cat and she may swipe at you if you attempt to touch it. When a cat turns over and lies on her back, it does not necessarily mean she wants you to pet her belly as the cat is most vulnerable in this position. Some cats enjoy belly rubs, but if a cat does not allow you to touch her belly then it may be best not to even try.
  • Tail – A cat’s tail is always moving, but some cats find it enjoyable to have her tail rubbed. You may find your cat enjoying the tail rub if she remains calm but may walk away if she prefers not to be touched in that area.

Is My Cat Enjoying It?

cat on womans lap
Image Credit: Impact Photography, Shutterstock

Cats have their own personalities and may express their enjoyment and pleasure of the tickle in different ways. Your cat remaining relaxed with her tail gently moving back and forth is usually a good sign that she enjoys the physical interaction.

Most cats would also purr and nudge at you to continue. They can also rub themselves against you and reach out to you with their paws when you stop.

While looking for signs that your cat enjoys tickling, it is also important to find signs that your cat does not enjoy it. Subtle movements in your cat’s body language can show that she does not like it such as continuous chance in positions, as well as if your cat begins to self-groom and shake her head. Your cat may also flatten their ears while blinking excessively.

Other signs are not as subtle, such as explicit swiping with their paws or simply walking away.

How Can I Tickle My Cat?

Cats, again, can be very unpredictable. Each cat is an individual and not all of them enjoy it. It is important to read your cat’s body language and behavior to see if you are receiving a green light to give them a few gentle strokes. If your cat does enjoy it, physical affection can help enhance your relationship with your cat.

When engaging your cat, always let the cat approach you. Never make the first move as the cat may not be comfortable with physical engagement at that moment. Let your cat make the attempt and with proper timing, give the cat a few gentle strokes.

Different cats will have different preferences. When you familiarize yourself with the areas your cat enjoys tickling, remember to keep the contact brief, and read your cat’s body language. Use light, gentle tickles rather than rapid and heavy movements.

Finally, stay relaxed. Keeping the atmosphere relaxed while still showing emotion can help your cat feel comfortable with you.

a woman's hand petting a cat
Image Credit: Yerlin Matu, Unsplash

cat paw divider

Final Takeaway

Cats do experience ticking, but not like humans or other animals. They have their own personalities, that is why it is important to treat them like individuals by finding each of their preferences. Brushing, petting, and tickling is a good way to express affection toward your cat but as a pet owner, it is also your responsibility to respect your cat’s personal boundaries.


Featured Image: uzhursky, Shutterstock