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I have a female kitten that is almost 8 months old. We've had her for about a month now. We've noticed that she absolutely loves pats, and comes up to us constantly to ask for them. However, whenever we try to pick her up, she struggles and wiggles until we let her go. Not sure how to get her used to being held - it's clear that she liked human contact, but seems to not like being picked up and carried around. Can anyone give some advice?

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  • A wiggling and struggling cat trying to escape your arms means that it feels uncomfortable or doesn't like the way you are holding it and it might just not like to be held have a good day! Jan 19 at 18:50
  • I have never seen a cat likes to be held. Some tolerate being held more than others, some find it soothing when they are very scared, but they all hated being held.
    – C.Koca
    Jan 20 at 10:57
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Struggling and wiggling is how the cat lets you know it doesn't want to be held. As soon as you sense the cat is starting to wiggle, put it back down. That way, the cat will begin to trust it can get down any time it wants, and it will help towards getting the cat to accept being held longer.

Then I think it might help to try to slowly work into being picked up and held over a long period of time, rather than trying to hold the cat straight off. Start off with, as you are petting the cat, putting your hands on it as if you are about to pick it up, but do not actually pick it up. Just gently restrain it for a second. If the cat wiggles at all, let go. Keep doing this until the cat seems at ease with being held this way for a reasonable amount of time. Then work into partially lifting the cat, but not entirely, then immediately setting it back down. Eventually you can work towards fully lifting the cat.

It may also have to do with how you are holding the cat. Many cats, if they do not feel secure in the way they are being held, will start struggling to be let go. You need to pick the cat up with confidence, and fully support the cat. Make sure you have one arm well securing its back end, with a seat on your arm for its butt, and even get a hold of its hind feet. It's front end should be held by your other arm. If you can get the cat's front paws on your shoulder, that is ideal.

It may also be the case that your cat simply just doesn't want to be held no matter how much you try to acclimate it to the idea, in which case you should respect what the cat wants and keep holding to a minimum.

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    The last point is really a lot more important than it looks. Some cats just do not like to be held; my previous cat was like this. He loved attention from everyone, but hated to be picked up and held by anyone, including me. That doesn't mean the cat doesn't like you, just that it doesn't like being held, and you can still have a great relationship.
    – Allison C
    Nov 12 '18 at 13:52
  • Almost perfect answer, only thing I'd add is that another way to get a cat to go where you want them to is to lead them to a place by patting that spot. That way if you want to get the cat to move into a more comfortable spot for scratching them you can do so without having to pick them up.
    – Stig Tore
    Nov 19 '18 at 13:57
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There are 2 points that I think may help you:

  1. Work on your holding. From what I read and my experimentation with my cat, apparently a really firm grip would be better than just letting them hang. I use both hands, and pick him up in way that my hands wrap around him in different directions (one hand under him, one over), so he won't feel pressure on any parts of his body. He usually won't nag about it as he does when I hold my hands under his front paws.
  2. When you want to put her down, do it slowly; like you are not paying attention to her nagging. I found that this way, my cat won't feel like he has to run away from me, he just know that I'm done holding him, and I'm NOT letting him go because he is making me do it.
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I've couple of cats at home too, some of them want to be held while others don't. It's difficult to determine what causes this - some cats might have experienced traumas and they get scared even from their owner who takes care of them all the time. Give it some time and I'm sure it will be fine soon.

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    It's not necessarily "trauma" that might cause a cat to not want to be held; it may very well just be their personality. My previous cat didn't like to be held, and as he was born in my parents' house, I knew his full history (which was completely lacking in "trauma"). Like people, cats have their own likes and dislikes, often with no deeper "meaning" behind them.
    – Allison C
    Nov 12 '18 at 14:31
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    Yes, that's why I said 'it might have experiences trauma' because it is not necessarily the case but can still contribute to such behavior. One of my cats actually does not want to be held because she was scared when she was little and now she refuses any contact with humans. True, like people they do have likes and dislikes
    – George
    Nov 12 '18 at 14:36
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One of our cats is exactly the same, possibly even worse. She's incredibly shy and hides from everyone except me and my SO. It has taken over a year for her to realize that getting pets is nice, and she now really likes them, but picking her up still makes her feel uneasy, we're clearly violating a personal space boundary for her.

Just to draw a clear line: if that's your cat's personal comfort line, and the cat refuses to learn to be held, so be it. You can't force this. You can only suggest it.

In my case, she actually became a bit overattached at times, never leaving me alone (blocking the tv, pushing against me while eating, ...). So I decided that I would pick her up and continue to pet her whenever we got to a point of her having had plenty of "normal" petting. Doing so creates a win-win scenario:

  • Either she doesn't like it and leaves me alone for a short while, thus learning to not incessantly beg for pets.
  • Or she learns to deal with being held if she really wants even more pets.

This has done wonders for her acceptance of letting us pick her up. She still doesn't really enjoy it, but she sticks around as long as you pet her. The moment you stop, she immediately jumps out.

Note: Never stop your cat from jumping out. If they clearly indicate they want to leave, put them down (preferably on the surface they were looking at). This teaches them that being held is not a punishment, and they can choose to leave at any time.

For us, it was important that we were at least able to pick her up when it would become necessary (for whatever) reason, and we've reached that point with her, so we left it at that. She has still become more and more accepting of being picked up, but doesn't show any indication of liking it, she only tolerates it.

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  • Cats sometimes don't allow eachother to escape.Once I had 3 kittens and one of them wanted to clean the other's ear but the other wanted to leave so the first cat would just hold harder on the other and it seams it accepted the situation. So I'm guessing it's not a never to do thing, what do you think? Is there a difference between human and cat not letting a cat go? Dec 3 '18 at 23:51
  • @toothless199: If you want to grow a relationship of trust between you and your pet, don't needlessly hold your cat down. Of course there are exceptions to this (vet's visit, running out of a burning building, ...) but in those cases the necessity trumps the trustbuilding exercise. For everyday encounters, you can make the first move but you can't then keep enforcing it - the cat will learn to outright avoid you if it doesn't like being held against its will. Just because the cat accepts your current insistence doesn't mean it will trust you or come close to you in the future.
    – Flater
    Dec 4 '18 at 13:02
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When you carry the cat have a treat and let it smell it through your hand. Don't let her see it though. When the cat focuses on the food scent put the cat on a surface different from the one it was on (to implicate that you take her somewhere, not returning the cat to the same spot it was on) even if it's just half a meter away. Then open your hand and give the treat. The cat should associate carrying with with something good. And this shall make her tolerate human handling and recognize that transporting via human hand isn't very bad. You can then do the same thing with petting or play. Take her a little distance, even if it's a tiny distance, then pet,play or give a treat. Don't play with her with your hand though because this will probably make her associate you carrying her with stress, as it stresses any creature out if someone kept holding, pushing, not letting go or even stalking him or her.

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    If the cat doesn't want to be held, it probably isn't going to want any kind of food while it's trying to escape. Even a food motivated cat will often turn it down when in a high stress situation.
    – Allison C
    Nov 12 '18 at 16:08
  • I don't believe that the situation described in the question bar is a high stressed one.The cat lived with them for a month. Dec 3 '18 at 23:29
  • regardless of how the cat feels when not being held, if the cat does not want to be held, and is being held, that cat is currently in a high stress situation and much more likely to turn down food or treats.
    – Allison C
    Dec 4 '18 at 14:11

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