Why Do Cats Close Their Eyes When You Pet Them?

Why Do Cats Close Their Eyes When You Pet Them
Image: istockphoto.com / NiseriN

Most felines enjoy being cuddled, petted, and fussed over. Some may go to great lengths to let you know that they enjoy the cuddles and petting. They may purr, headbutt you, lick your nose or lay and get comfy on your lap while closing their eyes. 

Why do cats close their eyes when you pet them?

Cats may tend to be aloof and finicky but they do enjoy some good cuddles, petting, and play sessions. You may have noticed your cat closing her eyes when you pet her. Do not get confused or think that your cat is about to snooze off because she is not about to take a nap. She is closing her eyes to signify that she is appreciative of your gesture and that she is enjoying it immensely. 

Your cat may also close her eyes to signify her trust to you as you pet her.  This means she is not threatened by you and knows that you are someone with whom she can hold her defenses down. When a cat trusts a person they usually do not feel to be on alert so when she closes her eyes when being petted it is an ultimate sign of trust.

Aside from being appreciative, enjoying the gestures and as an expression of trust, your cat may also close her eyes because she feels extremely relaxed. 

Why do cats arch their backs when you pet them?

Just as a cat closes her eyes when you pet them, your cat may also arch her back and this usually signifies pleasure and contentment. Her breathing is usually slow and steady, her ears and whiskers are in a neutral position and the tail is low and static. She may also arch her back when you pet her because she is stretching to ease the tension in her back and shoulder muscles and to release endorphins in their brain. 

However, while arching her back may mean contentment it may also have other meanings and these may include:

  • your cat may feel threatened 
  • she may be fearful or does not trust you 
  • to signify that you should stop petting her 

Signs that  your cat does not want to be petted anymore:

  • she is squirming and attempting to escape
  • she is batting at hands with claws
  • she is growling
  • her ears are pinned back
  • her eyes are widely dilated 
  • her tail is twitching or swishing wildly 

Do cats like to be petted?

Do cats like to be petted
Image: istockphoto.com / Nitiphonphat

Yes, cats usually like to be petted especially if you do it appropriately and correctly. The favorite parts where cats like to be petted include the head, chin, and neck. 

When petting your cat, always pay close attention to how your cat reacts to your touch and respect what she prefers. You have to allow your cat to take the lead. 

A cat that wants to cuddle and be petted will push her face against your hand and will lead you to her ears or chin. If you observe your cat nudging you with her head or rubbing her cheeks against her body, that is a very positive sign confirming that she is receptive of your cuddles and petting. 

Aside from being petted, cats also appreciate being held, but not always. They are responsive and okay with being held so long as you introduce it to them in a gradual manner. To approach your cat for a hug, start by giving her a few soft pets and slowly pick her up to hold her.  Make sure that her legs do not dangle as a cat will more likely stay in your arms if she feels safe there. 

However, if your cat starts to squirm, wants to escape and suddenly does not want to be touched, put her down gently but repeat the process at a later time when she is calm and relaxed. Always have treats ready and gradually your cat will get used to being held and cuddled.

Cat experts note that there are cat breeds that are more receptive to petting and cuddling compared to others. Some of the most affectionate breeds include the Ragdoll, Maine Coon, Siamese, and Persian. You may also check our earlier article on the most affectionate cat breeds for a more thorough discussion. 

If your cat resists your petting and cuddles, do not be alarmed as it is most likely part of her upbringing or personality. Proper socialization must start when a cat is still a kitten and if you adopted an adult cat it may take ample time and adaptation before your cat welcomes petting sessions. 


Even though many think that cats are aloof and standoffish, felines also crave human interaction and can also become very affectionate.  Cats close their eyes when you pet them because petting gives them pleasure. Most of all, it is a sign of complete trust toward you and that you are someone with whom she can hold her defenses down.