Ever tried picking up your cute kitty, but instead of getting some snuggles and kisses, you ended up getting a few scratches?
And so you wonder if you just did it the wrong way and if such a thing as an “idiot’s guide on how to pick up a cat” exists.
Good thing, you’re not alone. Many fur parents, at one point in their life, have come across the same dilemma. Yes, living with a cat that’s shy and fearful is downright frustrating. But don’t worry, there’s a way around it.
So, if your life badly needs your cats’ lovin’, just sit back and relax. Feline Living – your go-to site for all things related to cats – is here to give you all the tips and tricks you need to know to get your cat on your arms scratch-free, even for at least a few minutes.
Why Cats Don’t Like Being Picked Up
Long-time cat owners would most likely know by now that cats have this don’t care, I’ll-do-what-I-want-to-do attitude.
Yes, they can be playful, affectionate, and sociable, but they are also control freaks. So, what does this have to do with cats and their somewhat standoffish response when it comes to being picked up?
This actually explains a lot, and understanding this is key to how you could go about picking up your cat the right way.
Apart from their warm-hearted yet rather apathetic nature, there are other possible reasons why a cat doesn’t like being picked up. If you want to know what they are, read on.
It’s In Their Genes
A cat’s temperament has a lot to do with its genetics. If you want a cat that loves to cuddle, then one thing you ought to consider is its breed.
Fact is, there are cat breeds that are more relaxed and affectionate. Among the most cuddle-friendly are Ragdolls and Persian cats.
Their Past Experiences
Like humans, a cat’s present behavior might be a result of their past experiences. So, it’s possible that your cat may have had an unpleasant or traumatic handling encounter in the past.
It’s also possible that your cat – as a kitten – was never held. This will make them feel uneasy and reluctant. This will also explain why your cat does not like to be held.
They Don’t Feel In Control
As mentioned, cats want to be in control of things. When things don’t go their way, cats tend to feel stressed, fearful, and anxious. To avoid these situations, pet parents need to learn the right time and technique for picking up a cat.
They May Have An Underlying Condition
A cat may also turn down cuddles when they feel under the weather or when they have joint or muscle pains. To rule this out, make sure to get your pet checked by a trusted veterinarian.
To Scruff Or Not To Scruff?
Since picking up a cat can be frustrating and time-consuming, others will opt to hold their cat by the scruff. The big question is: Is it okay to pick up your cat by the scruff?
The short answer here is NO. Although you might find your veterinarian doing this to administer medicine, scruffing a cat or grasping the loose skin on your cat’s neck should always be your last resort.
Scruffing your cat may look like a harmless act, but this small action may do more harm than good. Here are a few good reasons why you need to stop doing this:
- It makes them feel even more stressed, anxious, and fearful
- It can bring about bad or aggressive behavior
- It can ruin your relationship with your cat
Dos & Dont’s On How To Pick Up A Cat
If you’re expecting a short answer to this question, sorry to disappoint you. The thought of picking up a cat seems so easy and straightforward, but those who have tried would most likely disagree. Picking up a cat (whether it’s your own pet or someone else’s cat) actually takes time and patience.
Since scruffing them by their neck is already out of the question, make sure to pick up a cat properly. And to know the right way to pick up a cat (or any other animal), keep in mind all these dos and dont’s.
Cat Handling Dos
Want to know how you can pick up your pet cat like a pro? Here are some of the things that you must do when attempting to pick up or hold a cat:
Understand Your Cat’s Body Language
You’ll only be able to pick up a cat if the cats want to be picked. And the secret to knowing the right time to hold your cat is reading and understanding their body language.
A kitty that wants to be held will look relaxed and happy. Here are other tell-tale signs that your cats are snuggle-ready:
- Rubs their body against you
- The tail is not bushy and is not twitching
- Ears are facing forward and are not flat
- Eyes are not wide open, and pupils are not dilated
- No loud vocalizations or growling sounds
PRO-TIP: Your cat may feel uneasy even while being held. As such, it’s always a good idea to be sensitive to their body language all throughout the process.
This will let you know when you should hold your cat and when you should let go. If your kitty starts to squirm out of your arms while being held, then you better let her go.
Approach The Cat Gently & Quietly
Cats may feel stressed and fearful when approached the wrong way. As such, it is crucial to approach the cat while they are in a good mood.
To do this, taking things slowly and calmly is your best bet. Keep in mind that sudden movements and loud noises will only startle them and make them feel uneasy.
