Scientists agree: you're petting your cat wrong.

Scientists agree: you're petting your cat wrong.
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A study found where cats like to be petted, and the results may disappoint some clingy cat owners.

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A cat showing affection. (stock photo)

I'm going to make a statement that will divide you readers right off the bat: I love cats. I love every cat I've ever met, and I'll always pet them, even if they claw me and draw blood. Because my love knows no reason.

Like many cat lovers, I've noticed over the years that while different cats react differently to petting, there are certain observable trends in how they like to be touched. I could never pin them down, but thankfully, science has my back. A new study published in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science says that cats have definite preferences when it comes to being petted.

The study, catchily titled "The influence of body region, handler familiarity and order of region handled on the domestic cat's response to being stroked," examined 54 cats and found certain broad patterns. The cats preferred being petted on their heads. Scratching the ears, rubbing the cheeks, scritching under the chin – these are all golden. (Scritching is like scratching, but better. It's a cat term.) Cats also enjoyed being petted on their torsos, but not as much as on their heads. But there's one spot on a cat you should avoid petting at all costs: the tail.

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OFF LIMITS! (stock photo)

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Most of the cats studied didn't like being petted at the base of their tails. They believe that spot is a sort of "erogenous zone" for cats, and that petting it may overstimulate them. Then again, I've known multiple cats that love having their tails petted, or even pulled. I guess those were just the kinky cats that were turned on by it. This is very disturbing news, and will make me much more suspicious when I pet cats in the future.

The study also found that cats do not care about the order of the body parts you pet. And in a particularly interesting result, they found that cats exhibited more signs of stress when petted by their owners than by strangers. This finding matches the results of another study from 2013. They posit that cats may be stressed by their owners' urges to pet them. Bad news for cat owners – being needy is kind of their thing.

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Incidentally, it was not part of the study, but my own analysis has confirmed that cats, like all animals, love belly rubs.

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