Your cat is lying next to you on the couch pawing and playing when you decide to reach over and give her belly a little tickle. Wait, are cats ticklish? "Cats can be ticklish but, since they don't laugh, they show it in different ways," says Dr. Angelica Dimock, managing shelter veterinarian at Animal Humane Society.
Cats may purr, wiggle around, hiss, or even bite when you hit a ticklish spot.
Where are cats ticklish?
"Ticklish areas include chin, cheeks, belly, and paws," says Dr. Dimock. But other areas may seem like they are ticklish but have a medical explanation. If you pet a cat along its back in a certain spot, you may see its skin twitch. That's not a ticklish reaction but rather it's a nerve reflex. Dr. Dimock says the base of their tail is another spot that some cats react to and can seem like it's a tickle spot, but again, it's more like a reaction that they have an itch.
"Cats may be itchy due to fleas, allergies, skin infections, or a disease called feline hyperesthesia syndrome," she says. Lastly, if you pet their tail base and they move their hips upward, this is a scent gland area, and they are marking you (or it could be an in-heat female who is looking for a mate!).
Should you try tickling your cat?
Tickling a cat may not be as fun for your cat as it is for humans. Cats can become aggressive if they don't like the feeling of being tickled. If you do try a tickling session, knowing your cat's warning signs when they're not happy can help prevent any injuries if they become angry or aggressive. Some common warning signs include ears back, wide eyes, freezing up (stop moving), and vocalizing. If your cat gives you any of these indications, it likely means 'please stop, I'm not enjoying that.'
Let your cat guide the tickling
Since cats usually don't make any bones about telling you they're unhappy, you should be able to get a feel fairly quickly if they enjoy tickling and where. Typically, if they're enjoying the touch they may purr, knead with their front paws, make soft movements with their tail, seem relaxed or even nudge your hand when you stop.
Tickling, especially under their chin and on their cheeks, mimics the bonding behavior that cats do with other cats so while your pet can't laugh, she can express perfectly well if she likes your brand of tickling.
As always, ask your vet about any unusual behavior your cat displays.