Finding an animal’s favorite scratching spot builds bonds

As I came in the door this evening, I stopped to pet the long, orange tabby cat lying in the middle of the floor. Reaching my hand under his chin, my fingers began gently scratching his neck and head. Immediately, the motorboat began purring as he stretched out on his back for some tummy action. Rolling his head around, hinting that he wanted another chin rub, I thought about how different animals respond to their favorite scratching spot.

Given my pondering, I thought I might share some of my experiences with critters. Discovering the perfect area on an animal’s body that creates a pleasing effect has been a quest in my encounters with various species. I have come to realize that most animals have a sweet spot on their body that, when activated, conveys pleasure to both the animal and the human delivering the special touch. 

An animal content in the moment will often have heavy eyes accompanied by a serene look on their face. Typically they adjust their bodies to conform to the immediate pleasing position. Cats will usually purr and a dog’s tail will wag with delight. A horse’s head will drop when they are comfortably relaxed and a bird will fluff their feathers. I have found that most animals enjoy the touch of a human, especially when you discover that certain area on their body that stimulates pleasure.

Typically, cats purr when they are happy, except cats like my Tom. Instead of providing a pleasing vocal sound, he arches his neck and back as I massage my fingers down his spine. Most cats I have encountered love the rub underneath the chin. That is the one place on their body that is hard for them to clean. Your touch in this area usually sends pulsations of euphoria through a cat’s whole being.

Dogs, on the other hand, are a whole different breed. Short-haired, stubby tailed dogs, like the rottweiler or boxer, will wiggle their hind ends as you scratch along their back hindquarters. I have found that many small breed dogs, especially short or shaved hair, love a good scratch along their neck behind the ears. They will often crane their head to help you rub in the perfect spot.

And how many dogs love a good belly rub! They prompt the human into bending down to caress the soft underneath by rolling on their back. As their eyes roll back in their heads, a content canine will usually wriggle back and forth, scratching their backside while enjoying the human touch on their stomach.

Even large breed animals often have their favorite scratching spot. My mare used to enjoy being brushed and would begin dancing as I ran the brush down her backside. Her faithful companion, my son’s gelding, loves to be caressed under his chin. He elevates his nose in the air when I run a soft bristled brush down his neck. His skin quivers, sending tremors pulsating through his body. When he is satisfied with the good rub, he gently lays his chin on my shoulder.

I don’t know if cows have a good scratching spot. My family ran cows for many years, but I do not recall them being overly affectionate. Well, except maybe when we were banding the bulls. They were always pretty calm as we fumbled with their testicles. 

After spending a few years as a caretaker for a pair of African grey parrots, observing the exotic siblings as they co-existed in a bustling business, I learned they, too, have a special scratching spot. They loved to have their necks rubbed and would curl their chin down to offer easier access to the back of their heads.

I think most creatures have a scratching spot. We as humans do, why wouldn’t animals? Relationships are built on learning others’ soft spots; with animals, the encounter is usually mutual adoration. They bring so much joy to our lives, the least we can do is return pleasing emotions to them.

Creating a bond with an animal can quickly be achieved, even in spontaneous encounters, by finding the animals’ perfect scratching spot.

I might advise you, though, to be careful in the bull pen. 

Charlé Thibodeau has been passionate pet caregiver for more than 30 years. If you have a pets question you would like Thibodeau to answer in her column, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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