How to Teach a Cat to Enjoy Belly Rubs

Learn how to teach a cat to enjoy belly rubs from board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. E'Lise Christensen, DVM in this Howcast video.

Transcript

Have you ever wanted to pet your cat's belly? You're not alone, but most cat's really don't like it.

So if you really want to work on this, you can actually try to teach your cat to be comfortable with allowing you to pet it's belly.

The first thing you want to do is get your cat comfortable with touch overall. You can see that Freya, here, is already comfortable with being touched. She's very happy being touched on the back of her neck, which is a really common place that cat's like to be petted.

The behavior that she's doing right now, this rolling over behavior, is something that can be preliminary to play where you see some of this bunny picking and some cats will roll over specifically to get you to play with them because they learn that when they roll over you'll put your hand down on their belly and then they can grab you and bunny kick you.

But if you want to actually pet your cat's belly like a dog's which, like I said, isn't something that most cat's like, you need to first teach them that having their belly shown to you is actually a good thing for them and nothing stressful is going to happen.

So you can see, I know it's a little bit with her to your back, but you can see that Freya is laying on her side right now so I'm just going to touch her belly and offer her a treat.

Now for Freya, she's not actually that interested in food right now but I know that she loves having her neck rubbed so what I'm doing then is I'm switching from touching her belly just a couple times and then scratching her neck, scratching her favorite place. And then I'm going to repeat.

In order for me to scratch her neck, I'm going to first scratch her belly. This way Freya associates her belly scratch with the scratch that she really enjoys. Or, if she was really food-motivated right now, she could associate it with a treat that she really likes.

And if you keep doing this when your cat is calm and enjoying things and you stop on a good note, over time you'll be actually able to pet your cat's belly for maybe 30 seconds to a minute which is actually a really long time for cats.

And Freya's doing pretty well. She's not going back to that bunny kicking she was doing earlier which is great. And she's even doing some purring, which you probably can't hear, and doing a little kneading with her paws. So that means we're working well.

Again, I'm going to pet her belly for just a couple scratches, and then I'm going to pet her favorite area.

Now, if this were my little kitty cat, I would end the session because she's nice and relaxed and she's happy to continue being touched.

Now, I would have ended the session but now she's really showing me her belly so I'm going to go ahead and give her a couple more scratches and scratch her neck.

And this is where you can really get into trouble being a greedy trainer. So while it can be tempting to work for another 5 or 6 scratches on the belly when she's showing your her belly like this, it's better to end on a good note. So maybe a couple more and then a scratch on the neck and call it a day.

And that's how you can help your cat get comfortable with having her belly scratched.

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