Why Cats Dislike Being Held and What You Can Do About This
Not every baby loves to stay in an adult’s arms. If such variations of love language exist among humans, imagine how different it would be showing affection to another species.
Cat lovers unconsciously show affection to their pets the human way. We want to pick them up, snuggle and hug them. But this is not the cat’s way of showing fondness. Your kitty, especially if she’s an adult, could wiggle her way out no sooner than you try to pick her up.
Of course, it could leave you frustrated and confused. It could also cause injury to you and the cat. Cat bites are the second most common pet attacks in Australia, and research shows there is a high chance of developing depression after one. But don’t worry. We might know why she’s doing that, and we will help you do something about it.
Do all cats dislike being held?
Like human babies, not all cats dislike being held. Some enjoy it. Ragdolls and Ragamuffins love it. They even lay back and snuggle into the comfortable arms of a loving parent.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all cats were like ragdolls and ragamuffins?
Unfortunately, most breeds don’t like it. Even among the ragdolls and ragamuffins, there are exceptions.
Cats that don’t mind being held were likely accustomed to it when they were young. An adult ragdoll that was never picked up and held during her kitten days would probably find it strange and spring out of your arms.
Why cats dislike being held
The kitty could be scared: Anyone would be scared if a “giant” picked you up several feet above and started to hug you. That’s how the cat sees you. Keep it in mind all the time you are together. If you have a dog at home, too and your kitty is new to your home from a rescue, you want to learn more about crate training while your cat is getting used to her new home.
Memories of a bad experience: The little kitty could have memories of a traumatic experience when she was in another person’s arms.
She feels “caged” and wants to be free: Felines are generally independent. They like to run around and climb. They despise restrictions and will try to get out. That’s why lions, tigers and other wild cats pace while in a cage. When you pick up your cat and hold her, the same instinct kicks in. She wants to be free. You can find more about crate training here.
She associates it with “threatening” experiences: When we hold our cats, it is often to prevent them from entering a no-go zone, bath them, or have them take their shots (all not so good experiences.) So when you want to cuddle and hug her, it rings a bell – a not-so-nice bell.
She could be unwell: If your cat ordinarily doesn’t mind being picked up, jumping out of your arms could be a sign that all is not well. Deviation from her usual patterns could be an indicator of sickness. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your vet. A good pet insurance cover will help you make the call without worrying about bills.
It could just be a breed thing: Some cats’ dislike for being picked up doesn’t fit any of these explanations. The breed doesn’t like it. Bengals and Abyssinians are renowned for their independence and aggressive retaliation when picked up.
When you pick up a cat, watch out for these signs that tell you she’s uncomfortable. Get as close to the ground as possible and slowly let her go.
Signs that Kitty doesn’t like to be held
You will know that kitty doesn’t like the grab and embrace when:
- She tries to wiggle or squirm out of your arms.
- She has a low hanging tail and flicks it back and forth whenever you handle her.
- She runs away from you.
- There is no “chemistry” between you and the cat. You all know what we are saying.
If your cat shows these signs, and you’d like to pick her up without causing her stress, try to follow these tips:
What can you do to make her feel relaxed?
Let her go: For some cats, like Bengal, it’s a breed thing. If you have adopted an adult, you’ve done a noble act. But chances of successfully training her to be a lap cat are slim. Occasionally she could come and enjoy cuddling next to you. But don’t stress over it. Instead, show her affection “the cat way.”
Learn how to show affection the cat way: She could purr when around you, curl her tail around you, or rub her back against you. Cats express fondness in many different ways. Learn to appreciate these expressions as she gradually learns.
Here is what you can do to make her feel more comfortable as she learns.
Socialise her early: Start socialising kittens early, and let them get accustomed to your touch. Start petting them while they are in their “comfort zone” and gradually move them to your arms or laps.
Affirm her and reward her: Affirm her with excitement, and give her sweet treats each time she agrees to be held. Don’t force her, and don’t punish her whenever she wiggles away or retaliates. If she has bad memories of being held, it will gradually erase the bad memories.
Lastly, as you gradually win her trust, learn how to pick her up the right and understand her tolerance level. After all, love is all about respecting the other person’s/pet’s feelings.
Photo by Tony Wang