Are Cats Ticklish?


Speaking as a crazy cat lady with personal experience, do I think cats are ticklish? Like any other creature, including human beings, they respond to every touch that comes their way accordingly. When scratching their bellies or touching them in a manner you know will spark a reaction, this feline member of the animal kingdom will twitch upon impact. Unlike human beings, cats don’t laugh. They do, however, react when certain parts of their body are touched in a manner they may either love or hate. According to Cat Checkup, there are seven ways to find out whether or not a cat truly is ticklish.


When human beings are brought to laughter by tickling, the reaction is known as gargalesis. Some primates, as well as even rats, have also been known to have this triggered among them too. As for cats, the experience is referred to as knismesis. This is a feeling that’s related to an irritating itch tickle, much like a light touch that causes one to brush it away. Among people, when touched in this manner it usually brings about a squirming effect and sometimes laughter. This is the gargalesis reaction. As for the folks who may not share this particular reaction, they may do the same as cats do, which is the knismesis response. This means whoever is doing the tickling will be met with a nudge to stop what they’re doing. Now, does this mean cats have a ticklish reaction when touched in a manner that gives them cause to push you away? Sounds like it, doesn’t it?

Recognizing Personalities

Just like people, no two cats are exactly the same. Just like people who are tickled, their reactions to certain sensory touches can vary. When touching a ticklish area, the knismesis reaction may be nothing to be concerned about or it could become something where maybe leaving the cat alone would be advised. As mentioned, I have cats of my own. I have three now and I can personally vouch that not one of these three shares the exact same reaction. To make it interesting, all three of these cats belong to the same litter. Freddy is my “tickle-bunny” as he seems to love it as he keeps coming back for more. His brother, Jason, has mixed reactions. At first, he seems okay with it but gets annoyed quickly and will let me know when I’m going too far. Their sister, Snow, is even moodier than Jason. If she wants to be tickled she will approach you. If not, she will avoid you.

These are just three cats used as an example. There is one common reaction among cats (and dogs) where tickling them under a sensitive spot of the ear will cause the back leg to either twitch or jump. As common as this is, not one of my three does this. The belly tickle has also been known to spark the back leg jump reaction, but not with my three. It’s like they’re immune. Freddy, however, squirms about but uses his paws to pull you in for more. Jason does the same at first before resorting to biting and hissing. Between these two, I have fun tickling Freddy in this manner while I choose not to with Jason. As for Snow, as she squirms, her face goes into a silly mode that almost looks as if she’s laughing. I know she’s not as this isn’t possible but it is priceless when it happens. Another known tickling technique is gently going after the bottom of their paws or between their toes.

Freddy can’t get enough of this as he will wrap his paw around my finger when he thinks I’m about to stop before he wants me to. He’s never scratched me but definitely lets me know he’s not done. As for Jason, this is the only tickling method I can get away with that doesn’t trigger his temper. With Snow, she’s always in the mood for a good paw tickle. This is because the paw is so sensitive that even the softest touch seems to be incredibly ticklish for a cat. This is especially obvious with outdoor cats as it is the paws and claws that serve as their primary source for survival. Tampering with this in any manner, no matter how gentle you are about it, will spark a reaction from your feline friend. However, just because my three cats respond favorably to paw tickles doesn’t mean every cat appreciates this. There are some that will either bat at you to stop or hiss. When it comes to that, then please stop. If it’s not fun for the cat then what you’re doing at that point is equivalent to abuse. No responsible pet owner in their right mind should ever place their cat, or any pet of theirs, in a situation that it doesn’t want to be in.

Recognizing Behaviors

Should a cat nuzzle up to you with its head into your hands, this means they want to be pet or tickled. Freddy is notorious for this. Snow will do so on the odd occasion but it’s rare. Jason doesn’t even bother but will flop over on the floor and issue his idea of command to have you comply. If you don’t, he becomes your shadow until either you cave or he realizes you’re not in the mood. It’s rare I’m not in the mood but when it’s obvious I simply say “no” and he gets it. Yeah, all three of my cats have a remarkable understanding when I address them. They know their names and they know by the tone of my voice and a simple word what’s okay and what’s not. I think it’s safe to say many can relate to this. When touched favorably, cats typically react by either shivering or shaking their heads. Often, they will also lift their tail or backs. If they don’t care for it they will either bite, hiss, or swat. In some cases, even all three. When this happens, respect the cat’s wishes and leave it alone. Just like human beings, cats are sensitive creatures. This is really obvious when the top of their head, as well as their necks, are either rubbed or tickled. In some cases, if you stop what they feel is premature, they may even give you a nudge to continue. This is like massage therapy for them. Even when you tickle the chin, they often react favorably.

The Purring Effect

What makes cats so awesome, at least among crazy cat people, is the purring effect. Usually, when they’re purring this means they’re loving the moment. While cats do not laugh as people do, sometimes the purring that comes from them is the closest thing to it. Usually, the purring serves as a sense of contentment from the cat. For people, the miniature boat motor sound coming from the cat serves as a soothing effect even for them as this serves as a sign their cat is happy about something. However, when you deal with a cat as oddball as my Jason, sometimes the purring isn’t always a green light to keep up with the tickling. With him, it’s as if his personal timer for the purr effect is slightly off. He is a biter so with a cat like him, going into a false sense of security that the purring means he’s 100% happy can result in a bite, a hiss, or a scratch. Freddy and Snow are much easier to read, at least for me they are. Ideally, the more you know your cat and what works for it the better. Just like you, it has its own personality and special quirks that make it so special. The video shared on MSN shows excellent information and footage about how to better understand whether or not cats really are ticklish.

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