Why does my cat spaz out when I touch her in a certain spot?
July 21, 2005 11:06 PM   Subscribe

My cat has this spot on her back, where, if you scratch it, she goes absolutely insane- she starts purring loud, lifts her head up, sticks her tongue out and starts licking at the air. What on earth is going on?

As much as it looks like a cat orgasm, I can't tell if I'm hurting her or if it's a pleasurable experience, and either way I'm not sure I want to be doing that to my cat. The spot is a few inches up from her tail, above her legs on one side. She's 16 now, but she's been doing this for at least five or six years, that's the first I remember it happening.
posted by BuddhaInABucket to Pets & Animals (29 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
This "lick spot" is very common among adult cats. My take on it is that if the cat was uncomfortable, it'd walk away.

The "lick spot" is also handy to get your cat to take medicine; put a bit of food on the end of your finger, with the medicine on/in it, and trigger the lick reflex.

I think I read something somewhere about it being a means for mother cats to get their kittens to nurse; by licking a kitten at that point above the tail, it encourages them to go for the nipple.
posted by solid-one-love at 11:47 PM on July 21, 2005

we call it the sweet spot. one of our cats has it, about 3 inches up on her left side. when i scratch it, she will snort and start this quick light biting on whatever is close by. i usually do it when she's next to my husband and she will start biting his shirt or arm. hehe. it doesn't seem to bother her.
posted by centrs at 12:28 AM on July 22, 2005

I find that ours only have that spot if they have fleas. Thus it's a good way to test for fleas. YMMV.
posted by krisjohn at 12:51 AM on July 22, 2005 [1 favorite]

My in-laws have a cat with a sweet spot, just above his tail on his back. If you scratch him there he starts purring and nibbling on his own paw. I always assumed that because he's fat he could never scratch himself or clean himself there, so it's a sweet-relief-to-itchy-response, but I like the mother-licking-nipple-response idea better.
posted by sic at 1:18 AM on July 22, 2005

The spot on the back before the tail also can be suspectible to being extra thick or greasy, usually in male cats, making them in need of extra grooming. It's called stud tail. So i believe it is in part a grooming incentive to keep the area tended to, hence cleaner.

In caring for your cat, be aware of its skin condition as you pet or groom them, as they will purr in cases of profundity, being it pleasure or pain. If you don't have calluses on your fingers, most people can tell from the senation of their fingertips if the skin is uniform, has bugs or is broken or clogged in any way.
posted by philida at 4:25 AM on July 22, 2005

I've always known this as the ass button, because my cats would always stick their backsides way up in the air when this happened. I just assumed it was the equivalent of the leg-shaking spot on pooches.
posted by sciurus at 6:39 AM on July 22, 2005 [2 favorites]

Thanks, everyone- it's good to know my cat's not insane... or, well... that she's just wired to be that way.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 7:04 AM on July 22, 2005

Most cats seem to have the "ass button." My cat sure does. I assumed it was because it was difficult for her to groom this spot herself. I have found a good scratch there is an excellent way to make friends with an unfamiliar cat, especially if their owner has not discovered the technique. Some particularly young cats, or wild ones, may not ever have been scratched there and may react negatively to it, however. It is sensitive, and skittish cats will react to being touched in a sensitive spot before they have a chance to realize it is pleasurable. I have been scratched because of this.
posted by kindall at 7:11 AM on July 22, 2005

Oh my gosh -- my cat has the "lick reflex" too! If you so much as touch with your pinky finger a certain spot on her back, she starts licking like crazy; take your finger away and the licking stops. I hadn't encountered another cat with that reflex before, even though my family had tons of cats when I was growing up. Good to hear it's pretty normal after all!
posted by youarejustalittleant at 7:17 AM on July 22, 2005

I used to breed and show cats, years ago -- the "common wisdom" among cat breeders is that this is an "accupressure" spot connected to the cat's sex response system.

I can tell you from experience that if a queen is in heat, firm pressure on this spot (a hollow on the side of the body just in from the base of the tail) will eventually cause the queen to yelp and roll (which is what they do when they are bred); they also attempt to swat their partner at this point, so be prepared or bring bandaids :-). A few days after this, the queen will usually go out of heat, just as if she's been bred. Breeders sometimes use this trick to take a queen out of heat if for some reason she's not to be bred this time around.

Different cats (whole or altered) have different reactions to being touched or petted near this spot -- some, particularly females do not like to be touched within 3 - 4 inches of it, and will nip at you if you try it. Others love it (the sluts).
posted by nonliteral at 7:47 AM on July 22, 2005 [2 favorites]

Wait, is the lick button and the ass button the same thing? 'Cause my cats will purr and stick their buts in the air if you pet the spot just at the base of the tail. But they sure don't lick anything.
posted by stray at 8:16 AM on July 22, 2005

Right, stray, that's what I was going to say. Is this the same thing?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:34 AM on July 22, 2005

We always called it the 'cat jack' because it reliably lifts their back end right in the air. It usually didn't involve licking - just purring and the occasional head butt - I'd love to know whether the lick button & ass button are the same.

