Cat Tips

How To Pick Up a Cat 

Thinking of how to pick up your cat can be nerve-wracking for new cat parents. However, you’ll likely have to overcome your anxiety and pick up your pet at some point. Seeing the various ways that people carry cats can leave you confused about what the right technique is.

If you pick up your cat the wrong way, you may get more than a few scratches to show for it. Spot Pet Insurance will give you a step-by-step guide on the right way to carry your cats.

How do you pick up your cat?

You can build an affectionate relationship with your cat by carrying them with care. This helps reduce their anxiety in a situation where they may feel out of control. You only require the following steps:

Support your cat

You must give your cat stable support when picking them up. Place one hand close to their rump or hind legs and the other close to their front legs.

Lift your cat

Once your hands are in place, lift your cat gently. You can bring your pet close to your chest for additional support.

Hold your cat

Your pet may get anxious if you just let their legs dangle freely in the air. Instead, wrap your hands around your cat, and hold them against your body. If your shy cat tries to bury their face in your arms, let them.

Check your cat’s body language

Your cat’s mood can change anytime, so you should remain vigilant. Although they might have been in the mood for a cuddle, things can change quickly. Monitor your cat’s body language for signs that they’re tired of being held, such as growling, squirming, thrashing, or twisting their tail.

How do you pick up a kitten?

Things that your cat experiences as a kitten may set the tone for their future interactions with humans. Therefore, if they have a positive relationship with getting picked up, they could likely enjoy it as adult cats.

When you want to lift your kitten, follow the same steps as you would for adult cats — only gentler. This technique is also how you can carry small dogs like the Shih Tzus. Tiny kittens might fit into your palm, but they can get really squirmy. If it’s getting too tough to secure your cat, put them down and try again later.

How do you drop your cat?

When you notice that your cats are tired of being held, it’s time to put them back down. Cats have incredible agility and can land safely from great heights, but you shouldn’t let them jump off your arms. Cats are nimble but can still fall and require first aid or medical care. Plus, It is not a great way to build trust with your pet.

A better way to do it is to bring your cat close to the landing area. For instance, lean forward and extend your folded arms toward the couch so your cat can easily hop off. This is much safer for your pet.

When is the right time to pick up your cat?

Only your cat decides who picks them up and when it happens. They might not say the words, but their body language speaks volumes. If you pick up your cat at the wrong time, they might lash out and scratch or bite you.

Your cat is happy and ready to be carried if they’re licking, rubbing, or making happy movements with their tail. These signs may mean they won’t get hostile if you approach them.

On the other hand, your cat might not be ready to be picked up if they have a bushy tail or give you a hostile meow. This tells you they’re probably not in the best mood.

Now, there are times when you can pick up your cats without being too concerned about their mood. For example, if you see them going toward something dangerous, you’ll have to swoop in and pick them up immediately. You can put them down somewhere safe.

Why do you need the right technique to pick up your cat?

You need to learn the correct technique for picking up your cat, especially while they’re young. A bad experience as a kitten can make your cat skeptical about cuddles as adults. Remember this when attempting to pick up your adopted cats because they might have had unpleasant past experiences.

Try to build trust with your pet. They might not be immediately open to this, but patience is crucial as you attempt to perfect this skill.

How do you approach your cat?

Before going toward your cat to pick them up, you must get them to know you first. Start the relationship with a proper introduction to your relaxed cat. If they’re twitching or growling, this might not be a perfect time. Also, don’t disrupt your cat’s sleep because you wouldn’t like that, and neither would they.

Give your cat a chance to sniff you. Place your hand in front of their face and let them respond while you observe. Next, pat their head and watch again to see how comfortable they are.

If your cat is still relaxed after receiving a few pats, they could be comfortable enough to like being carried. On the other hand, if they stare at your hand or start twitching, this might be a bad time, so try again later. You mustn’t rush your cat because you’re trying to build a long-lasting relationship with them.

What are the mistakes to avoid when picking up your cat?

One of the biggest mistakes people make is picking up a cat that’s not in the right mood. You must always observe your cat’s body language before anything else. If they don’t seem ready, you can try another time.

There’s an exception to this rule, though. It’s okay to pick up your cat if they’re in trouble, even when they’re not in a great mood.

Other mistakes that you might make when picking up your cat include:

  • Scruffing You shouldn’t do this because it might be painful for your cat. It also causes anxiety, fear, and stress for your pet.

  • Failing to secure your cat — Your pets need to feel safe with you. Hold your cat close to you to keep them secure.

  • Holding your cat for too long — You should be able to spot when your cat is tired. They’ll show signs of their discomfort, so you should respond appropriately. Drop your cat if they’re uncomfortable and pick them up later.

  • Allowing kids to carry your cats — Yes, kids love to play with cats, but they’ll need some help. You need to show them how to do it right. Also, stay close enough to observe the kids so that you can correct them if they’re doing something wrong.

  • Letting your cats jump off — Don’t just let your pets leap from a great height. Bring them close to a sturdy surface and let them hop off gently.

  • Sudden moves — Moving too quickly can surprise or frighten your cats. Take things slowly and if your cat responds negatively, take a step back and try again.

Final thoughts

Carrying your cat the right way is great for bonding, but doing it wrong can frighten them. You might get away with a few nasty scratches if you’re lucky.

The key to picking up your cat is to build trust. Approach your pet gently and observe their body language. You can tell your cat is open to being picked up if they’re relaxed.

Ensure that you support your cat and secure them close to you. This way, they’ll be more comfortable. Also, lean forward to put your cat down gently.

You may need a few tries for this to become second nature. Want more tips on caring for your cat? Spot Pet Insurance has your back.


  • How To Pick Up and Hold a Cat the Right Way | Daily Paws

  • Cat Body Language Basics | Virginia Beach SPCA

  • First Aid for Falls in Cats | VCA Animal Hospital

  • Is scruffing the best way to handle an upset cat? | Tufts No

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