PRO TIP: When approaching a cat (or any other animal), make sure to do it from their side. This type of approach is less stress-inducing.
Allot Time For Introductions
Positive introductions will help your cat feel more comfortable. The introduction process would often include the following:
Sniffing. In the animal kingdom, scent matters. To get your cat’s approval, try extending your arms slowly to them and then allow them to sniff your hands.
If cats like to be held, they will definitely show you. Otherwise, you’d just get an arrogant response which is their way of saying that it’s not the right time.
Petting. If the cat still feels relaxed after sniffing, consider this a sign that the cat is ready for the next step, petting. Gently pet the cat’s head, the back of their ears, and cheeks, and check for their reaction.
Lift & Hold The Cat The Right Way
If everything is going smoothly after all the sniffing and petting, then it’s high time for you to attempt to pick up your cat. Again, do this ONLY if the cat is calm and relaxed.
When it comes to picking up your cat or a stranger’s cat, make sure to follow the steps below:
STEP 1: Lift The Cat Using Both Hands Slowly
It’s always essential to lift a cat (kitten or not) using both hands. This will make them feel more secured and comfortable. Also, make sure to pick them up gently to keep the cat at ease.
STEP 2: Hold A Cat Securely & Close To Your Chest
To hold the cat properly, you need to make sure that the cat is comfortable. Support the cat’s hind legs or paws by putting your arm under their rear end and position one hand just behind their front legs.
For added support, position your cat against your chest. Your cat should be held close to your chest while being lift up.
If your cat feels a bit shy and wants to hide behind your arms, let them. Cats like warmth, and holding a cat close to your chest or body would make them feel more relaxed and at ease, apart from feeling well-supported.
Put The Cat Down Safely To The Ground Or Any Surface
Although cats are born leapers, it’s still best to crouch down until your cat’s paws are close to the ground or any surface.
This way, you’re sure that your cats can go down safely. You are also guaranteed a scratch-free farewell since leaping cats tend to let their claws come out.
Give Them A Treat (Optional)
If your pet isn’t a cuddler and you’re able to go through all the dos without getting scratched, then your cat deserves a reward. Giving your cat a treat will also encourage them to repeat the same positive behavior in the future.
Cat Handling Dont’s
No one wants to be scratched. Since cats (whether it’s your pet or not) may lash out at you when approached or held the wrong way, your best course of action is to remember all the cat handling don’ts below:
Don’t attempt to pick up a cat when they’re frightened or stressed. A bushy tail and flat ears are just some of the signs that a cat will exhibit if a cat does not want to be picked up.
Don’t ever hold a cat using just one hand. Whether small or large, a cat must always be picked up using both hands. Holding the cat by their neck or holding just their front legs or back legs is a No-no. This is even more painful than it looks and can result in an injury. Remember: Your cat (or any other animal) deserves better treatment than this.
Don’t approach a cat from behind or head-on. Do this, and your attempt to pick them up will just go down the drain. Why? It’s because cats find head-on approaches and approaches from behind threatening instead of friendly.
Don’t let your cat’s back legs dangle. Cats may feel unstable when this happens and may end up leaping from your arms which would most likely result in scratches (if their claws haven’t been clipped yet).
Don’t hold them too tight. Cats don’t like being hugged tightly and find this situation stressful. If this happens, expect your cat to go on defensive mode.
Don’t ignore your cat’s body language. If your cat’s tail starts to twitch or if your cat tries to wiggle out from your arms, that’s their way of saying that they no longer want to be held.
What You Should Know About Picking Up Kittens
All of the dos and don’ts on how to pick up cats apply to kittens. The only difference is that you may not have to use your arm to support the back or front legs of your kitten. Your hands are enough to keep them supported and protected.
Food For Thought
Every cat is unique. Some cats like to be cuddled and held, while others would think twice.
If your cat likes hugs and kisses, then good for you. On the other hand, if your kitty is the latter, don’t lose hope. It’s still possible for you to hold your cat in your arms. However, be prepared since this will take a lot of patience and understanding.
As mentioned, you can pick your cat like a pro by going thru all the dos and avoiding all the don’ts. You can also consider getting professional help by seeking the expert advice of your veterinarian. Remember that a medical condition might also be the reason why your cat does not want to be picked up.
If, by the end of the day, your feline pal still declines your offer to be picked up. Just accept defeat (for now), let your cat be, and try doing it again on another day.
Frequently Asked Questions
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