Cats meow for so many reasons: it could be out of happiness, curiosity, fear, or distress. Sadly, few cat owners know how to interpret their furry friend’s meows.
No matter how much you love your cat – feeding her, cleaning up after her, providing her with a comfortable home, and so on – this does not mean she will always approve of your affection. And, when you pick your kitty up and she starts to cry, there could be several valid reasons for this.
So, why does your cat meow when picked up? And what can you do to score more cuddles? Read on to understand more about your cat’s language!
Why your cat cries when picked up
It can be a bit frustrating if your furry companion does not like to be picked up. Although some cats enjoy warm hugs from their owners, not all of them actually like this form of physical affection. But do not worry – your cat does not hate you; she is just being herself.
Every cat has their own unique personality – some crave physical touch while others are happier left alone. Perhaps yours is among those who are content to have all four paws on the ground. Here are some of the valid reasons for Fluffy’s squirmy demeanor:
1. She is in pain
Meowing loudly or aggressively can be a sign of distress. If your cat is not feeling well or suffering from physical pain, she will likely become resistant to your touch. Meowing in this case can also be followed by hissing or growling. If you notice sudden shifts in behavior, it is best to avoid touching or holding your cat. Otherwise, it might anger her and you will risk being scratched or bitten.
Cats are masters at hiding their pain, so if you suspect your feline friend is in pain, do not delay a visit to the vet. Any underlying medical issues need to be addressed as soon as possible.
2. Psychological trauma
Cats can experience psychological traumas, just like their human counterparts. If your cat shows signs of aggression or excessive vocalization when picked up, she could be associating this action with a bad memory. If you have adopted an adult cat, the trauma could stem from her younger years with a previous owner. Such negative experiences can cause your feline to distrust humans, in which case she would probably rather be left alone.
3. It feels unnatural
It could be that our feline friends view us as giant, unpredictable apes, and being picked up by us is like being restrained by a larger animal.
Although most cats are fully domesticated, we cannot totally erase their predator/prey instincts. Out in the wild, felines are still prey to some larger predators, so it would feel uncomfortable for an untrained cat to be picked up or held. She might even consider your advances as threats, causing her to squirm out of your arms.
5. Not socialized
A lack of proper socialization is another common reason that cats might resist their human’s affection. Just like dogs, cats need intentional socialization during their kittenhood so that they become used to being around humans. If this does not happen, your cat will grow into an aggressive, fearful, and distrustful adult.
6. Not familiar with you
Cats, like dogs, do not want to be picked up by anyone with whom they are not familiar. If you have recently brought home a new cat, she might feel frightened of the unfamiliar people and environment. It is best to bond with your cat slowly until she learns to trust you.
7. Not held properly
Holding your cat the wrong way can be very uncomfortable for her, so it is only valid if she meows and jumps out of your arms. New owners and young children might suffocate a cat if they hold her too tight, or may even injure her fragile bones. Be gentle and learn the proper way of holding your feline that feels comfortable for both of you.
8. She is stressed
Unlike humans, cats do not know how to express their feelings through words. Your kitty might be feeling stressed or anxious, yet her humans do not seem to know how to listen. It can be even more frustrating if you pick her up when she is obviously not in the mood.
9. She is busy
Perhaps kitty is currently busy with something else when you suddenly interrupted her. She could be enjoying a nap or in the momentum of playing with her toy, and then you suddenly come along and scoop her up. Let your furry friend finish her business first, and she will come to you when she is in the mood.
10. She is in heat
If your cat is not spayed, chances are she will experience mood swings when she comes into heat. Hormonal fluctuations can wreak havoc with her body and cause behavioral changes. Be patient and let her spend some alone time until she is ready to cuddle with you again.
11. Offensive scent
Cats have a very sensitive sense of smell and, surprisingly, there are a few scents that humans find pleasing but cats dislike intensely. You could be reeking of citrus or herbs from cooking in the kitchen earlier, or perhaps you have recently switched to a strong-smelling new perfume. Either of these, among other smells, could cause Fluffy to meow in disapproval.
12. She is independent
Not all cats enjoy being picked up or cuddled. This does not necessarily mean they are less affectionate – they just prefer showing their love from ground level. If your furry friend does not appreciate your physical affection, it is best to let her approach you on her own terms. You could also try training her using positive reinforcements so that she might learn to enjoy, or at least tolerate, being held or picked up.
