Cats are so insanely adorable, it's no wonder most owners just can't take their hands off their beloved kitty. However, what you consider an expression of love isn't necessarily seen that way by your cat. Here are a few common things that owners do and some cats absolutely hate.
Your cat probably hates when you do one of the following -
Holding your cat tightly in your arms and giving him or her a good hug usually isn't a good idea. Humans have arms and hands made for hugging, but for felines, forceful holding of anything just isn't a proper form of communication. Putting your arms around a cat that knows you and loves you may be ok - depending on the cat's temperament - but few cats will tolerate a strong crushing hug.
Cats sometimes bring their noses together in what may seem like a kiss. In fact, they're just smelling each other to see if there's anything new. It's a "Is that tuna I smell on your breath?!?" kind of gesture. While your cat may sometimes bring his or her mouth close to yours to check out the latest scents on your breath, don't try to do the same without the cat's approval. Many cats find such close proximity of a human's face threatening and uncomfortable.
While most pet cats enjoy occasional petting, many resent having a human hand reach for their tummy. When a dog rolls over to expose their stomach it's an act of submission, and most dogs love it when you move on to scratching their belly. With cats, rolling over and showing their belly is an act of trust - not submission. Some cats may be trusting enough to let you touch the belly, but more often than not, reaching out to touch all that inviting fluff will trigger an aggressive reaction from the cat.
Picking your cat up
Picking up a baby or toddler is so natural for humans that we tend to want to do the same with our small pets. However, Kitty is not a human baby. For a cat, there is nothing natural about being picked up and held in anyone's arms. Some cats will tolerate this - especially if they're used to being picked up from a young age - but many will squirm and fight their way out of your grasp - tooth and nail if need be.
Getting too close to a cat
Cats value their personal space just as much as we do. And just like humans, it's not just a question of how far, but also a question of whom. If you're bonded with a cat, odds are he or she will not shy away from being in close proximity. However, if the cat doesn't know you very well, keep your distance. Allow the cat time to get close to you on his or her terms.
Some cats are shy by nature and may feel uncomfortable being too close to any human. These apprehensive kitties often choose to get close to their owner only when the human is lying down or even asleep, seeming less threatening.
"But my cat loves these things!"
That may absolutely be the case. Cats are individuals with their own preferences, including regarding physical contact with their owners. Many kittens and some adult cats are total "love bugs" who will literally be "in your face", asking for hugs, kisses, belly rubs and even to be picked up!
However keep in mind that most adult cats are more likely to prefer physical interaction a tad more distant and - most importantly - on their own terms. No matter how much you want to hug, kiss and squish your adorable fluffball, you should make absolutely sure that Kitty is indeed an enthusiastic partner.
Never force yourself on a cat - even if he or she seems to "tolerate" your actions. Tolerating isn't good enough. You should aim at making your cat 100% comfortable and happy while you're around. That's the basis of a good feline-human bond.
So, how to tell if your cat hates or loves these acts of friendship?
Our cats can't speak with words, but they can still send us messages.
Some cats are very clear about what they will and won't allow. They use their claws and teeth to send the message in a way that's clear to all. If they know you, and you two are bonded, these attacks are likely to be harmless, with the cat often taking care not to break the skin. It will still be painful and send the message, but no one will get hurt. However, if you cross the boundaries of a strange cat, you could scare him or her into outright attack mode of the kind that sends you to the first aid box or even the ER.
Some cats are not aggressive at all, and it will take a very extreme situation to get them to attack. Yet they too may be uncomfortable with any of the actions described here. Watch your cat's body language closely and check his or her reactions when giving a hug, a kiss or trying to pick him or her up. Is the cat relaxed? Or is that feline body tense, with eyes wide open and pupils enlarged? If you're holding the cat, does he or she purr or squirm in an effort to get out of your grasp?
You can tell if a cat is comfortable with your show of affection or not. Just watch for the cues!
What to do if my cat doesn't like my show of affection?
It's very important to respect your cat's boundaries and not force yourself on her or him. Don't wait for your cat to attack you. Read the feline body language, and if your cat doesn't like something - avoid it.
Allow Kitty to decide if and how you interact and you'll gain his or her trust. Your cat needs to know that you are a source of good things - not bad. With time, some cats mellow out and allow the owner closer physical contact.
Some cats never change and remain distant. That doesn't mean the cat doesn't love you! It just means that for this particular cat, hugging and being held may be off the menu forever. You can still tell that your cat loves you from a multitude of other signs, such as any one of these 25 Signs That Your Cat Loves You
If your cat seems exceptionally scared or distant, you should also read our articles about how to live with a shy cat -
10 Must-Know Tips For Happy Living With A Shy Cat
16 Top Cat Experts Share Tips For Dealing With Timid Cats
So, how about your cat? Leave us a comment to tell us if your cat loves - or hates - a belly rub or being picked up. Anything else that Kitty won't allow? We want to know about it!