How to Pick Up and Hold a Cat Properly?

Written by

Amy Sawy

Veterinarian. DVM


Joseph M. Plummer

Veterinarian, DVM, MVZ

how to pick up a cat properly

Cats are humans’ best friends and even family members. It’s enjoyable to spend time with your friends, playing with them, and taking care of them. Sometimes, your cat wants to be picked up and cuddled in your arms.

Picking up a cat seems like an easy task, but some might not know how to pick up a cat properly. Don’t worry, as I’ll show you how to pick up and hold your cat so you can be a better cat owner

How to Approach Your Cats


A good introduction is always important. Some cats are more likely to accept your hug if you let them know in advance that you are coming. Show a signal by communicating with your feline friends in a soft tone or standing in front of them.

First of all, you should not approach your feline friend from behind without letting it know. Instead, specialists recommend you approach from the left or right side and do not come head to head with the cat.

Then, remain friendly towards the feline so that it can feel loved and safe. Most cats introduce themselves to their counterparts by gently rubbing their faces, so I recommend you do this to your cats.

In addition, approaching a cat is easier when it is relaxed and not sleeping. There are numerous signs that tell you when the cat is relaxed:

  • The eyes are not wide open, the pupils of the eyes are not too big or expanded.
  • He or she is not moaning noisily.
  • Their ears are facing forward to you.
  • The cat is not moving around much, he or she may be sitting or laying.
  • Their tail is not moving a lot and puffed up.

Also, notice if there are any signs showing whether he or she wants to be picked up or not. If the feline seems unconcerned, feel free to lift her/him. However, if the cats try to hide from you or turn their head immediately and stare at your hand, they certainly don’t want you to do so.

You should be concerned about your safety as well. It’s better off picking up a cat you already know and have experience with rather than a feral cat on the street since it may be vicious. You may end up having cat bites or scratching if you do so.

Once you have learned how to approach a cat appropriately, it’s time you picked the feline up! The following section will instruct you on how to do it correctly.

How to Pick up Your Cat Correctly

The first lesson is how you place your hands correctly. Some cats are very sensitive, especially kittens, so you should make them feel supported. Place your hands under the body, one on the front legs, and one under the back legs.

Next, carefully lift the cat. Keep the cat close to your body, especially the chest and stomach area, so your friend feels protected. Do this as fast as possible.

Keep in mind that never pick up a kitty by the scruff or by the front legs only. The scruff is the extra skin on the neck that cat parents, especially mother cats use to transport their kids. Only scruff the kitty if it needs emergency care or you need it to move quickly, or else you may commit animal cruelty.

After gently picking her up and contacting the body, always hold the cat securely. Continue to support the rear end of the body and hold it against your chest. Some cats are shy, so they may hide their heads in your arms.

Generally, a good posture should be straight, not bending downward. Bending makes the feline feel uncomfortable, and it may scratch you. Furthermore, don’t pick up your cat upside down, which means that the cat’s head is below its body unless you’re sure it likes other ways of holding.

Your pets enjoy hugging for a while, but when they get tired, it’s better to let them go. Your friend is probably sleepy if there are sudden movements, such as growling, moving the body intensely, or twitching its tail.

It’s possible that your cat likes to jump down, but it’s safer to put them down carefully. Put your feline down slowly, and stay away from crowded or noisy areas. Release them only when the four paws have reached the ground.

If you pick up a kitten, the guidelines are the same as a feline. Yet, if the kitten is so small that it fits right into your palm, you can use your hands to lift it.

Children are fond of picking up cats. However, guide and supervise them. Watch out when the feline seems tired so that the kid lets it down. If not, the two parties may both be injured.

Some Actions to Avoid

The most prevalent mistake is that you pick up your friend even though it gave explicit signs that it did not want to be picked up. It is advisory that you keep watching the cats’ body language throughout the whole process to make sure that the cats remain calm.

Other mistakes are picking up the kitty too early, picking up the feline by its skin, not bringing its body close to yours, not letting it go when it wants to, allowing the cat to jump from a high distance, and kids picking up the cat unsupervised.

Why is Your Cat Avoiding Being Held

There are various reasons why your cats don’t allow you to hold them or pick them up. Surprisingly, not all cats are interested in being picked up, so not all pet owners can ever lift them.

The hostility may come from past traumatic events, or they experienced bad interactions when being picked up. Some cats simply don’t enjoy being held, and you shouldn’t push them too much.

Check this guide to know more reasons why your cat doesn’t like to be held.

Some Suggestions on Slowly Training Your Cat to Enjoy Being Held

  1. Use a treat or its favorite toy: Use this as a reward if they are willing to be picked up.
  2. Make sure that the surroundings are safe and quiet: Train your pet friend to get used to being picked up in these areas; your home is a great example.
  3. An introduction is always important: Before lifting your cat or anyone else’s, you should always properly introduce yourself to it. Do not force the feline if he or she doesn’t want to.
  4. Lift and reward: Place your hands under the cat’s body like instructed, bring your friend up to 1 inch, and then let it down to the flat surface. Reward your cat afterward.
  5. Repeat: Do this process over and over again. If there are no signs of stress, try to lift the malkin higher. Repeat the steps several times.
  6. Hold the cat against your body: Hold the feline for about one second and then return it to the ground safely. You can comfort your pet by gently petting its soft fur. Do this several times.
  7. Try holding the cat much longer: Pick the feline up and hold it for a few seconds. Repeat the steps and try to hold it longer next time.


I hope that this article gives you the answer to the question “How to Pick Up and Hold a Cat Properly?”. Picking up a cat can be slightly complicated and requires a lot of pet health care and alternative pain management therapies to make your feline friends feel secure.

Let me know in the section whether you have tried these tips on your cats. If you find this article informative, share it with your family and friends as well.

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