Are Cats Ticklish Like Humans? Learn More About Cat Behavior

Here’s a scenario all cat owners experience. You’re with your cat, and you start petting your pet from the head to different areas of its body. Your cat seems to like it at first but suddenly reacts by twitching, meowing, and striking you with its paw. You might wonder, are cats ticklish like humans? Learn more about cat behavior.

Are Cats Ticklish?

Like humans, cats can also be ticklish. But they do not behave the same way as humans do when tickled. For one thing, they do not laugh when you start petting them in their ticklish spots.

So are cats ticklish? Yes, they are, but they express it differently. Some cats may enjoy tickles, but some cats do not like them. Some felines may enjoy it for a short time, but later on, it becomes irritating for them. When they don’t like it, they would usually become hostile by swatting their paw or going away from you.

So what’s the explanation behind tickles among cats?

Why Are Cats Ticklish?

Similar to humans and other mammals, cats are ticklish because of these two types of tickling: knismesis and gargalesis.


Knismesis is a light type of tickling, like a feather. This type of tickling does not usually cause laughter in humans but is more like an itchy feeling. Knismesis often induces twitch or goosebumps on the skin. It will also trigger the need to remove something from our skin.


Gargalesis, on the other hand, is the harder type of tickle, one that causes laughter in humans. It also induces involuntary movement when repeated hard or high pressure, such as poking, is done in one’s ticklish spots.

Tickles elicit pleasure and pain receptors, which is why there are cats who like it and some cats who don’t.

Best Ticklish Spots On Cats

Cats will react either negatively or positively when petted. Here are the ticklish spots which are the best areas to pet your cat.


One of the best spots to tickle and pet your cat is on the base of its ears. Their ears have a lot of scent glands and they may be comfortable when you touch their ears because they’re releasing scent on you. However, some cats may not like getting touched around the ear because it’s a sensitive spot for them.

cats tickling on the ear


A cat’s chin is a common area of its body for stroking. Most cats like it, but if they don’t, observe if they’re showing signs of discomfort. 

The usual signs that they like to tickle under the chin is when they tilt their head up and close their eyes.


Some cats like getting rubs on their back. Most long-haired cats enjoy some petting on their back, but some cats do not like it and may react by swatting you with their paw.


Like the ears, their cheeks have scent glands. That makes the cheeks a good spot for petting.


This is not a common area for petting among cats, but some cats like having their tails tickled. They will purr and stay still if they like it. However, they might scratch you or go away when they don’t like tickles around their tail.

The belly is not on the list of spots where cats like to be petted. You might wonder, why your cat is rolling over as if asking you to massage its belly. Know that when your cat laid on its back and shows you its belly, it’s not an invitation for belly rubs. It can mean a lot of things, like being playful, or defensive, or they are showing that they trust you. Their tummy and tail are sensitive parts of their body; they might scratch you if you touch these areas.

Can I Tickle My Cat?

Cats will respond to tickles differently than humans. Their reaction will depend if they like it or not. As their pet owners, it can be helpful for us to tell if they like it or not based on their body language.

It is safe to tickle your cat if they initiate or suggest that they want to. They would usually cuddle or head-butt you when they want some tickles.

If your cat likes tickles, do it for a short time, and make sure to check on them from time to time if they still enjoy it. If it’s your first time to try tickling them, watch out for some signs if they like it or not.

Signs That They Like Tickles

Most of the time, it’s easy to identify if your cat likes a certain thing. You just need to observe them. The common signs that they like touching and tickling them are the following:

  • Purring
  • Moving their tails slowly
  • Pressing your hand as though implying to continue what you’re doing
  • Staying still, relaxed, or acting like they don’t mind getting stroked
  • Your cat is standing on its legs 
  • Kneading your skin with their paws

Signs That They Do Not Like Tickles

If your cat does the following while you tickle them, consider it as their no-touch zone:

  • Going away
  • Widening eyes
  • Hissing
  • Sending their ears back
  • Getting tensed and freezing up
  • Long meows
  • Swatting you with their paw

One of the reasons why a cat attacks a person is because that person is petting their no-touch zone. Thus, learning cat behavior and how to pet them properly will help you form good communication and relationship with your cat.

Final Words

Tickles may seem like a fun thing to do with your cat. It makes people laugh, so we might often assume it’s also something cats enjoy.

However, not all cats like tickles. And when they do, we need to be aware of which part of their bodies they allow for petting. By doing so, you can communicate well and form a healthy and lasting relationship with your pet.

At The Lovable Cat, we believe that every cat deserves to be loved and cared about.

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