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Are Cats Ticklish? Things to Know Before You Try

Are Cats Ticklish? Things to Know Before You Try

We probably know from personal experience that humans are ticklish. However, have you ever wondered if cats are ticklish? Do they like to be tickled? Are they as ticklish as people are on their feet or ribs?

Tickling causes many people to laugh, but it also annoys many others. Have you ever wondered if it irritates your cat or if it’s good to tickle cats? We understand the curiosity, so we dig into these questions and more.

Are Cats Ticklish? 

To understand whether cats are ticklish, let’s understand what being ticklish is. There are two types, knismesis and gargalesis.

Knismesis happens when you experience an itchy sensation from a light touch on your skin. That sensation can be irritating, but it can also be almost electric. Think of when something brushes up against your skin, and you immediately scratch at the location to brush whatever it is away. That is essentially being ticklish.

Gargalesis is what makes you laugh. It only occurs with humans and primates, like gorillas. Gargalesis tickling is a way to bond socially and exercises our defense reflexes.

So, are cats ticklish? Yes. But not in the same way humans are. Cats likely experience knismesis. For example, if a fly lands on a cat’s ear and bats it away with its paw. That’s an irritating sensation from a light touch that the cat reacts to. While tickling cats doesn’t cause a humorous response, they are believed to feel the sensation equated with tickling.

Is It a Good Idea to Tickle a Cat?

Just because cats are ticklish doesn’t mean they like it or you should tickle them. While both humans and cats are ticklish and can experience some of the same sensations, you usually won’t tickle a cat like you might your child to make them laugh.

Tickling a cat is like petting it. When you rub your cat’s ears or chin, it might lean into you more because it likes the sensation. But it also might nip at you or back away because it doesn’t like the feeling. So determining whether it’s a good idea to tickle a cat depends upon its reaction to touch.

Pro Tip: Take the time to get to know a new cat you’ve brought home. It may take a while to become familiar with its likes and dislikes.

a person scratching a cats neck
If your cat leans in when being scratched under the chin, it’s a sign he likes it.

Does a Cat Laugh or Smile When Tickled?

Wouldn’t it be fun if our cats laughed or smiled the same way we do? Picture it. You’re scratching your cat’s belly, and a laugh erupts from its mouth, or a smile slowly spreads across its face.

Unfortunately, these are not reactions that cats can perform. While they may react to tickling, cats can’t laugh or smile. In fact, their response will probably seem more like an annoyance. The area you are tickling is more than likely sensitive to touch. 

Where Are Cats Ticklish on Their Bodies? 

While cats can’t laugh, we know they are ticklish. But where? Are their paws ticklish? What about their chin and neck? Dogs roll over for belly rubs, so perhaps cats like it too. Are they ticklish there? Let’s examine where cats could be ticklish.


You’ve probably noticed a reaction if you’ve ever attempted to touch your cat’s paws. Cats are ticklish on their paws, and many don’t like people touching them there. The pads of a cat’s foot are very sensitive, and while your cat may put up with you touching it there for a short moment, more than likely, it will pull away to get you to stop.

However, some cats enjoy that sensation and will spread out their toes for you in an invitation to keep rubbing. We had a black cat named Pepper who loved this sensation on just her back feet and would stretch them out in pleasure.

a person holding a cats paws
Cats are ticklish on their paws, and many don’t like people touching them there.


A cat’s tail is another part of the body that’s sensitive. Like the paws, if your cat does not enjoy people touching its tail, it might back away or even hiss and bat your hand. But if it likes to have its tail stroked, it could start purring and move in closer. Like people, cats react differently depending on where you tickle them.

Top of Head

Think about when someone rubs your head. It’s a weird sensation at first because someone rubbing the top of your head is not expected unless you’re getting a haircut. It’s a bit odd for cats and other animals, too. Coming at an animal to pat them on the head can often seem like an attack, and most animals will back away. Some might even nip or take a swipe at you, including cats.

You’ll know if your cat like its head touched. It will move in closer and even push your hand up to get it on its head. Don’t forget the ears. If you can find the right spot under the ear, your cat’s back leg could react to the sensation of being scratched under the ear by kicking.

Chin and Neck

Most cats love people scratching their chin and neck. Most cats will lift their heads up to get you to continue scratching them and to encourage you to rub their entire neck. Just be aware when your cat no longer enjoys the itchy sensation. It usually informs you by backing away or with a nip, hiss, or paw.


Stomachs are another spot where cats are ticklish. However, unlike dogs, most cats do not like belly rubs. So be aware if you try to tickle your cat on the stomach, you may get an adverse reaction because your cat doesn’t like the sensation. That reaction from your furry friend could be something as simple as running away or a swipe of the paw. Remember, those paws come with claws.

feline laying on side being petted by person
Your cat’s body language will reveal where they most like petting.

How Do You Know Where Your Cat Is Ticklish? 

Take the time to get to know what your cat is saying to you through body language. Cats can be ticklish; sometimes that tickling sensation feels good, while other times it’s pretty annoying.

If your cat is purring and rubbing up against you or signaling for more attention when you are petting it, pay attention to where you are stroking, and concentrate on that area. However, if you are rubbing your cat and it begins hissing, the hair on its back rises, it swats at you, or even tries to bite you, it is not enjoying the sensation. You will know exactly where your cat is ticklish from enjoyment or irritation.

Why Does My Cat Bite Me Gently When Being Tickled? 

Your cat might try to bite you when being tickled. The bite isn’t always threatening. In fact, many times, it’s a playful and normal reaction. Your cat will let you know if it is feeling playful or annoyed. Follow along with what your cat wants, and keep playing. 

However, if you notice a cat is biting harder, its tail is wagging, or its body language is becoming threatening, don’t keep pestering it. The cat is trying to tell you it is done playing and wants to be alone. Similar to how you may get an adverse reaction from a person who no longer enjoys tickling, a cat might bite or scratch. Those sensations are not fun.

person playing with pet by computer
Aggressive biting or batting a paw is a cat’s way of telling you they don’t want to be tickled.

Do Cats Like When You Laugh?

Cats can’t laugh, but humans can, and many times that laugh is boisterous, loud, and delightful. Cats will notice. Saying that cats like it when you laugh might be a stretch, but cats read body language. So when you laugh, cats will see that you’re enjoying the moment, and in turn, they might relax and enjoy the time with their human.

Are All Breeds of Cats Ticklish?

Animals have sensitive areas on their bodies. Cats can be especially sensitive when it comes to their human owners. We love to pet cats and get cuddly with them. Their fur is soft, and their purring can act as a de-stressor. 

But since cats are ticklish, too, we need to pay attention to how they feel when we pet them. There’s nothing as funny as being tickled and laughing wildly. There’s also nothing quite as annoying as someone tickling you when you don’t want it. So tickle your cat to your heart’s content. But ensure it’s also to your cat’s heart’s content.

Where is your cat’s favorite place to be petted?

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Petrics was born out of a love of helping animals and their owners live life to their fullest! Established in 2022, Petrics was founded by Caitlin and Tom Morton of Mortons on the Move, Discovery TV Show hosts and successful RV Travel Experts. They are a full-time RVing couple who loved traveling with their beloved rescue dogs. This Petrics team strives to share the most interesting questions answered, the most entertaining news and culture, and the most inspiring rescue stories. Additionally, our mission is to give back to animal welfare organizations so they can continue their good work in saving the constant stream of animals in need. In fact, 5% of all profits from Petrics are donated to animal-saving initiatives!

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