When you pick up your cat, what do you get? A limp, ragdoll of a feline who melts contentedly in your arms? A squirming, frantic furball determined to get away from you at any cost? For some cats, being picked up and held can be a negative experience, for others, that type of affection is absolute bliss. Cats who don't like being picked up and held often feel this way because it's unfamiliar or just uncomfortable, but you can make being picked up a little easier for your cat if you need to.
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Do all cats hate being held?
No! Like people, dogs, and any other living thing on the planet, each cat will have his or her own preference in regard to anything, including whether they like being held or not, and their openness to affection in general. If you're dealing with a cat you don't know well or see a cat outside that you feel inclined to hold for any reason, it's always best to err on the side of "this thing is going to claw and bite me" rather than assume he will tolerate being picked up. Some stray cats, young, unsocialized cats, and cats who live primarily outside are among those who may especially dislike being picked up, but this can apply to any and all cats, depending on their preferences.
Why do some cats dislike it?
One reason why a cat may not like to be picked up is simply that picking up a cat, or being picked up by a cat, is just not natural cat behavior. While mother cats will grip their kittens by the scruff of the neck when they are small enough to do so without injury, lifting up a fellow feline isn't something you'd normally see, even when attempting to display affection. Additionally, negative experiences that occur around when a cat has been picked up in the past, like painful or stressful trips to a vet, can also leave a very bad association and may lead to anxiety around being held later on.
Sometimes, and this is especially true in older cats, being picked up is physically uncomfortable due to an illness or injury. Arthritic felines may find it unpleasant to have their bodies manipulated and squeezed while being picked up or held and may resist for that reason. If you know your cat dislikes being picked up and you don't need to do it, it's always best to spare them the ordeal. Sometimes, however, a cat owner will need to scoop up their cat for one reason or another, in which case there are some tips that can make things a bit easier on both of you.
How to make your cat comfortable
If you have a cat, there will be times when she will need to be picked up and held, even if just for a moment. Going to the veterinarian, a groomer's appointment, or even just to be inspected in the event of an injury, or a random burr caught in her fur. If you need to pick up a cat who doesn't enjoy it, there are a couple of things you can do to make things easier for everyone, and a bit more pleasant for your cat. Offering positive reinforcement, like a favorite treat, during a potentially negative experience, or during ordeals you know your cat dislikes, like being crated or having her nails trimmed, can help her create good associations with being picked up.
If a cat owner needs to pick up a cat who absolutely hates being picked up, they can try the burrito hold technique. This can ensure that your feline won't squirm away, can reduce the chances of you being scratched, and will make the situation as pleasant and quick as possible for her. Start by laying out a towel and place a small plate of food or a few treats on it. Next, have your cat step onto the towel, and once she's a bit relaxed gently press down on her shoulders so that she lays down with her head facing away from you. Wrap the front end of the towel around her neck like a bib, taking care to hold onto her. Then, take one of the side ends of the towel and wrap it over the top of her body, before doing the same thing in the opposite direction with the other end of the towel until she is securely wrapped.
Some cats don't mind being held, some enjoy it immensely, and others absolutely hate it — the reaction will depend on the cat. Many cats who dislike being picked up feel that way thanks to negative experiences that have occurred around being held, physical pain, or simply a general lack of experience with it. You can help make a cat's experience nicer by offering rewards or wrapping him up in a blanket. However, if your cat simply hates being picked up and you don't absolutely need to do it, it's best to respect their boundaries and allow them to show you affection in ways that are more comfortable for them.