Sometimes, you get lucky and you get a clingy cat who welcomes being carried around. Other times, not so much. There are a few reasons why your cat may not like being held – all of which we will explore in this article. There are also ways for you to be able to successfully train your cat to enjoy being held, so read on.
There’s a reason why cats are described as being aloof or cold. That reason is cats just really value personal space. In the wild, cats are both prey and predator – naturally, they always worry about not being on the wrong side of danger. Being carried can make them feel unstable and insecure because they feel like they are losing their ability to flee.
As cat guardians, it is important to respect your cat’s comfort level. At the first sign of them struggling or showing signs of unease, let them go. If you choose not to, then you have to be prepared to meet the wrath of their claws and teeth or worse, you lose their trust. Giving your cats the space they need is both beneficial to your cat and to yourself.
Cats are relatives to the kings of beasts, the wild big cats. As part of royalty, it’s not hard to imagine cats to have a bit of pride in themselves. Confidence is very important to cats. As the ruler of everything they see, they want to actually be able to observe their environment. Often they would go to higher ground like shelves or counters to achieve this goal. However, it’s one thing for them to do that themselves, and another to be held up. For some cats, being held can be very demeaning.
However, not wanting to be held is not just based on your cat’s inner wild instinct or pride, it could also be because it’s traumatic for them. Some cats have had a negative experience with being held against their will. Case on point, vet visits: when cats need to get shots or be examined, cats are oftentimes restrained under, in their eyes, a very stressful situation.
That being said, you shouldn’t lose hope. When people say that cats can’t be trained, they are simply wrong. Cats, in fact, can be trained to be held – although, they’d require a bit more persuasion.
Give them some positive reinforcement when you’re holding them. Start their training by giving them a cue, like “hold” or “hug time” so they can prepare themselves to the touch. Immediately after you say the cue, give them a gentle touch WITHOUT lifting. When your feline friend is absolutely fine with you touching them, very gradually start to challenge them, while also rewarding each small step with a treat. Go from touching them on the sides, as if you’re going to lift them, to lifting them very slightly for a few seconds, to finally holding them up comfortably. The key thing here is to keep your cat relaxed and engaged. How long this takes entirely depends on your cat. They’re the real boss after all.
Am I holding my cat wrong?
There is such a thing as holding your cat wrong – and this depends on your cat’s preferences. How you should hold your cat is dictated on what feels comfortable to them. As humans, our instincts tell us to hold our kitties as if we were holding a baby. While there are cats who don’t mind being held like this, most are not.
The way most cats like to be held is by their chest against your torso or shoulders with their hind legs fully supported behind them. Try this and observe the difference.
My cat used to like being held, but not anymore. Why?
It could be because being held reminds them of a traumatic incident. Think back to what your cat’s past experiences around being held are. Try to imagine it through their eyes. Most cats are terrified to be at the vet’s clinic, where they’re held against their will, and are being subjected to NECESSARY, but potentially scary procedures like getting their vaccines or their temperature. If your cat recently had an upsetting experience that includes being held, this could be why.
Also, try to see if your cat only responds negatively to being held at a specific part of their body. They may not like being held because something is hurting them. If this is the case, contact your local vet.
How can I restrain my cat without them getting traumatized?
There are times when you need to restrain your cat for their own good. This could be for when you trim their nails or give them medicine. A great way to do this without spooking them is by gently squeezing them by their back, with their belly against the floor or table, in a way where you both feel secure. As an extra measure of safety, put a towel over your cat’s back so there is less danger of being clawed.
Cats can sometimes be skittish about being held. But, with enough practice, patience, and persuasion, this could change. The thing to remember about holding cats though is that their comfort and confidence are of the utmost importance. At the first sign of discomfort, give your kitty the freedom to flee.