Dear Doctor: Cat hates belly rubs


Q. My cat likes to roll over and expose her belly. But when I try to respond by stroking it, she scratches and bites. What am I doing wrong?

Leland Morse
Brookline, Massachusetts

Dear Mr. Morse,

A. What you’re doing wrong is trying to stroke your cat’s belly. She is not presenting it to you as a sign that you should touch here there.  She is probably just feeling safe, relaxed, and trusting in your presence.

The hair follicles on a cat’s belly, unlike a dog’s, are much more sensitive than elsewhere on the feline body. Thus, when you touch them, it could feel like you are pulling at them — or simply providing more tactile sensation than your cat enjoys. In fact, while some cats do enjoy belly rubs, they usually do not enjoy them for long.

We should note that some cats don’t like having their bellies rubbed out of an instinct for protecting their abdominal organs. Then, too, in the wild, a cat might turn over on her back specifically so she can get into better position for using her teeth and claws to fend off an attacker.


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