Do Cats Like Being Picked Up?

Different cats can have very different preferences. As a result, while generalizations can be very useful for understanding most cats, it is important to note that there can be exceptions to these rules. In any case, most cats do not enjoy being picked up by their cat owners, though the exact reason is unclear. Here are some of the potential reasons that cats don’t enjoy being picked up by their cat owners:


Cats are predators. However, it is important to note that cats are predators that also happen to be prey. For example, coyotes have been making their way to both urban and suburban areas in recent decades, which is a serious concern because they are more than opportunistic enough to predate upon cats when the chance comes up. Likewise, larger birds of prey might decide to attack cats as well, thus resulting in serious injuries thanks to their talons as well as their ability to drop their victims from great heights. On top of this, there are a lot of other animals that can cause serious damage to cats in a physical confrontation, with examples including but by no means limited to raccoons, porcupines, and snakes.

As such, much of feline behavior is motivated by an instinctual understanding that cats are predators that also happen to be prey. One excellent example would be how cats like to be in high-up places. First, this is because the height protects them from other animals that cannot climb as well as they can. Second, this is because the height enables them to look out upon their surroundings, thus enabling them to respond faster to potential threats. Another excellent example would be how cats like to hide in secure locations, which enable them to rest and relax while being concealed from their enemies.

Being picked up can cause a serious sense of fear in cats because that isn’t a standard part of cat-to-cat interaction. As a result, they are likely to see it as something strange, which in turn, makes them likely to see it as something that is potentially threatening to them. Granted, being picked up means that cats are situated higher-up. However, that doesn’t actually come as much consolation because they are held by someone else rather than situated there on their own while retaining full control over their physical presence.

Physical Discomfort

Speaking of which, it is perfectly possible that a cat doesn’t enjoy being picked up because they aren’t being picked up in the right way, thus resulting in physical discomfort. Certainly, a human would struggle if we were picked up in a weird way, so it should come as no surprise to learn that cats will do the same under the same circumstances. Due to this, interested individuals might be able to get a cat to react better if they pick them up in the right way.

Generally speaking, cat owners should use both hands to pick up their cats. One hand should go under the cat’s front legs, while the other hand should support the cat’s back legs as well as hind quarters. Once that has been carried out, the cat owner can then pick up the cat so that they are securely cradled in one arm while the other arm serves to hold on to them. Interested individuals should never let a cat’s legs dangle because that tends to make them feel unsafe and insecure. Similarly, interested individuals should not hold on to a cat in too firm a manner unless they are doing so for reasons of safety. In other cases, if the cat starts to squirm or otherwise struggle against the hold, it is time to let them go.

As for putting a cat down once they have been picked up, there isn’t much to say besides that the cat owner should lower them to the ground rather than let them jump down from their arms. Yes, cats are quite good at managing jumps from considerable distances. However, it isn’t a universal ability, particularly since a lot of pet cats are either inexperienced or in less than stellar physical condition. For that matter, making a cat jump down tends to make them unsafe and insecure, so it is a better idea to make the process as easy for them as possible.

Negative Experiences

In some cases, cats might have had negative experiences when they were being held by someone else. For example, they might have had been vaccinated while being held. Likewise, they might have had their nails trimmed while being held. Cats are more than capable of forming connections between such events, so if they have had some negative experiences while being held, that could cause them to become agitated when treated in such a manner.

Medical Issues

Interested individuals might notice cats that were once receptive to being picked up and held becoming less so. It is possible that the cat has picked up some kind of medical issue that is causing either pain or discomfort, though that is by no means guaranteed to be the case. In any case, if interested individuals notice this as well as other potential signs of a medical issue, they should get their cat checked out by a veterinarian sooner rather than later. Like with humans, cats tend to have much better health outcomes when their medical issues are detected as soon as possible. Something that is particularly true because cats can’t communicate in the same way that humans can, meaning that their medical issues tend to take longer to become known by the rest of the household.

Further Considerations

There are some suggestions that might help interested individuals pick up a cat without agitating them too much in the process. One, they might want to work on their cat’s tolerance for being picked up over time. Being forceful in this matter is never good because that will just make the cat dislike being picked up even more. Instead, it is best to build up slowly while using positive reinforcement to make them associate being picked up with good things rather than bad things. Two, interested individuals should never try to pick up their cats with the result that they are startled or otherwise threatened in the process. They don’t react well to that kind of thing, so it is best to give it up before they become even more opposed to being picked up.

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