We adopted our full-grown cat when she was a couple of months old. She has never shown any signs of having been ill-treated prior to our ownership of her.

The problem is that whenever I grab my cat and hold her close to my chest, she stays still for a while (10 seconds at most), and then fights to be put down. I didn't experience this with my previous cat. It's also very rare for her to sit on my lap or jump on my bed. It's like she's not very fond of physical contact.

Why could this be? Can I correct this?

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    AS you said, she just might not like contact. Might just be part of her personality.
    – user53
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 4:42
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    it may also be how you hold her, holding like a baby is rather uncomfortable for her as it exposes her belly when she may not want to Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 13:46
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    I have a nurtured 6 yr Tom that is verry friendly and cuddly and the boss, but wants to be out doors all summer, and in and out all winter, and loves water. a 9 month old spaded female that does not want to be held though friendly otherwise, wants to be out though stays close to me, and loves to be brushed and real playful. keeps a old man happy all day
    – user2608
    Commented Jul 6, 2014 at 5:41
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    Many cats dislike being restrained. I suggest as soon as the cat shows the slightest sign of struggling, release her. She may become more tolerant of being held if she knows that she isn't really being restrained, and she can get free at any time. Probably though just petting the cat where she is rather than picking her up is better for this particular cat.
    – Kai
    Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 16:04

4 Answers 4


It may be the cat's personality; however, you may well be able to change that to some extent.

We adopted our cat when she was about two years old. (She is now about thirteen.) At first, she was very skittish and spent most of her day hiding behind furniture. It's possible that she was badly treated by her previous owner, and certainly she was traumatized by the noisy, competitive shelter. To this day she is still rather hesitant to approach strangers; and she still does not like to be picked up. (The latter is because we have not tried to alter this behavior, and usually when we pick her up we're about to stuff her in her carrier to go to the vet, or give her medication!)

Here's what we did to encourage her to be petted.

  1. At first, we simply got her used to being petted. To do so, we just held our hand near the side of her face, so that she could sniff our hands. Then sometimes, after a few seconds, she would gently rub the side of her face against our hand (indicating that it was OK to pet her). When she did that, we would pet her a few times, which she enjoyed. Nowadays she does not require us to follow that ritual; she is happy enough for us to come up and pet her anytime. If she wants us to stop (which is rare), she will let us know.
  2. It's also probably worth trying to figure out exactly how your cat likes to be petted (by how she rubs her face/body against you when you pet her). It turns out our cat particularly enjoys us rubbing the bridge of her nose, under her chin, and scratching right behind her ears. She does not like her belly to be rubbed, which is common especially in adult cats. Experiment a bit and see what she enjoys.
  3. After she had gotten used to being petted, we would hold our hands out a few feet away from her and encourage her to come over to us, by saying her name and patting the floor. She figured out that if she wanted to be petted, she would have to come over to us. Of course, if she came over, we would always reward her with some pets and encouraging words, to reinforce the behavior.

Nowadays she responds to her name; she jumps on the bed and purrs if she sees that we're there; and she will come over and jump on my lap (and purr) if she sees me sit down. We've even trained her to meow for treats, "stand up" and paw at my leg to get me to pet her, etc. She did not do any of this when we first adopted her -- and she was an adult at that point. So don't give up: it can be a long, slow process, but at least in our experience, it is possible and quite rewarding in the end!


Some cats don't like being held. It's not necessarily a sign of past trauma; it's just personality.

But I notice that you said you "grab" her. If you are in fact making a sudden motion, and particularly if you're picking her up from the floor and holding her to your chest while you're standing, then it's not too surprising that she's alarmed -- she's now, through no act of her own, several feet in the air with nothing but your grip to protect her. If you want her to be comfortable being held, then try sitting with her so she has an easier way out (easier to jump down).

I had a skittish female cat (adopted as an adult, background unknown) who was never comfortable being held and wouldn't sit in my lap. But over time I was able to coax her to jump up on the couch or chair next to me and accept petting. So long as she was in control (not being held) she seemed to be ok with this, but as soon as she was being held, her "flight" instinct seemed to kick in. ("Hey man, this 'being held' thing is totally not my idea -- run away!")

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    Another stage in tolerating being held is that you never walk with the cat while holding. That is you pick them up, stand and hold, then let them down right there and give a reward. Since the cat is not carried off and moved it might help break down the fear.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 21:35

Are you holding your cat correctly?

Instead of holding it like you would a baby, on its back. Try holding it so that it is lying along your arm. One arm supporting its rear legs.

See also this link here Yahoo Answers

I'll quote the relevant bit here

Sometimes I carry them in what my wife calls "the football hold," one arm underneath the whole cat supporting him while he leans against my stomach/chest -- again, in this "football hold" the cat is actually standing on the level part of my arm.


Like everything else cat-related, you gotta go gradually, and on their terms. You can sense when they begin to get uncomfortable after you pick them up. At that point put them gently down and talk to them in a nice voice they like. Once they know that the can leave whenever they want, they will be more likely to focus on the good things about being held--seeing more from up high, being warm and close and petted, etc. My shy (formerly feral) cat is letting me hold him for longer and longer periods of time as he grows to trust me and want loveies more than he wants an escape route. He also now gets on my lap when I'm in a chair and lies down on top of me sometimes when I'm lying in bed.

The other cat would like to be held like a baby 24/7 and lets me do "raspberries" on his tummy. Like us, they are all different. Be patient, and you will be rewarded.

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