Do Cats Like Being Picked Up?

Do Cats Like Being Picked Up

Cats are curious and independent creatures with unique personalities. They enjoy your attention but will interact on their terms. If you are a cat owner who likes to pick up your cat, you may not always receive a positive response. Being picked up is not their natural behavior as they do not do that to each other after kittenhood. 

Do cats like being picked up?

It will depend on a cat’s personality if she likes to be picked up or not. Cats are independent, and while some cats enjoy being picked up, some do not. Some breeds, such as the Ragamuffin and Ragdoll, generally like to be picked up, but even among them, there will still be a few that do not like it. Some cats also do not like being picked up since their owners are doing it the wrong way or since they were once maltreated by humans. 

If you want to pick up and hold your cat, you have to understand her character and learn how to pick her up the right way. 

Cat breeds that like to be picked up and cuddled:

  • Ragamuffin
  • Ragdoll
  • Tonkinese 
  • Scottish Fold 
  • Sphynx 
  • Birman 
  • Siamese 
  • Burmese 

Reasons why cats do not like to be picked up

Cats do not like to be picked up because of the following reasons:

1. They scare easily.

Some cats become easily terrified with the experience of having someone huge reach down to pick them up. 

What to do:

Give your cat some space and wait for her to approach you. If you make the first move to approach her, do it calmly so she won’t feel threatened. Pam Johnson-Bennett, a cat behavior expert, suggests that you should hold your cat close to your chest. She says that you should walk around for a while and then put her down after a brief session.

Your cat should be comfortable and not suspended in mid-air. Do not hold her too tight as it will make her uneasy. Support her body weight with both of your hands and place a hand under her back feet so they will not dangle as you hold her. 

2. They have had a negative experience with being picked up in the past. 

If you adopted a cat from an animal shelter and she does not like to be picked up, she likely has had a negative experience with it in the past.  According to Dr. Wailani Sung, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist, some cats tend to have past bad memories of being held. They may have been physically restrained for vaccinations or grooming. These negative experiences can make a cat wary each time you attempt to hold her. 

What to do:

Provide constant social interaction with your cat so she will feel secure. Gaining a traumatized cat’s trust can take time, so be extra patient. Handle or hold her for at least a few minutes each day so she will learn to trust you completely. 

3. It is not how they naturally greet their fellow cats. 

Cats do not normally greet each other by picking each other up. When cats meet for the first time, they will approach each other slowly. They will sniff, lick, and rub as signs of greeting. If you attempt to pick your cat up, she may see it as an attack. Dr. Sung notes that a cat may assume something bad is going to happen to her, which is why she will resist being picked up. 

What to do:

If your cat refuses to be picked up, do not force her. Insisting on picking her up will only make her more reluctant to approach you. Respect her preferences and give her space. Avoid putting her on your shoulders as she could dig her claws into your skin and will have a hard time maintaining her balance. 

4. They were not properly socialized.

Your cat may not like being picked up because she was not properly socialized when she was still a kitten. She tends to be fearful and suspicious of everyone and may also hide a lot. 

What to do:

Assure your cat that nothing bad will happen to her. Pet her under the chin before picking her up and speak to her in a low and reassuring voice. If she becomes aggressive, put her down gently. Offer her treats after brief sessions of holding her as it helps reinforce good behavior. 

Try to watch for behavioral changes. If your cat previously liked to be picked up but now refuses, it could mean that she is in pain or has an injury.

Tips on how to pick up a cat 

Here are some tips on how to pick up a cat:

  1. Be aware of your cat’s tolerance level.
  2. Approach her calmly so she won’t feel threatened. 
  3. Avoid cradling your cat on her back. 
  4. Do not pick your cat up by its scruff. 
  5. Do not hold her just to force social interaction.
  6. Do not attempt to pick up your cat when she is upset. 
  7. Teach your children the proper ways to pick up a cat so no one will get hurt.

How do you get a cat to like being picked up?

Try these steps to get your cat to like being picked up:

  1. Place your hands around her shoulders as she sits in your lap for five to ten seconds. 
  2. Give her treats and allow her to jump back on the floor. 
  3. Once your cat becomes comfortable with this step, she will start to sit on your lap for a few seconds. 
  4. Start picking up her foot, letting go of it, and offering her a treat.
  5. Repeat this step, touching her mouth, tail and other body parts. Be sure to give her treats as you go.
  6. Your cat will eventually tolerate the handling and allow you to pick her up once she becomes comfortable with it. 

Final thoughts

Cats seek human interaction and are considered sociable creatures. However, not all cats are communicative. Some tend to be quite aloof.   The cat’s breed may also play a role since certain breeds like the Ragdoll and Ragamuffin like being picked up and cuddled by their owners. It depends on a cat’s personality if she likes to be picked up or not since each cat is unique.

Image: / Dmitry Kirichay