Why Do Animals Like Being Pet?

Why Do Animals Like Being Pet?

Most animals, especially domesticated animals, love being petted by a human they trust. In fact, all mammals, humans included, enjoy being lovingly caressed due to how it stimulates a particular set of neurons in the brain. In this article, we look at different studies and expert opinions from vets, animal behavior psychologists, and pet owners to determine what exactly animals enjoy so much about a thorough petting session.

Why Do Dogs Like Being Petted?

While petting a dog is so commonplace that we rarely question where this affectionate habit originated from, dogs are also unique in that they often express their desire for physical contact to strangers as well. Research shows that dogs are social creatures who release a love hormone called Oxytocin when they’re given attention by humans. 

Common areas where dogs like to be scratched includes their chest, belly, shoulder, under the chin, and along their back. Generally, dogs don’t enjoy being pet along their legs, tail, and on their paws. Due to the many nerve endings on their ears and around their head, dogs usually only allow trusted humans, such as their owner, pet them in these areas.

If you’re petting a new dog, be sure to observe behavior indicators such as their tail and how their body language is in relation to you. Make sure to approach gently, don’t make direct eye contact, and avoid reaching over the dog’s head. Before petting, offer your hand out for them to sniff and approach from the side so that they can see where your hand is. If the dog leans into you, feel free to pet them until they move away or show signs that they are uncomfortable. 

Why Do Cats Like Being Petted?

Fortunately for us, many cats enjoy the feeling of being petted, however, unfortunately for us, many cats will also hiss, swat, or bite when we try to pet them. Cats generally prefer to communicate with humans on their own terms, which means that they’ll nuzzle, rub, and possibly even groom us when they’re wanting affection. In a trait that researchers believe originates from kittenhood, the act of a mother licking and nurturing them releases the pleasurable oxytocin hormone in their brain. When we pet our cat, this action mimics the sensation they experienced of being groomed by their mother.

Some cats have the personal preference to not want to be pet by humans. It’s common to see orphan and feral cats avoid being petted due to not having this form physical touch from their mother as a kitten. Additionally, some cats may demand pets one moment, to then sporadically hiss and run away during the next moment. This usually means that the cat has reached their threshold for petting and have entered an overstimulated state of petting-induced aggression.

Opposite of dogs, a vast majority of cats only enjoy being petted by a human that they trust and feel safe around. When approaching a new cat, allow them to sniff and watch you before you attempt to pet them. Allow the cat to approach you and rub against you, which is usually an invitational sign to pet them. Most cats enjoy gentle pets on the sides of their face, afterwards try to guide your hand along their neck and shoulders, finally, you know the cat trusts you if they allow you to pet them down their back and above their tail. Lastly, as difficult as it may be, it’s a good idea to cease petting the cat after some time so that they don’t enter a state of aggression.

Why Do We Like Petting Animals?

Petting an animal, whether it be a dog or a cat, is a mutually beneficial act that’s scientifically shown to reduce stress in humans. A Washington State University study has found that just 10-minutes a day of petting our animals significantly reduces cortisol levels in humans. The tactile nature of petting an animal has been demonstrated to be a key component to not only living longer when compared to those without pets, but also lowering depression and blood pressure. Given all the benefits for both the pet and the owner, not to mention how the act bonds the pair, go give your furry friend a nice rub for 10-minutes and see how much better you feel.

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