Are Cats Ticklish? A Vet Explains the Science of Tickling


tickling cat


Tickling will not be effectively understood within the scientific world, not to mention the feline world. Cats don’t chuckle like we do when tickled, however that doesn’t imply they don’t take pleasure in a mild tickling movement as a type of affection sometimes.

As a vet and the proud proprietor of two cats—one who loves a agency tickle throughout his physique and one who solely likes a mild rubbing round her cheeks and chin—I understand how vital it’s to get to know your cat and the way they wish to be petted.

Fast Overview


There are two sorts of tickling: one which results in involuntary laughter and one which causes an itch or urge to scratch.


Cats will expertise that urge to scratch a tickled spot however they won’t expertise any giggle suits.


To strengthen your bond, it is vital to study what sort of bodily affection your cat likes and dislikes.

The Science of Tickling

When you have most likely skilled tickling—maybe you’ve been tickled and also you’ve been the supply of the tickling assaults—it may be laborious to clarify precisely what it’s.

Do you know there are literally two scientifically outlined types of tickling?[1]

The primary sort of tickle known as gargalesis. That is the everyday sensitivity whereby when you find yourself poked or prodded in a ticklish spot, it produces involuntary laughter. The feeling is exclusive and pretty laborious to explain. Many individuals don’t prefer it, which is comprehensible as such a tickling results in the activation of each pleasure and ache receptors. This helps clarify the considerably uncomfortable feeling that goes alongside the laughter when being tickled.

The opposite type of tickling sensation known as knismesis. This describes the humorous feeling you get via a really mild contact throughout the pores and skin. Whenever you expertise knismesis, you will have the sudden have to itch or scratch, nevertheless it doesn’t are likely to make you chuckle. In actual fact, it may be extra of an annoyance.

You may produce knismesis on your self with a lightweight brush throughout the pores and skin, however you can not expertise gargalesis with out another person tickling you.

Are Cats Ticklish?

owner scratch at the base of cat tail

Cats show distinctive physique language in response to how they’re petted, which helps their house owners find out how they wish to be petted. Shutterstock

The knismesis scratch-type response to a lightweight, ticklish contact is well-recorded in mammals, together with each cats and canines. In actual fact, this response really serves a helpful goal. It will possibly alert animals to the presence of bugs or parasites and immediate them to itch or rub on the space, eradicating the issue.

The “basic” ticklishness of gargalesis that produces an involuntary laughter response in people is tougher to seek out examples of in different mammals. Analysis means that some primate species, resembling chimpanzees,[1] do tickle one another throughout rough-and-tumble play. Nevertheless, the phenomenon will not be effectively documented in different species.

It’s not thought that cats can expertise the identical tickle sensation as we do. This sort of habits has not been noticed between cats they usually don’t have the identical potential to chuckle as we do.

Do Cats Like a Tickle?

Cats don’t chuckle, as such, however they do specific pleasure and pleasure in different methods, resembling purring. They could not expertise gargalesis, however they’ll nonetheless take pleasure in an affectionate tickle in the correct spot.

Most cats take pleasure in a mild tickling beneath their chin or alongside their cheeks. Strive stroking gently alongside your cat’s again and tickling simply above the tail. You’ll quickly work out the place in your cat’s physique they wish to be stroked or tickled.

Keep away from tickling your cat’s paws, that are very delicate; they are going to typically draw them away or tuck them beneath their physique if touched. One other recognized space of sensitivity is a cat’s stomach. They appear so fluffy and cute after they roll on their backs, however that is hardly ever an invite to tickle.

Observe your cat’s physique language to inform in the event that they’re having fun with the sensations. They could purr, nudge you again with their head, or knead you with their entrance paws. When your cat has had sufficient, they might swat at you, turn out to be very tense with eyes extensive and ears again, and even vocalize via hissing or growling.

Some cats expertise petting aggression, and if so, you’ll be able to strive different types of bonding, resembling cuddling, play periods, or grooming.

When to Fear About Tickling Responses

owner's hand tickle brown tabby cat

Many cats take pleasure in a mild tickle or scratch beneath their chin. Shutterstock.

It’s vital to know when to cease touching your cat. The stronger your bond, the simpler it’s to inform when they’re starting to get irritated. Some cats like extra tough and tumble, whereas others desire a mild stroke.

Generally when a cat is touched in a sure approach, it causes a response that makes their pores and skin seem like it’s rippling or twitching throughout their again. In case your cat is exhibiting this habits, take them to a veterinarian. They could have a medical situation inflicting pores and skin sensitivity. This could possibly be one thing so simple as fleas, or it could possibly be one thing a bit extra sophisticated resembling allergy symptoms. Feline hyperesthesia syndrome is a distressing situation that may result in excessive sensitivity and even self-trauma to the pores and skin.

That mentioned, normally, cats will take pleasure in some light tickling. That is very true of favourite areas such because the chin and sides of the physique. Simply don’t count on them to interrupt out into laughter!

Regularly Requested Questions

The place are cats ticklish?

Most cats take pleasure in a mild tickle beneath their chin or alongside their cheeks. Cats are most delicate round their stomach and paws, so contact right here might end in a extra ticklish or excessive response and isn’t loved by many cats.

Why do cats unfold their toes once you tickle them?

Cats have a number of nerve receptors of their toes designed to sense strain, temperature, and contact. Many cats pull their toes away when touched however some reply positively. Their toes might unfold in response to the ticklish sensation to a delicate space.

How does a cat chuckle?

Cats don’t chuckle like people do. They’ll present pleasure, affection, and pleasure via different means, resembling purring, rubbing their head towards you, and supplying you with gradual blinks with their eyes. makes use of high-quality, credible sources, together with peer-reviewed research, to assist the claims in our articles. This content material is commonly reviewed and up to date for accuracy. Go to our
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  1. Harris, C. R. (2012). Tickling. College of California, San Diego.


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