Why Do Cats Like Being Pet on Their Chins?

If you've ever interacted with a cat, then you know that, on the (sometimes seemingly rare) occasions when they decide they want attention from humans, they often like that attention to come in the form of well-placed pets and scratches.

Happy kitten likes being stroked by woman's hand.
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For many cats, the be-all, end-all of pets are chin pets. But why? Here, we dig into everything you need to know about how to pet a cat and why the chin is the magic spot for so many of our feline friends.

Why cats like being pet

Let's start with the basics here because before we can understand why cats like being pet on their chins, we have to know why they like being pet at all. You know what they say about walking before you run and all that.

Basically, cats like being petted because it's a way to spread their world domination scent around. Cats do this one their own, of course—if you've ever seen a cat rub their face on furniture or anything else, you've seen this process at work. Cats do this because they like for their environments to smell familiar and what could possibly be more familiar than their very own scent? It's also a signal to any other cats or animals in general that they've marked that territory. So, when you pet your cat, you're picking up his scent, which makes you smell like home to him and lets other cats know that you're spoken for.

Woman playing with a stray cat
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Where do cats like being pet?

Since the primary function of petting is scent-spreading, it shouldn't come as a shock that cats' favorite places to be pet are the areas where their scent glands are concentrated. These spots are:

  • Cheeks
  • The base of the ears
  • The base of the tail
  • And of course, the base of the chin.

How to pet a cat's chin

If you want to truly rock your cat's world with some next-level chin rubs, follow Dr. Marty Becker, DVM's advice: "Rub your cat gently along the underside of the chin, especially where the jawbone connects to the skull. You'll likely get the purr-motor running hard, as your cat pushes into this pleasant caress."

Are there any negative side effects of chin pets?

Showering your cat in chin pets will strengthen your bond, make you smell like him (to other animals anyway—your puny human nose probably won't notice a difference), and it feels soothing and great for your cat. But, like all good things, chin pets can have a downside if you overdo it. In this case that potential downside is catne, which is the common name for cat acne.

Doctor veterinarian at clinic
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Like humans, cats' skin can break out from time to time with acne. Excessive chin pets can be a problem if the sebaceous glands on your cat's chin can become overactive. This will lead to breakouts which can be itchy and even get infected. Since the catne is itchy, this can also be a CAUSE of chin rubs, since your cat will likely come looking for chin pets if his acne breakout itches, regardless of what caused those sebaceous glands to go into overdrive. You'll know that you have a catne breakout on your hands (literally) if your cat's chin feels greasy and bumpy. You might also be able to see blackheads and red bumps if you take a peek under the chin, just like in humans.

If your cat is struck by a catne breakout, avoiding scratching the area and keep an eye on your cat to make sure he or she isn't scratching it against furniture or other objects. If it doesn't clear up on its own or you think it might be infected, take your kitty to the vet for some kitty dermatology help.