The Felis Catus is better known as the typical domestic cat. Our beloved house cats date back to ancient Egyptian times. The Egyptians worshipped them as sacred animals to the Gods as they protected their homes from poisonous snakes and scorpions. However, do they possess the characteristic that makes them ticklish?


Why is Something Ticklish?

A lot of research is done on the reason why someone – or something – might be ticklish. Some theories declare that it is a defense mechanism, while others claim it encourages social bonding.

When you are being tickled, it triggers the area of the brain responsible for emotional reactions, the hypothalamus. This activates both fight or flight, and pain responses. When you laugh because you’re tickled, it might be due to an autonomic emotional response. Both pain and nerve receptors are triggered, and the actions mimic those of someone suffering from severe pain.

However, does that mean that a cat’s brain must respond the same way as a human’s, for it to be ticklish? For that to be true, it must mean that cats must share some similar characteristics with us, humans.


How A Cat Is Classified

Taxonomists are scientists who discover, name as well as define and categorize all living organisms.

These scientists use seven indicators to identify the domestic cat. These indicators are specific and will allow even a scientist who has never seen any cat before, to recognize one. These indicators are a kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species.


1. Kingdom

All living organisms are divided into five different kingdoms of which Animalia represents both living and fossilized animals. For an organism to be classified in the Animalia Kingdom, it needs to have distinct characteristics. They need to be multicellular, heterotrophic, eukaryotes with no cell wall. In simpler terms, this means that they consist of more than one cell, they get their food through ingestion and have more complex cells than that of bacteria. Their cells also don’t have a rigid outer layer, called a cell wall, that gives the cell structure. Cats (and humans) adhere to all these characteristics because:

  • They are multicellular – they have specialized cells to perform different functions.
  • They get their food by either cat pellets or hunting, they do not photosynthesize.
  • Their eukaryotic – their cells have a distinct nucleus that contains the genetic material, of which is DNA, in the form of chromosomes.
  • Their cells do not have walls made up of cellulose, protein or chitin.


2. Phylum

Cats are in the phylum-Chordata as well as the subphylum-Vertebrata. This means that cats a notochord (spine) that supports the body and a first rod which develops into a section of its spinal column. They also possess a nerve cord that allows for the transmitting of signals. Their fully-formed skeletons and segmented spinal column is what classifies them as vertebrates.


3. Class

There are a few characteristics that set mammals apart from other animals:

  • Mammary glands that allow the mother to nurse her young with milk.
  • Hair – only mammals have hair.
  • They are warm-blooded and require lots of nutrition to maintain their body temperature.
  • Their brains are better developed.
  • They have limbs which allow movement. This is the last classification that cats share wholeheartedly with humans.


4. Order

Cats are classified as Carnivora, as their diet consists mainly of meat. Cats have big canine-teeth as well as three pairs of incisors & sharp carnassials-teeth in place of premolars. Domestic cats’ teeth aren’t quite as sharp as their more primal siblings. Most distinctively are they distinguished by their fixed jaw that cannot move side to side, only up and down.


5. Family

Domestic & wild cats have six characteristics that differentiate them from some of the other Carnivora mammals. They are part of the Felidae family with the following traits. Retractable claws

Patterned or speckled coats, although some domestic cats only have single-color coats.

Shortened (and smaller) skull with fewer teeth (short muzzles)

Their movement is mostly on their toes (Locomotion digitigrade) • Their vision is improved with a reflective-membrane over their eyes.

They are very agile and balanced. 6 + 7. Genus and Species

Cats form part of the Felis genus and the Catus Specie, which ultimately grants them the scientific name-Felis Catus. Domestic cats are part of Felis since they are small cats. However, different scientific institutions will classify the type of cat in this genus in different ways. Some only classify small felines, such as the wildcat, jungle cat, and domestic cat, as Felis.

Others classify cats such as the mountain lion in this genus, even though it is larger than a “big cat” leopard. The only thing that the various classifications have in common is that all animals in the Felis genus cannot roar.

Today there are pure breeds of the species Catus ranging from 40 to 55. Most domestic cats are pets even though some scientists do believe that the species descended from the wary European wildcat.


Can Cats be Ticklish?

There are two types of ticklishness. One of which is only displayed in humans and our closest relative primates (chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans).

Knismesis is the type of ticklishness that feels more like an itch. This is a product of evolution that allows animals to protect themselves from harmful and poisonous bugs better. Dogs scratch their ears, while cats tend to groom when they encounter such irritation or itchy spots.

The other form of response due to begin tickled is called gargalesis. This, as mentioned before, is only seen in humans and some species of ape. Some believe that this response developed to help the young improve their self-defense skills. It is found that kids will develop and improve their reflexes when they engage in tickle fights with their peers.

However, unfortunately, cats only experience knismesis, and not the laughter-response gargalesis. Although your cat might kick out their leg when you scratch their stomachs, it is not due to them being ticklish. The feather-light touches you might try to tease and tickle your cat with might feel similar to crawling bugs.

Therefore, they sometimes react to being “tickled.”



Although cats share some characteristics with humans. Unfortunately, cats do not experience the same as us. Their response is more due to an adapted trait that allows them to fend off pesky bugs. However, they still do often enjoy you scratch them behind their ears! (Even if it’s not ticklish).

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