I miss my cats.
posted by Space Kitty at 11:45 AM on July 22, 2005 [1 favorite]

Well, when I scratch the spot right in front of my cat's tail, she sticks her ass up in the air and starts licking her front paws. Two simultaneous responses from a single stimulus. So I'd say it's the same thing.
posted by kindall at 12:23 PM on July 22, 2005

You must scratch me there!
Yes, above my tail! Behold,
elevator butt.
posted by kaefer at 12:24 PM on July 22, 2005 [3 favorites]

10 points for the haiku, even if it's old. :)

Another cat-reflex spot is the point where the cat's jaw meets its skull. Pressing lightly there will produce a mouth-opening response, suitable for administering medicine, beer cans you need opening, or annoying salespersons.

YCMV (Your Cat May Vary)
posted by catkins at 2:10 PM on July 22, 2005

Wait, is the lick button and the ass button the same thing?

Different. The ass button is right at the base of the tail; the lick button is to one side and further up the body.
posted by jjg at 3:42 PM on July 22, 2005

Stupid follow on question: does it matter which side of the body? I don't think I've ever hit this "lick button", but the ass buttons get pressed on a regular basis.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 10:00 PM on July 22, 2005

I think it's pretty much on both sides, though some cats may have a stronger reaction on one side than the other. My dearly departed Biner's main lick-button was on his right side, though I'm sure there are also some left-assed cats out there.

or is that South-assed?
posted by scarabic at 3:13 AM on July 23, 2005

Further to nonliteral's point: our female cat will kill you if you touch her there. She's a little twitchy to start with. Calico. Sigh.
posted by mcwetboy at 6:12 AM on July 23, 2005

I've had five cats; always figured out the ass button, but never figured out the lick button.

Which useless information was merely transparent padding in order to say...

MetaFilter: ass buttons get pressed on a regular basis

(matt, jess, I'm sorry! Go ahead and delete me! I really could not resist, and surely you must understand why?)
posted by taz at 6:28 AM on July 23, 2005 [1 favorite]

My cat likes to be spanked there and preferably on a surface high enough that she can reach out and snag me should I quit before she has had enough. It's how we got to be friends and how she and I came to be sharing the same space. She is at least part-Manx and I think this is related--whether a learned or natural response, many cats like to be spanked, in my experience, and Manxes most especially. Petting her, scratching her at the same spot at the base of her tail is attention she has learned to accept over time but spanking, oh man, that's her thing. If I tried petting, rather than spanking, her when she lived at the store, she would haul off and pop me or bite me. She's quite the biter, too--she has one for every occasion, exquisitely graded according to the severity of the transgression.

That's my cat--a bitin' grabby spanky cat with an attitude.
posted by y2karl at 11:55 AM on July 23, 2005

My Siamese also likes to be spanked. She became addicted to it for awhile -- sticking her ass in our faces whenever we were sitting down in a place she could reach us. No licking, though.
posted by me3dia at 3:50 PM on July 23, 2005

hijacking {slightly}...

Anyone ever had your cat groom you? I've had cats maybe 1/2 my life, and while I've had a cat lick my arm/my hand....

I was at my friend's place and one of his three cats was making friends with me, while I laid down on their couch. At which point the cat started to lick/groom my hair on my head.
posted by filmgeek at 4:56 PM on July 23, 2005

spanking cats??????

My cat just likes to be around me. He cries at my door if I don't let him in. All he wants to do is suck on my collar.
posted by Dean Keaton at 2:09 PM on July 24, 2005

filmgeek, my cat used to lick my eyebrows into place.
posted by Specklet at 9:26 AM on July 25, 2005

Our male cat, Sancho, definitely has a lick button and an ass button. Ass buttons come standard on both our cats. The lick button is something new to me, and seems to only apply to the male cat although my dog (a male) also has one in about the same spot. Cat gets twitchy, starts rotating his head, and then starts licking his chest furiously. Dog just lowers his head and starts licking his chops over and over. Both the dog and the cats like being spanked.

On a freakier note, the dog makes a point of trying to hump the cats whenever we have company over. Female cat wants nothing to do with it and will try to kick the dog's ass, but the Sancho lets him have his way with him. And when the dog gets sick, the male cat sleeps next to him. I don't really understand it, but it's kinda sweet.
posted by echolalia67 at 10:03 PM on July 25, 2005

This thread is ancient and yet I must add a link to this video of a cat having it's "lick spot" stimulated.

I do not know how long that video will be up and there are some potential NSFW ads on the page, unfortunately.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 5:35 PM on May 19, 2006

Not only does my cat groom me (lick the hair on my head, chest, etc) but when she licks my chin, she'll eventually bite me. And she tries to lick my lips and slip me some tongue. It's a bit gross. My girlfriend says my cat is in love with me.
posted by jdfan at 7:28 PM on June 2, 2006

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