Other reasons cats meow when touched
Not all meows are negative. In fact, these sounds could sometimes denote a happy and friendly cat. When combined with positive body language, these sounds are nothing to be worried about!
1. She is happy
Does your furry friend meow every time you pick her up at the door? She is probably feeling happy and excited to see you after your day-long absence at work. She has missed your company and longs for your attention, so go ahead and spoil her with pets and cuddles.
2. She likes being stroked
For a cat, there is nothing better than being stroked by her humans. Not only is it soothing and pleasurable; it also deepens the bond with her caretakers. If you stroke her on the right areas, such as along the back, around the ears, or under the chin, she will likely meow to ask for more.
3. She wants to say hello
Most animal behavior experts believe that cats greet their favorite people by making meow sounds. These are usually softer than an aggressive meow, signaling a happy cat that seeks attention from her human. She might be waiting for you to feed her, play with her, or give her cuddles.
How to teach your cat to enjoy being held
Cats have their own unique ways of showing affection, and these are often not the ways humans expect. Instead of hugs and kisses, your cat might show love through headbutting and purring, or she might bring you a dead mouse in the morning as a gift.
However, with persistence and patience, you might be able to teach your furball to tolerate our preferred modes of affection. Moreover, getting her used to being held will make her more cooperative at the vet and much easier to handle during emergencies.
So, how do you train your furry friend to enjoy being picked up? These are some of the proven ways:
1. Get her accustomed to your touch
Cats often associate their current experiences with memories from the past. If they have had negative experiences of being held, they will likely remember them and hate it forever. But you can do something to replace these bad memories – the trick is to increase the positive associations of being held or picked up.
Start slowly and learn to read your cat’s body language. If she is not in the mood for petting and cuddles, do not force her. Let her come to you at her own will. Once she is feeling relaxed and more welcoming, pet her. Stroke her gently as you call her name with a soft and calm voice. Make this a regular routine each day, for about a minute or so.
2. Use positive reinforcement
Nothing beats positive reinforcement when it comes to teaching your kitty appropriate behavior. She might feel threatened or traumatized when picked up, so you need to work hard to swap those bad memories with good ones. Remember that picking her up must be an enjoyable experience.
Use rewards such as cuddles or tasty treats whenever she approves of being held or touched. Although it might not be enjoyable for her at first, at least she will have a reward to look forward to. Soon she will learn to tolerate your way of showing love and feel more welcoming of human hugs and kisses.
3. Practice holding your cat
One of the many reasons cats hate being picked up is due to discomfort. Young children and first-time owners often do not know the right way to hold these finicky creatures. Hold too tight and they will feel suffocated; hold her too loose and they might feel unstable and fall from your arms. Additionally, most cats do not like being held at the back like a baby.
So, what is the proper way to hold your cat?
The trick is to start slowly and steadily – know which position is comfortable for you and your cat. You can begin holding her comfortably over your shoulder and see how she responds. Some cats prefer being held at the back with one hand while the other hand holds their hind legs. You can also let her sit on your arm folded over your chest while the other arm supports her hind legs. It is always better to support – rather than restrain – the hind legs, so that she does not feel trapped.
4. Do not punish
Punishing your cat in any way will only hurt your relationship. Cats, like other domesticated animals, cannot understand the reason for a punishment, so yelling and hurting to deter inappropriate behavior will only lead to anxiety, fear, and avoidance, making these the least desirable methods for training your cat.
What can you do instead?
Give her freedom. If she jumps off right away when you pick her, let her be. Never force your affection if she does not want it. Respect your cat’s boundaries.
5. Be patient
Sometimes we just love to rush things, but making your furry friend enjoy your affection will not happen overnight. It might take a few weeks or longer, so be patient. The most important thing is to make your cat comfortable and enjoy the experience. Do it regularly and gradually without overwhelming her with too many treats and touching. Soon your kitty should be able to tolerate, or even like, your touch better.
Wrapping it up
Your cat’s meow is her way of telling her humans when she is in need of something or if something is wrong. She also vocalizes to express happiness or fear.
If your kitty meows when you pick her up, there must be a valid reason. It could be that she is happy, but if the meow is disapproving, do not automatically assume she does not love or care about you. In fact, cats love to bond with their owners, but perhaps your cat feels uncomfortable being picked up or simply prefers other ways of showing affection.
Hopefully, humans will learn how to better decipher their furry companions’ language over time. This way, bonding with them and attending to their needs will be much easier!
Image: istockphoto.com / LightFieldStudios