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Why Does My Cat Whine When I Pet Her?

If your cat seems to whine and moan when you pet it you may be wondering why and if this behavior is normal…

Why does my cat whine when I pet her?

When your cat keeps meowing while you are petting her, this is a sign that she loves what you are doing and wants more. While adult humans are discouraged from making ‘happy sounds’ overmuch when we like something, with cats it’s like a kid who can’t stop saying how much they like their ice cream cone!

So, now you know. But, is it a good sign? How can I prevent this if it annoys me? Do cats even like being petted, in general? Keep reading for these answers, and much more…

Is it a good sign if your cat whines when you pet it?

A woman petting a cat on the back.

A woman petting a cat on the back.

With a cat’s meow, it is all about the tone, the context, and the body language. If your kitty is vocal and rubbing against you, then it generally means ‘I love this, please pet me more’, whereas if the cat meows a little more sharply and changes direction to get you to pet another area, then this might be a sign that one area is sensitive.

While a cat will generally hiss or even swat you if you are petting a sore spot, some are quite ‘forgiving’ about this and will simply meow and change direction just to keep getting affection, so it’s important to note any sudden shifts in body language or behavior that follows a vocalization.

Also, consider if it’s close to dinnertime, as the message may be ‘I love you, please pet me and then feed me!”.

How can I prevent my cat from whining when I pet it?

If you want to stop your cat from meowing when you pet them, then patience and consistent reinforcement is going to be key. You will need to stop responding to meows for attention and initiate petting or the other behaviors your cat is soliciting until your cat is quiet.

Be warned, cats are temperamental and you might get a swat, and if your cat does this then the best thing to do is to leave the room and come back in a minute or two. In most cases, however, your cat will simply be a little confused about the behavior until the message clicks and they realize that they don’t need to meow to get your attention.

Do cats like to be petted?

While not all cats like to be touched, most of them do. The most popular offerings tend to be a scratch behind the ears, under the chin, or a stroke going from the head to the tail.  Don’t go in the opposite direction with the ‘back stroke’, as many cats seem to be sensitive about the direction of it and you might get a swat.

Think of it as your cat saying ‘don’t mess up my hairdo!’. Avoid petting areas like the whiskers and proceed with caution when it comes to the tail and the belly. While some cats like these things, let your cat ‘suggest’ it after a tentative, single stroke.

If your cat likes something, then they will let you know, but otherwise petting these more sensitive areas might earn you an irritated nip or slap!

Is it a good sign when if your cat rubs against you while you pet it?

During this time your cat will likely rubbing against you as well, which is further confirmation that they are enjoying the petting because they are marking you with their scents in the process. Both of these behaviors show an enormous amount of love and trust from your kitty.

What is this high-pitched whining sound my cat makes?

A high-pitched whine, especially with a closed mouth, is generally a sign of distress, distrust, or even a possible red flag that your cat is not feeling well. Your cat will exhibit body language if any of these things hold true, as they tend to stiffen up their bodies and become very still while whining.

Now, take in the context. If the whine just followed someone’s entry into the house, then your cat may not yet like or trust this person. If it is in response to petting, then your cat may in pain and they do not wish to be touched.

Finally, if you’re alone with a kitty and they make this noise when you come in the room, it could indicate that they are depressed or feel otherwise unwell. If the whine falls into the category of the latter two reasons, then a vet visit is a good idea in order to fully investigate your cat’s vocal distress.

Why is my cat constantly whining for attention?

If your cat is always whining to get your attention then this is because they have learned that this behavior gets them what they want. You can train them out of this, but in order to do so you will need to start ignoring them when they meow for attention and you will need to be consistent with it.

At this stage, it is a habit for your cat to simply meow when they want something, but if you consistently ignore the meows and only give them what they want when they are silent or communicate in another fashion (such as jumping up next to you and nudging you when it’s dinnertime) then your cat will figure out a less vocal way to get what they want.

Why does my cat get angry when I pet it?

An orange cat with an angry look.

An orange cat with an angry look.

If your cat gets angry when you pet them then try a different approach to get your cat’s ‘permission’ before starting. Try holding your fingers close so that your cat can get a sniff and see if they brush themselves against you. If they do, then this is generally a good sign that indicates that you may pet them safely.

Your cat may be responding angrily for a number of reasons. For instance, some cats charge up with static when you pet their fur and they can’t help but notice it. Consider also that cats rely on scents more than visual cues and if you’ve just come back from work and start petting them, the outside scents may be putting them off.

If this is new behavior, however, consider a vet visit. A sudden hostility towards being touched may indicate an injury that cannot be easily seen and a vet can help you to rule this out.  

Why does my cat whine when I pick it up?

If your cat is whining when you pick them up then this is a definite red flag and will warrant a visit to your veterinarian. Cats are experts at hiding when they feel ill or in pain, generally avoiding us and seeming to act normal until they think we can’t see them or until they cannot help but elicit a response, such as when they are sore and you pick them up!  

If your cat does this, then be sure to schedule a check-up with your vet immediately to better see what is going on.

Should I just ignore my cat when it’s whining?

While some people like having a vocal cat, it’s not the best for everyone, and so you may need to ignore it when your cat starts whining for attention. If you are trying to teach your cat to meow less, then you can take it a step further by actually leaving the room when they start meowing.

Give your cat a treat when they quiet down and the ‘silent treatment’ when they meow. With a little time and positive reinforcement, your cat will get the picture!

Why is my cat whining in the morning?

When your cat immediately starts whining as soon as you wake up, then this means that in the past you have interacted with them in the morning a certain way and now they expect this. In order to get them to stop this behavior, you will need to change your morning routine and to ignore the cat.

So, if you used to play with them immediately upon waking, then it will need to wait. If you normally feed them immediately, then instead pour yourself a bowl of cereal first and THEN pour your kitty’s breakfast into their bowl before you both start your breakfast.

Cats are creatures of habit, so as long as you set a consistent routine then your cat will adjust to it. If the habit is firmly set, you may need to even leave the room a few times and come back until the cat greets you with silence.

At this point, give them a treat, and go about your day. Your cat will get the new routine, it just takes a little time and loving patience!

Lindsey Browlingdon