How to Pet a Cat’s Belly Safely*
*The safest method I’ve discovered is to not do it at all, but this is how you do it without triggering the demon bear-trap reflexes on some cats.
My cat, Baby, sunbathing. 2/29/16
- Step 1: Become friends with cat. The surest way to know is if he flops down and shows you his belly, or if he slow-blinks at you. (That means he trusts you! Congrats!)
- Step 2: Pet cat from head to tail as usual, but on his side instead of his back. This is a good way to feel out if he’s going to let you continue to his belly or not.
- Step 3: This is more of a whenever-you’re-petting-in-general rule: Keep an eye out for “warnings” from your cat. For example, my cat will lick my hand before she bites it, then she’ll bite gently. Then, if we keep bothering her, she’ll bite harder before hissing and running away. Tails get swishy and with wider arcs, “slapping” against things.
- Step 4: Betray cat’s trust. Remember, she showed you her belly because she trusted you not to touch it. I did mention the safest method was to not do this at all, but if you must: stroke from her upper chest down her belly with a flat hand.
DO NOT scritch, rub, or pet her belly like you would pet a dog’s belly. This is very likely going to get your hand shredded. If you’re ok with this risk, your cat might actually like it.
If your cat still scratches you doing this method, then nothing** will work. She’s just not a belly-rub kind of cat. Don’t try it again with her, but feel free to try with other cats. Some will appreciate (or at least tolerate) it.
(**in my experience)