“How do you pick up a cat?” For those who have not owned a cat, the answer to this question may seem straightforward, but it is often far from it. To a casual observer, picking up a cat may seem a simple enough task with owners and cats that have known each other for years. An owner has learned by experience when and how the cat likes to be picked up and held. But the new owner of a cat doesn't have that luxury.  

Expect a learning curve with a good deal of time and effort involved. The methods and techniques described below for how to pick up a cat are often effective but are not “across the board.” Common methods are patience and understanding on the owner's part.

The goal is for the owner and the cat to feel comfortable with each other. With a cat that is older, you may not know its medical history or experiences with other people. These things influence the cat's conduct and how it reacts to an attempt by a person to lift it into the air, hold it, and transport it. This is why you need to make sure you take an individual approach when it comes to how to pick up a cat.

Gaining Trust When Learning How to Pick Up a Cat


It is important to gain the trust of the feline when learning how to pick up a cat. With a cat that you are just getting to know, how you approach it is an important part of gaining trust. Let the cat know you are coming up to it. Don't grab it from behind out of the blue. Some recommend that you approach the cat from either side instead of coming straight at it. You can talk to it, call it by its name as you come up to it, or maybe even make some sort of cute sounds you think the cat will find appealing.

So you are near the cat, and it doesn't seem frightened. Pet the cat on its forehead or behind the ears; often petting the cat's cheeks or even the chin is alright, but you might not be comfortable doing that with your new kitty. The petting action mimics how cats interact and can help them feel secure. It is an important part of how to pick up a cat.

Steps to Follow While Learning How to Pick Up a Cat


There are a number of key steps to follow when it comes to how to pick up a cat. Try easing towards the act of actually picking up the cat by starting with the initial hand movements. Gently touch the cat where your hands will go without lifting the cat. You could give a positive verbal cue at the same time. Repeat this a few times and if there's no negative reaction, give some sort of reward that the cat will appreciate. You can go further along in simulating the process:  hold the sides of the cat gently, put your hands further underneath the cat, then lift up the cat slightly. When the cat responds positively, you should continue to give it rewards.

Move one hand under the cat's chest under the chest below the front legs. If the cat seems uneasy, you can back off and try again, or have your other hand ready for the second move. Run the second hand under the rear legs; one hand supports the front, the other the rear. Lift the cat up, making sure that its head is above the rest of its body. Bring it up to your chest and hold it.

Don't rush the whole process but don't delay. The cat doesn't want to feel unstable or in suspension. Don't let the cat's rear legs dangle. When it is against your chest, the cat should be reasonably upright and not pointed sideways or positioned awkwardly. It's alright if the cat's head is on your chest.

Be aware of where you are while holding the cat. If you are at the top of the stairs or in front of a loudspeaker that is blaring music, the cat may become rattled. You must take an individual approach when it comes to how to pick up a cat. As previously mentioned, all cats are not alike. Some even prefer to be cradled like a baby which can make others frantic.

There may be instances where you have to hold and move a cat, and it is not compliant. “Squishing the cat” is a phrase familiar with veterinarians and cat owners. Hold the cat gently but firmly to the chest; making sure that its hind legs aren't loose.

The term “scruffing” is used to describe picking up a cat by the scruff of the neck which is what adult cats do with their kittens. Not performing this practice is good advice even with kittens. Remember that a kitten will grow up and be too large to be picked up in this way. With adult cats, scruffing can cause muscle and skin damage.

Signs of Refusal


If the cat doesn't want to be picked up, you'll probably get the message; it might seem perturbed, run away, hiss, bite, scratch, or swat at your hand. If picking the cat up isn't urgent leave it alone for a while before trying again. You can also attempt the tried-and-true method of a tasty treat to calm the cat down.

If you hold the cat for too long, it'll let you know by struggling, meowing or complaining in some other manner. Don't drop it down. Lower the cat onto its four paws onto the floor. If the cat is too heavy, you can put it onto a table or chair. Be ready for the possibility that the cat jumps off of you.

Children And Cats

Children And Cats

Children often like to pick up cats, but it can be a disturbing experience for the cats. An older cat may have been handled incorrectly by a child in the past and have a bad association. You need to consider, is the child physically big enough to pick up the cat? Second, is the child old enough to pick up the various techniques in picking up cats? If so, spend enough time teach these techniques to the child. Supervise the child's initial attempts to pick up the cat. Once the child has picked up the cat pay close attention: the child should know if the cat wants to be let go.

If the child is too small, or if there are problems with the child holding the cat, figure out alternatives. Have the child sit by the cat and invite the cat into the child's lap by using treats or some other enticement. The child can play with the cat using a string or the cat's favorite toy.

The Dreaded Cat Carrier

The Dreaded Cat Carrier

Getting a cat into a cat carrier to go to the vet can be a difficult experience for the owner as well as the cat. Does the cat know you're getting the cat carrier before you do? There are steps that can be taken. The usual problem is, the cat associates the carrier with a trip to the veterinarian.  Don't stash away the carrier, keep it out in the open. Take off the door, put in some pillows or blankets, and see if the cat stays in it. Put treats or even the cat's food in it. Try to take away the cat's dread of the box. Work your way up to carrying the cat around in the carrier.

A Word On Picking Up Outdoor Cats


Be careful about handling a that you run across outdoors, especially if you don't know the cat. The cat might be feral. You may get a cat visiting your property you haven't seen before but are concerned about. You could try to set out food and, in cold or inclement weather, set up some sort of protection. You could call your local animal shelter, ask neighbors if they're missing a cat, or even post fliers in the area. If the cat is returning to your house for food, then it may be retrievable. However, you need to be mindful of picking up outdoor cats that are not yours, as they could be feral and could cause injury.


How to pick up a cat without anxiety is an important part of developing a positive, enriching relationship between cats and owners. Since picking up and holding is a common way that people and cats interact, the techniques described above will prove beneficial to person and cat alike. You do need to make sure you show confidence when you pick up a cat because cats can quickly sense fear in a person.

The key is to feel comfortable when it comes to picking the cat up and making the cat feel comfortable about being picked up. This will then enable you to enjoy cuddling, transporting, and carrying your cat with far greater ease as and when necessary. 

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This