Open the palm of your hand and softly touch her body. Wait for the cat to bump her head against you. When a cat bumps her head into your hand, it’s a signal she wants attention. If you are busy at the moment, at least pet her once or twice, to let the cat know you aren’t ignoring her.
Pet the cat once if she jumps into your lap and lies down. If she does, it may be that she just wants to lie there and relax, as humans are a great source of body heat. If she doesn’t fidget, you can continue to lightly stroke her spine or in the spots described in Part 2. Pet a cat when she’s on her side. Cats love to be petted when they are on their sides. Lightly stroke the side that is facing up.
If it meows or purrs, it may communicating enjoyment. Purring is one way a cat signals that it feels sociable and wants attention. When accompanied by hip bumps, ankle twining or head bumping, it means your cat wants you to pet it right now. Sometimes one stroke is all the cat wants, like a handshake or a greeting, rather than a long hug and snuggle session. The loudness of a cat’s purring denotes its happiness level. The louder the purring is, the happier the cat is at the time. A soft purr means that it is content, a loud purr means very happy.
Excessively loud purring means over-excessive happiness, which can sometimes switch quickly to annoyance, so be careful. Watch for signs that the cat does not want to be petted anymore. Sometimes even petting that feels good to the cat can become overstimulating or irritating, particularly if it is repetitive. If you’re not paying attention, the sign to stop may come in the form of a soft, inhibited bite or scratch. Start with a soft chin-scratch. Use your fingertips or fingernails to gently rub the chin, particularly where the jawbone connects to the skull. It’s possible the cat will push into your stroke or jut out her chin, both signs of enjoyment.
Focus on the area between or behind the ears. Use the pads of your fingers and apply gentle pressure. The base of the ears is another scent-marking spot for cats. Pet the cat’s cheeks just behind the whiskers. If the cat likes this, she may rotate her whiskers forward, effectively asking for more. Gently run the back of your hand along the side of face. Stroke the cat from forehead to tail.
Pet the forehead, then run your hand from forehead to the base of tail, going from head to tail repeatedly. Massage her neck muscles by pinching gently. Apply gentle pressure and make it a continuous, slow motion. Don’t touch the tail or move your hand along to the side. If the cat likes what you’re doing, she’ll arch her back to add more pressure to your hand. When you bring your hand back to where you started, the cat may rub her forehead firmly against your hand to encourage you to do it again. If the cat puts her ears back, cowers away from your hand, or just walks away, stop petting.
You can scratch gently as you bring your hand down along the cat’s back, but don’t stop at one spot and scratch there. Apply a little pressure at the base of the tail, though with caution. This is another scent gland area, and there are cats that like getting scratched right here. Others, however, have a habit of suddenly snapping their teeth at your hand when they’ve had enough. Keep your petting from the head to the tail and don’t switch directions. Some cats do not like getting stroked from tail to head. Some cats enjoy it, but some don’t, and if you’re not used to being around cats, you’re better off not experimenting unless you want to risk a bite or scratch. Stay away from the tummy. When cats are relaxed, they might roll onto their back and expose their belly. Don’t always take this as an invitation to rub their tummy, as many cats don’t like that at all. The stomach is a vulnerable area where all the vital organs are located, so lots of cats will instinctively bare teeth and claws if touched here. Some cats do like it, but they interpret it as an invitation to play rough or wrestle with claw-grabbing and scratching. They’ll wrap their claws around your hand or arm, bite it, and scratch at it vigorously with their front and back paws. If a cat grabs you with its paws, hold still and let the cat disengage her claws. If necessary, reach over with your other hand and gently pull the paw back to unhook the claws.