Facts about the animal kingdom

Why Do Cats Not Like Their Belly Scratched?

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. July 12, 2018
Why Do Cats Not Like Their Belly Scratched?

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The majority of cats, with few exceptions, are especially reluctant to have their belly touched. They may even react aggressively with bites and scratches. Wrapping their arms around your hand and digging in their claws can seem like an adverse reaction to what was meant to be a friendly petting.

If this has happened with you and your otherwise friendly cat, you may be wondering why do cats not like their belly scratched? More importantly, you might want to know how you can stop it from happening or how to better bond with your pet. AnimalWised explains the causes of this behavior, the meaning of certain body postures and some more general info on good petting habits.

You may also be interested in: Why Does My Cat Expose Their Belly to Me?


  1. Why does my cat not want their belly touched?
  2. Why do cats show their bellies?
  3. Where is the best place to pet a cat?

Why does my cat not want their belly touched?

Despite their reputation of being independent animals, the truth is that cats create intense emotional bonds with their guardians. Aside from sleeping, preening and playing, our cats love to be caressed and stroked. They have parts they particularly enjoy being petted such as the back or neck. However, when our hands move towards their belly, their reaction is the opposite to the contented purrs they normally provide. Why does this happen?

The situation normally develops in the following way: the cat stretches lazily, rolls over on their back to expose their belly, we give them a pat and... it's bite and scratch time. It would seem like they should enjoy being petted here as it is so soft and inviting, but this is part of the issue.

The underside of a cat, their stomach and abdomen are sensitive areas. Underneath they have their vital organs and they need to be particularly protective of these areas when out in the wild. While our intention might be to give them a friendly rub on the belly, many cats will interpret this as an attack. At the very least, they may feel vulnerable.

Why Do Cats Not Like Their Belly Scratched? - Why does my cat not want their belly touched?

Why do cats show their bellies?

To learn how to properly relate to our cats, we must start by learning the body language of cats. Specifically, why do they expose their bellies to us. Unlike what many cat owners may believe, this position is not an invitation to caress them. Rather, it is a position which indicates contentment, well-being or relaxation. Our feline is trying to tell us that they feel comfortable and calm at our side. It is a positive statement, but it doesn't mean they want us to touch them there.

If we keep trying to touch them on their belly, it shows we are not listening. When our cat starts to understand that we are ignoring the information they try to communicate, they begin to manifest other signs characteristic of the species. We may not understand these body language signals either. They might include pulling their ears down, crumpling up their body, displaced movement or rigidity.

If we do not stop, they might begin to flatten their ears even more. They can make restless movements with their tail. Once their hair starts to stand on end, then they may start biting and scratching. For us it seems totally unexpected, yet to our cat we have been ignoring the many signals they have shown us. These signals may come quickly, being hard for us to recognize. However, it is also possible they will simply get up and run away from you.

Should we avoid touching a cat's belly?

We need to understand that each cat is a unique individual. Although many cats hate having their stomach touched, others might not have as much of a problem with it. This is why we need to be informed about feline communication and cat body language. We also need to spend enough time with our cat to know their individual preferences. What we can say is that if your cat does let you rub their belly, it is likely a sign you have healthy relationship and a strong bond of trust.

Why Do Cats Not Like Their Belly Scratched? - Why do cats show their bellies?

Where is the best place to pet a cat?

In addition to their belly area, many cats will not enjoy having their feet or tail touched too much. Again, we must emphasize that when a cat lays down by our side or rubs themselves against us, it doesn't always mean they want to be petted. We also need to remember what our own cat might be trying to say to us.

If they are inviting us for a pet, then it's helpful to know the areas which cats generally prefer to be touched. They include the chin, top of the head, nape of the neck, ears and back. We also need to massage with softness, be attentive to their body language and accept that if they eave our side, they don't want to be touched.

Although most cats enjoy being petted, practically none of them like to be forced to stay by our side or be petted against their will. Cats need their freedom and will express their dislike willingly. This is one of the five freedoms of animal welfare.

If you want to read similar articles to Why Do Cats Not Like Their Belly Scratched?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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Why Do Cats Not Like Their Belly Scratched?