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Why Does My Cat Duck When I Try To Pet Her? (Fear?)

If your cat has been ducking as you attempt to pet her you may be offended and wondering why…

Why does my cat duck when attempting to pet her?

There are many reasons why your cat may try to duck when you pet her. First, if your cat is new to the family and not a kitten, understand she could be a victim of mistreatment or abuse. But some cats are naturally skittish and shy. 

So, now you know. But, how can you stop this from happening? Why would your cat flinch when you touch it? How will I know if it just doesn’t like being petted? Keep reading for these answers, and much more…

How to stop your cat from ducking when you pet her:

Why does my cat duck when i try to pet her?

A scared cat.

There are many ways to stop your cat from ducking when you pet her. It’s going to take a little persistence and patience. Observe your cat and understand her unique personality and preferences.

She may not like the way you want to cuddle with her. If you force her, it may only cause more aversion to you.

01. Use your hand and approach your cat from under its chin

Offer your hand with closed fingers and allow the cat to smell you. In a slow and gentle movement, unroll your fingers under, but in front of her head. Allow her to sniff, smell and inspect. If the cat rubs its head on your hand, scratch her under the chin.

02. Never use your hand to approach it above the head

Don’t approach the cat from above her head. Until you know your cat trusts you (indicated by belly flops, tummy exposure, and/or head butts to your hand), always approach your cat by first letting them smell your hand and then scratching their chin. Keep this up until she indicates otherwise.

03. Build rapport with your cat

To build rapport with your fur baby, you have to take every opportunity to communicate to and show it affection that doesn’t always incorporate touching. Use a gentle and soft voice with a respectful demeanor. When it’s feeding time, pet and talk to her.

05. Spend quality time with your cat

Make a point to spend time with your cat every day. It doesn’t have to be long, as little as five minutes will do. For example, brushing your cat not only alleviates fur balls but also allows for quality time. They’ll appreciate the excess fur removal and the brush feels good.

06. Play simple games with your cat

What is normal play between a cat and a kitten?

A cat playing with a ball.

A great way to build trust and rapport is by playing simple games. Toy mice, strings on a stick, or catnip sprinkled playfully are some things to try. You can see what gets your cat curious and motivated to play. Some people have success with laser pointers and other cats love roomy boxes filled with paper or plastic bags. You’ll have to experiment.

Where does a cat like to be petted?

The following areas are where most cats like to be pet best:

  • under the chin
  • behind whiskers on the cheeks
  • behind the ears
  • toward the tail

Don’t touch the belly unless it’s offered to you and most cats don’t like touching on their paws. Of course, you’ll have to see where they most prefer. But if they have an aversion to where you are touching, respect her boundaries and leave it alone.

Consider it from the cat’s angle

Put yourself in a cat’s perspective. You are a big, loud, towering human who’s fast, unpredictable, and monster-like. Until they get used to you, they will likely be timid so, it’s a matter of adjustment for your cat. If there was a previous caretaker, they may have had a different method of affection.

You could also be approaching above her head, which she may find threatening. The most important thing is to ensure the kitty feels safe.

Why does my cat flinch when petted?

When a cat flinches during petting, this could be a character trait or sign of previous abuse. Regardless, stop petting and put your hand in front of her. If she rubs her head against it, unfurl your fingers.

Start at the chin and work your way to her head. Doing this with consistency will mitigate flinching over time. If not, it could very well be the cat’s personality.

3 Reasons why your cat may fear you:

Here are three reasons why your cat may be ducking and fearing you…

01. The cat wasn’t socialized when it was young.

If kittens aren’t socialized to humans between two and seven weeks old, they have an aversion to touching and don’t understand it can be a pleasurable experience. If you have an older cat with this problem, you can calm them with training, but they may never quite completely socialize.

02. The cat survived abuse, experienced discipline, and/or was feral.

Under intense situations, like abuse, mistreatment, or discipline, a cat may develop a fear of humans in general; you don’t have to be the one who meted out the punishment. If the cat was feral, they may never experience human contact until they met you. In either case, it’s going to take patience and care to calm them and accept petting.

03. Shyness and timidity are part of her character.

Some cats have a shy personality. They don’t like touching from humans and can be very finicky when it comes to affection. This is neither a statement against you or an indicator that they “hate” you, it’s how they are.

Why does my cat have an aversion to petting?

It’s rare, but there are some cats not interested in affection, it’s who they are. In other cases, your cat may not like your petting style. If you’ve had your cat for a while, this behavior change could mean she’s stressed, in pain, sick, or an effect from a previous caretaker.

Pay close attention to your cat; watch how it behaves, if she babies something or moans/meows unusually. If you have any doubts whatsoever, schedule a visit with the vet.

How do I know if my cat doesn’t like to be petted?

There are several ways the cat will let you know it’s not interested in affection. When they recoil, don’t force yourself. Leave it be and allow her to come to you when she’s good and ready.

  • Ducking or Flinching
  • Biting or Nipping
  • Hissing or Growling
  • Scratching or Swatting
  • Running or Backing Away

What do cats feel when you pet them?

All mammals, including humans and cats, respond to touching and physical interaction. If your cat weaned from its mother at a young age, petting serves to reconcile being an orphan. This includes kneading and nuzzling.

The way a cat experiences touching is comparable to humans. When we’re with loved ones, touching and hugging is pleasant and welcome. But if a total stranger starts groping us, it’s a creepy and unwelcome experience.

Why would your cat back away when I tried to pet it?

Your cat may back away when you pet it for several reasons, for example, if you’ve ever disciplined your cat or if it came from an abusive home, they could develop a fear of you.

But sometimes, it’s only part of their nature and who they are. This is especially true when they aren’t socialized as a kitten between two and seven weeks old.

But it could also mean they’re in an immediate moment of freak out. Loud noises like doors shutting, stomping shoes, fireworks outside or a thunderstorm will spook the cat. This can very well be the cause of them suddenly backing away when you attempt to pet it.

Lindsey Browlingdon