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Old 07-21-2016, 12:33 PM
Smapti Smapti is offline
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Location: Swerve City, WA
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Cats and the "lick button"

A couple years ago, my mother's cat, "Toaster", was put down somewhere in her mid-teens due to her developing a brain tumor. We don't know exactly how old she was; my mother adopted her from a sober living house where she'd ended up after her original owner had died, and we thought she was somewhere around 15 or 16. Somewhere around a year or so before her passing, I was visiting my mother's apartment and Toaster was sitting in my lap, and as I was stroking her I noticed something I'd never seen another cat do before - if I stroked or scratched her lower back right above the base of her tail, she would immediately start licking her lips, and as soon as I stopped she'd stop. After I went home that night, I immediately went up to Ebeneezer, my own cat, who was 5 or 6 at the time, and tried it on him. It didn't work. I wrote it up to it being some weird tic of that particular cat and didn't think about it thereafter.

That was, as I said, a few years ago. Ebeneezer had his tenth birthday a few weeks ago, and as I was petting him a few days ago I suddenly discovered that he had suddenly developed the same response! If I scratch him in that spot, he starts licking, though he doesn't lick the air like Toaster did - he'll either lick around his chest and shoulders, or, if he's in my lap and my other arm is within reach, alternately lick and gently "nibble" on my arm (he opens and closes his mouth on it, but doesn't use his teeth). I've read that most cats dislike having their lower back petted or scratched, but just like with Toaster, it doesn't seem to bother him - I've even noticed him start to purr while I'm scratching him there, and he doesn't make any attempt to get up or go away if I stop.

Does anyone know the straight dope on why this happens? I've tried Googling the phenomenon, but I haven't found anything authoritative - just other people relating similar experiences with their cats and offering guesses as to what's going on.
Old 07-21-2016, 04:27 PM is offline
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Minneapolis, MN
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That spot is known to be a 'responsive' spot in cats -- they respond to it as a pleasurable sensation.

My cats respond by purring, except for a formerly homeless cat, who goes through an elaborate stretching routine. But he's starting to purr, too, after observing the other cats do so.

My speculation is that the specific way the cats respond is learned behavior -- your reaction teaches' them the proper way to respond (Because then you will continue to scratch there). Cats are very good at picking up subtle clues from their owner (servant)'s reaction. So your cat has that you responded more excitedly when you see licking behavior, so that is what it does now.

Last edited by; 07-21-2016 at 04:28 PM.
Old 07-21-2016, 04:31 PM
kenobi 65 kenobi 65 is online now
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Brookfield, IL
Posts: 11,189
We call it the "twitch spot" -- our old cat's entire back would twitch if you touched him there.

Current cat also likes to be touched there, but he's one who gets very overstimulated very quickly, no matter where you touch him, and his mood turns, in a heartbeat, from "yessss, that's gooood", to "IwillbiteyouNOW!"
Old 07-22-2016, 08:57 AM
BobArrgh BobArrgh is offline
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 1,355
When we rub that area on our cat, he licks his right paw.

Our dog seems to have the same response area. When I massage her back right above her tail, she rolls over for tummy rubs and does this weird thing with her mouth. She opens her mouth wide and does a sort of snort/coughing sound and then waves her paws and bats at my hand. She really seems to like it.
Old 07-22-2016, 09:14 AM
kayT kayT is offline
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Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Austin
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One of my cats earned the title Elevator Butt since when he was scratched on that spot his butt would rise up in the air.


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