Why Do Animals Like Being Pet? Animal Petting Explained!

Rhea Nischal
Nov 29, 2022 By Rhea Nischal
Originally Published on Oct 13, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Fact-checked by Gowri Rao
Happy kitten likes being stroked by woman's hand.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.7 Min

Have you ever wondered why your pet feels enormously comfortable when you pet it?

How do they instantly get relaxed when you stroke their head or on their belly? Why does stroking feels good to our cute animal friends?

Acts like cuddling and stroking are loved by animals. Stroking activates the neurons present in their hair follicles.

This activation imparts a pleasurable feeling to their brain. Apart from pleasure, animals such as cats like to be stroked as doing so marks their territory on their owner, and also leaves scent! Others like to be stroked as there are some parts of their body they can't reach on their own.

Interested to know more? Read on to learn fun facts about animal petting, how to pet a dog, why is petting good for their physical and mental well-being, and more!

If you enjoy this article, why not also read about why do cats like boxes and why do animals hibernate here on Kidadl?

Do all animals like to be petted?

The majority of domestic animals enjoy being petted. How much petting each animal requires varies from species to species.

Dogs and cats find it hard to touch their head's top, thus stroking by a human on such hard-to-touch areas gives them an extreme amount of satisfaction.

However, it is important to know which area to scratch and stroke as there are different regions for petting different animals, such as the head, belly, chin, and ears. The areas can also be determined by judging their reaction when touched in a particular place.

Cats and dogs love getting attention and petting them can make them feel loved and seen. Cats and dogs love getting attention and react positively most of the time when they are petted.

However, other species of mammals do not respond well, especially marine mammals. They have a special kind of coat, which can be damaged easily if given an unsuitable type of touch or stroke.

These coats act as protection and a wrong touch can leave these mammals vulnerable to diseases. Cats prefer to be rubbed because this is one of the steps of their grooming routine, especially between their ears.

They are also social animals that enjoy physical touch. When the owner gives its cat a head scratch, it could possibly remind the cat of the time when its mother used to lick its head as a kitten.

It is also assumed that the cat might view its owner as its mother as the gentle rubbing behavior is associated with the mother of the cat. Cats also love to rub themselves against their owner.

This type of behavior is referred to as bunting when cats rub their owner with their forehead.

They rub their owner so as to claim them as their territory. It is also believed that this behavior expresses friendliness.

Cats possess scent glands all over them. These glands are mainly present primarily on their face, including their forehead, chin, and cheeks.

When these areas are rubbed, their scent is left on the owner, and thus, the territory is marked by them. Similarly, rats also lick their babies, as this aids in urination in the initial set of days.

This licking has proven to make their babies less anxious. It has also been proven that rats who did not get licked as a baby get anxious and are prone to stress when they grow up.

How can petting improve your pet's health?

Stroking a pet is a great way for a pet owner to build as well as maintain a bond with its pet. Petting a dog or a cat promotes a calm mood and reinforces the desired behavior.

However, apart from this, stroking has an effect on the heath of the animal as well. It visibly reduces signs of stress and can also be a method of checking any sign of wellness problem. When an animal is stroked, it becomes submissive and calm naturally, enforcing positive behavior.

It listens to the instructions and the voice of its owner. It builds a strong relationship with the owner who is stroking it.

Many animals love being pet such as elephants, dogs, cats, and even humans! Stroking gestures activate the neurons that are present in the hair follicles.

This activation imparts a feeling of comfort and decreases the pressure on the brain. Rubbing and stroking are fundamentals to the sense of touch and prove that they play an essential role in our emotional well-being.

However, all kinds of touches are not pleasurable.

Mammals have shown that slighter and longer strokes provide them with the most amount of comfort and really feel good. Stroking is also a great way to examine the coat of a pet to check for any snags, parasites, or any significant changes that might be an indication of a health problem.

If a pet doesn't react well to being touched in a place they usually like to be touched, it also may signal a health problem. Neurobiologists have tried finding the underlying cause of why animals love to be petted.

They demonstrated through laboratory mice that only some particular sensory cells present in the skin react when the mice are stroked.

However, they do not react when the mice are poked or pinched. It was found out that only a subset of neurons reacted when the mice were stroked, and not when there was some other kind of contact.

It is known that the majority of animals' sensory neurons respond to a wide variety of contact forms like prodding, pinching, or poking, but in mice the scenario is different. Only the sensation of being stroked could effectively stimulate a specific neuron.

