How should you pet your cat? It’s a question that’s stumped pet owners for centuries, but science now has an answer. Here's what a team of researchers from the University of Lincoln in the UK found, in graphical form:
Yes, that’s right. Cats do not like being stroked at the base of their tail -- at least, that was the case for most of the 54 cats in this study, and another, smaller study on the topic. That’s sort of a cat erogenous zone, and petting may overstimulate it, the researchers posit.
The cats’ favorite place to be pet: Their faces, especially around their lips, chins and cheeks, where they have scent glands. (The researchers did not attempt to pet the cats on their bellies, presumably because they didn’t want to be maimed.)
Interestingly, it doesn't seem to matter what order you pet the parts of your cat. That suggests that cats see petting as akin to grooming, which happens haphazardly between two friendly cats, rather than allo-rubbing, which always goes from tip to tail.
Still, we don’t recommend licking your cat.