Am I Holding My Cat Wrong?

A boy holding his fluffy kitten.

You locked eyes with a tiny tabby at the shelter and couldn’t wait to bring her home. You envisioned late nights of Netflix bingeing with your cat curled up in your arms. But your first attempt at cuddling resulted in a few swift kicks from her back legs before she bolted from the room. Will your dream of holding your cat ever become a reality?

In all honesty, some cats like to be held and some prefer their personal space, but the following tips from our team can improve the bond you have with your cat whether or not she chooses to nap on your lap. 

The Dos and Don’ts of Holding Your Cat

If your first attempts at affection are met with rejection, don’t take it personally. It’s probably just how your cat is wired. Cats that weren’t properly socialized as kittens or those that haven’t spent much time around humans tend to be skittish when facing new situations. The key to putting a bashful cat at ease is to meet her where she is—not where you want her to be.

The WRONG Way to Hold a Cat

If your cat could talk, she would tell you the following:

  • Cats aren’t fans of sneak attacks, so don’t approach her from behind.
  • Don’t scruff her, as this will trigger her stress response.
  • Don’t leave her back legs dangling unsupported.
  • Don’t try to pick her up if her ears are facing backward or if her tail position indicates fear or aggression.
  • Don’t cradle her on her back unless you know she likes belly scritches.
  • Don’t force her to be held unless it’s an emergency situation

How to Hold a Cat–The RIGHT Way

Some breeds are more receptive to snuggles, like hairless Sphynx cats and ragdolls, while others, like the Bengal, remain wild at heart. Some cats never warm up to the idea of being held, but knowing how to hold a cat properly is a step in the right direction. 

  • Let her make the first move. Is she purring and rubbing against your leg? This is cat language for, “I’m interested in a little socializing.”
  • At first, crouch down to her level and give her a chance to rub against your upper body and sniff your hands.
  • Position one of your hands under her torso where her ribs are—not her belly—and place your other hand under her hind legs. 
  • Always lift your cat with two hands.
  • Soothe her by petting her and talking calmly. 
  • Gently lower your cat down and allow her front paws to touch the ground so she can step out of your arms. 
  • Always let her down if she gets squirmy. 
  • Teach children the proper ways to interact with a cat, and supervise these encounters. 

Please contact us if you have more questions about how to hold a cat. We are always happy to help!