Why does my cat not like to be petted, and why does it duck when I touch it?

When your cat appears in the doorway and trots towards you, it's only natural to reach out your hand, but sometimes your cat will avoid it and duck away. Why do cats sometimes not like to be petted?

If your cat pulls away when you pet it, it could just be busy.
If your cat pulls away when you pet it, it could just be busy.  © Anton Darius / Unsplash

Cats like a good long cuddle every now and again, but not all the time and not every day. Sometimes your kitty might just want to be in your presence without the need for petting and scratching. But what causes this aversion, and what's with that strange slinking behavior?

In this cat guide, TAG24 will dive into why your cat might not like to be petted sometimes. Why does your cat pull away when you pet it, and what can you do to help it feel more comfortable?

Cat ducks when I pet him: Why does my cat pull away when I pet it?

Cats are rather particular little fellows, and they'll often show their preferences in grumpy or anti-social behavior. A lot of the time they'll be desperate for your affection, constantly expecting you to swoon over their every behavior. At other times, though, cats will avoid you as if you were infected with a virus.

The most common reason why a cat might duck when you pet it, or why it pulls away at your touch, is that it simply doesn't feel like it at the time. What becomes an issue, though, is if its aversion to being touched comes from a deeper fear.

There are three non-mood based reasons why a cat might avoid your pets: character, experiences, and illness. Let's dive into each of them and define what we mean and what you can do.

Top three reasons why your cat doesn't like to be touched

It's not unusual for a cat to avoid you. Perhaps it's angry, perhaps it's tired, or perhaps it just feels like a bit of time to itself. Sometimes cats want to be near their beloved humans but not be touched by them.

In some cats, though, the habit of ducking away from people when they go in for a pet can be due to a very different, and somewhat more sinister, reason.

Cat pulls away due to its character

Some cats are just not the cuddling type and will consistently pull away from you if you try to pet them. They simply prefer other things to petting, in the same way that some people prefer baths to showers. Their character will dictate their physical and emotional responses.

More reserved cats will avoid being petted or stroked and will slink out of arm's reach at the soonest possibility. In such a situation, it is important for their human to respect that wish and only pet them when they have explicitly made it clear that they want to be touched.

Cat ducks due to bad experiences

If a cat has had some bad human-related experiences, it might be unwilling to be touched by people. For example, when you adopt a shelter cat, it may be distrusting of you at the start due to its past experiences. This is fear and anxiety-based and will hopefully clear up with time.

With a lot of patience and some things to help treat their anxiety, cats that avoid being petted due to trauma-inflicted fear can again begin to trust in humans. We would suggest getting a fearful cat some toys and a good sleeping place. On top of that, it's a good idea to do what the cat wants you to do at any particular time. Be calm and safe, and your cat will grow to love you.

Cat hates being touched due to pain

If your cat used to be cuddly and has now turned into a withdrawn feline with a distaste for human interaction, it could be due to sickness or pain. Perhaps your kitty has gotten itself into an accident and is recovering from an injury, or maybe that pain is more permanent and serious.

A cat that is exhibiting pain-like symptoms such as wincing, whining, and increased aggression, should be taken to visit a vet. If it has any diseases or injuries, you're going to want to know.

Things could be particularly wrong if your cat hisses at you when avoiding your touch.
Things could be particularly wrong if your cat hisses at you when avoiding your touch.  © 123RF / Zhuravlevab

Why doesn't my cat like to be held?

Some cats will find being held in your arms incredibly nerve wracking. It's quite normal for cats to start hissing or growling if they are picked up and carried too much, or if you surprise them by suddenly lifting them off the ground. It's not so surprising if you think about. After all, would you like to be suddenly and unexpectedly picked up?

Here are some reasons why your cat might not like being held:

  • It feels restricted and without any control, as it is being held firmly by another animal much bigger than it.
  • It feels threatened or in danger due to that very same reason.
  • Cats like to be in higher places, so that they have the upper ground and an advantage in any confrontations.
  • If they are ill or injured, then pain could be causing their strong aversion to being held. Particularly troublesome issues include:
    • Arthritis
    • Other joint issues
    • Stomach aches
    • Parasite infections
  • Once a cat has grown up, it becomes totally unnatural for it to be picked up. It is not used to it and won't like it. Counteract this by trying to pick it up by the scruff when possible.
  • It's uncomfortable, and your cat doesn't enjoy it.
  • It's annoying to be picked up, and your cat wants to get on with its business.

It's important to follow your cat's body language signs and respect its boundaries. You want to forge a positive relationship with your furry feline friend, and you won't get very far if you keep upsetting it.

What to do if your cat hates being touched

There aren't many things you can do if your cat hates being touched.
There aren't many things you can do if your cat hates being touched.  © Alex Chambers / Unsplash

Is your cat constantly avoiding pats, is it ducking away at every opportunity, does it seem to dislike you? Well, it could also be your patting technique. You see, cats don't like it when you put your hand in front of their eyes, so you should always pet them from the back. This way they will keep feeling in control.

Here are some other ways to get your cat to stop avoiding pets:

  • Some cats will get over it quickly, just avoid them for a while and let them come to you.
  • If it is a sudden issue that has only just arisen, take your cat to the vet and have it checked out.
  • In the case that your cat is simply not a fan of being touched or picked up, there isn't much you can do.
  • If it is something to do with your behavior, identify that behavior and avoid repeating it.
  • Some cats will take a while to trust you. Respect their boundaries and show them love and attention in other ways. They'll come around eventually.

Remember that some cats just simply like to be petted in different areas. Try their back, their chin, their neck, or their shoulders. If they like some things more than others, make sure you are doing those things more often.

If your cat continuously avoids being touched, it could be ill

It's important to note with cats that constantly avoid being touched is there is a very real possibility they could be sick. If this behavior starts to increase, and you start seeing other symptoms like wincing or whining, it could be time for a trip to the veterinarian.

Ultimately, though, cats will often avoid being touched and will slink away sometimes. Try not to worry too much. Your kitty still loves you; it just doesn't want your attention right now.

Cover photo: Anton Darius / Unsplash

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