Why do we like petting animals and why do they like being pet?

Similar to humans, animals love it when humans stroke them and also love lots of attention and affection being given to them. Petting animals is the best method to transform negative feelings into positive feelings and they feel good when they are petted.

Even humans enjoy it when they stroke their pet as it feels good and the feeling is extraordinary.

Petting animals is essential to build trust as well as a good relationship with a pet. Almost all animals like being stroked, be it a dog, cat, horse, or even an elephant.

Interacting with pets enhances the bond with them. Human beings are quite tactile and love to play with animals that possess soft fur on their body.

When humans stroke animals, the nervous system undergoes positive changes. A pleasant sensation is encountered when the human skin touches the fur of animals, and positive emotional feelings are also emitted.

There are also many positive effects on the psychological system of humans when they play with their pets. The closeness to the pets and the emotional connection with them brings about these positive effects and improves mental well-being.

It has been proved that petting animals helps in the release of happy hormones, and also reduces heart rate and stress level. Blood pressure and heart rate significantly reduce to normal when an animal is being petted.

People have experienced calmness and relaxation when they stroked their pets. It is not necessary for animals to be a ball of fur.

The same feelings of calmness and relaxation are induced even on hard-shelled animals. Interestingly, even if people do not have a liking for any kind of animal, petting any kind still decreased stress!

Also, it is confirmed by studies that just the act of petting any kind of animal aids people that easily get anxious. These positive feelings arise due to the sense of touch and affection, which is essential in human life.

Touching is a means of bonding as well as communication. It isn't just a sensation, it helps in bonding mentally and physically, which is why humans enjoy it!

A woman petting a cute dog sleeping on her lap.

How To Pet A Dog

Dogs are unique animals and unlike cats, may or may not like to get their head stroked by their owners. Similar to cats they express affection via cuddling their owners, and by digging their head into their owner especially.

When they do so, it's a sign of attachment, affection, as well as bonding. A dog must be petted in a calm way, and not in a way that it may get spooked. It is imperative to obey the rules of the pet owners before petting a dog.

The dog must sit down before it is petted and shouldn't be pet when it is jumping. Many people attempt to catch a dog by running after it to pet it.

This only scares a dog further away and would not allow you to pet it.

A well-trained dog will also get scared if it is being approached by a strange person, and will only feel worse if the strange person starts to run to catch it. It is essential to not look like a threat when approaching a dog.

When near the dog, one must turn its body sideways and crouch down. However, one must not bend or stand over it as it is taken as a gesture of dominance by the dog.

Once the dog has noticed that a person is bending over them to stroke them, it will take it as a sign of dominance and would possibly get frightened. The best way would be to squat down and extend your hands.

This allows the dog to come on its own while wagging its tail.

This shows that it is calm with your presence and is a green signal to pet it. However, if it turns its head in another direction, doesn't move forward, or backs away, it must not be pet.

Did You Know...

It has been estimated by researchers that dogs are the most popular pet in the world and cats are the second most popular!

It is proved by researchers that petting a dog reduces cortisol level (the stress hormone) and simple social interaction between humans and their pets significantly boosts the production of oxytocin (the good-feeling hormone)!

A petting farm also referred to as a petting zoo, children's farm, or children's zoo, is a zoo/farm that houses a wide range of domesticated animal species that are safe enough to be fed food and touched. The majority of petting zoos house docile herbivorous animals like ponies, rabbits, pigs, goats, as well as sheep.

Such animals are safe to interact with.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for why do animals like being pet? Animal petting explained! then why not take a look at who do plants need sunlight? Fun plant facts for kids, or when do men stop growing?Curious body growth facts to know.

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Written by Rhea Nischal

Bachelor of Business Administration specializing in Management

Rhea Nischal picture

Rhea NischalBachelor of Business Administration specializing in Management

A background in Business Administration and Management from MCM DAV College, Rhea has led her to work for her father's global business. However, her passion for content production, where she manages operations to ensure all processes run smoothly. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the piano and spending time with her one-year-old nephew.

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Fact-checked by Gowri Rao

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

Gowri Rao picture

Gowri RaoBachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

With a bachelor's degree in Economics from Krea University, Gowri is a highly skilled data analyst and an expert in regression and causation modeling. Her interests in economic trends, finance, and investment research complement her professional expertise. In addition to her professional pursuits, Gowri enjoys swimming, running, and playing the drums, and she is also a talented tutor.

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