How to pick up a cat like a pro - Vet advice on cat handling.
How to Pick Up a Cat
Picking up a cat may sound easy but there is actually a right way to do it, so that the cat is comfortable and does not get injured. Make sure the cat feels safe and comfortable in your presence before you attempt to pick it up. Some cats need a more “delicate” approach than others, especially cats that are frightened of humans or ones with medical conditions like arthritis. Once you have established a relationship with the cat, then it's time to pick it up while supporting its body correctly.
Putting a Cat at Ease
Approach the cat.If you want to pick up a cat, then you should first approach it in a way that lets it know you're coming. This can mean talking to it softly, letting it see you, or just making your presence known in some way.
- If you pick up your cat from behind without letting it know you're coming, it's likely to get scared and to feel panicked and unsafe.
- Some experts say it's best to approach your cat from the left or right side because coming at your cat head-on may seem like too much of a threat.
- Never attempt to pick up cats you find on the street without carefully assessing the cat and its behavior. It can be feral and potentially dangerous. It is best to only try to pick a cat up if you have experience with it.
Introduce yourself to the cat.It can take time for cats to warm up to you, even cats that you own. Once the cat knows you're approaching, you should be friendly and loving with the cat so it gets ready to be held by you. Most cats introduce themselves to other cats by nuzzling their faces, so you should do the same, focusing on gently petting the cat's cheeks, forehead, the area behind their ears, or even under their chins, if it is comfortable with you.
- This gentle petting can help your cat feel safe and loved and ready to be picked up.
- If your cat is feeling a little bit wound up, this can also help calm him or her down. It may take a bit of time to make your cat feel at ease.
Make sure the cat wants to be picked up.Most cats will be able to give you a definite sign that they don't want to be picked up. Though you can slowly calm down and earn the trust of domestic cats by petting their heads, you shouldn't try to pick up a cat who is either irritated or just not in the mood to be picked up. If the cat tries to run away from you or bites or scratches you, or just starts swatting at you, then it may be time to try to pick up the cat later.
- It is especially important to teach children who want to pick up a cat these warning signs. You want them to only pick up a cat who is feeling calm and relaxed and who trusts them. You don't want a child to end up getting scratched by a cat who doesn't want to be held.
Part 1 Quiz
Why might you approach the cat from the side instead of the front?
Holding a Cat Correctly
Place one hand under the cat's body, behind its front legs, if you are sure that the cat is accepting of being picked up.Gently move your hand under the cat's body, just below its front legs, so you have the support you need when you begin to pick up the cat. The cat may resist this or not like it right away, so you should move along and use that second hand soon afterwards.
- It doesn't really matter whether you use your dominant hand to support the cat below its front legs or under its hindquarters; it depends on whatever makes you feel more comfortable.
- Some people actually tuck the front legs together and place the hand under the two legs instead of below them.
Place the other hand under the cat's hindquarters.Now place that second hand under the cat's back legs, giving plenty of support to its legs and bottom. You can almost think of this as cradling the cat with one of your hands. Once you've gotten your hands in position, you can get ready to pick the cat up.
Gently lift the cat.Now that you're holding the cat with both hands, just gently lift the cat up, towards your chest. Try to make contact with the rest of your body as early as you can when you lift it up. This can help the cat feel more secure early in the process. If the cat is too heavy to lift up from the ground, you may be better off picking it up from a table or an elevated platform.
Hold the cat against your chest.Once you've picked up the cat while supporting it with both hands, you can hold it against your chest, so most of its body is touching your body. The back or side of the cat's head can rest against your chest, too.
- In general, the cat's posture should be fairly straight instead of having the cat sag against your chest, with its head and neck craned downward. This is uncomfortable for the cat and may cause it to struggle and scratch you.
- You should always pick up a cat with its head above its body. Never pick up a cat upside down!
- Of course, some cats like to be held differently, especially if it's your cat and it's more comfortable around you. Some are perfectly fine being cradled like babies while others even like placing their hind legs on your shoulders.
Part 2 Quiz
Why should the cat's posture be straight and not relaxed or sagging against your chest?
Putting a Cat Down
Know when the cat no longer wants to be held.Once the cat starts shifting around, moving, or even meowing or trying to escape your grasp, it's time to set the cat down. You don't want to hold the cat against its will, as this will make the cat increasingly uncomfortable and it will also feel threatened.
- Some cats don't like to be held for all that long, so if you sense that the cat may be less than pleased in your arms, it's time to let it go.
Gently place the cat down.Don't just throw down the cat the second you feel the little guy is uncomfortable; this may lead the cat to lose its balance or to land awkwardly. Instead, lower the cat down until all four of its paws are on the ground before you comfortably release it.
- Of course, some cats will just jump right out of your grasp, so you can be prepared for that, too.
Do not scruff the cat.Though mother cats carry their kittens by the scruff, you should not try to scruff a cat, especially after it is three months old or so. At that point, the cat will grow too big, and scruffing it can really hurt the cat and cause muscle damage, as the cat will be too big to be adequately supported by the scruff.
- Though you or a vet may need to scruff the cat to get it to take medication or trim its nails they never hold the cat off the examination table by the scruff.
Make sure a child has close supervision while picking up a cat.Kids love to pick up cats, but if they want to do this, you should instruct them through every step of the process. Most importantly, make sure the child is big enough to comfortably pick the cat up. If the child is too small, then he or she may be better off holding the cat while sitting.
- Once the child picks up the cat, make sure to keep an eye on them so you can tell the child when the cat wants to be let go. This will help to keep both the child and the cat from being injured.
Part 3 Quiz
If a child is too small to hold the cat, they should:
QuestionHow do you tell your cat you love them?
Doctor of Veterinary MedicineDoctor of Veterinary MedicineExpert AnswerYou can show your cat you love them taking good care of them, petting them and playing with them.Thanks!
QuestionCan you pick up a pregnant cat?
Doctor of Veterinary MedicineDoctor of Veterinary MedicineExpert AnswerYes you can pick up a pregnant cat, just like you would pick up a non-pregnant cat - carefully.Thanks!
QuestionCan I pick my cat up by the scruff?
Doctor of Veterinary MedicineDoctor of Veterinary MedicineExpert AnswerNo do not pick up a cat by the scruff. They can be held by the scruff while they are sitting on a flat surface to keep them under control for short medical procedures.Thanks!
QuestionDo cats like to be hugged?
Doctor of Veterinary MedicineDoctor of Veterinary MedicineExpert AnswerNo, cats don't particularly like to be hugged. They prefer gentle petting, stroking and scratching.Thanks!
QuestionIs it painful or dangerous to carry a cat by just its front legs?
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsVeterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsExpert AnswerNever pick a cat up by just the front legs. Holding a cat this way shifts all its weight onto long thin bones that were never meant to take twisting forces. Should the cat wriggle and try to escape, this could fracture bones or dislocate a joint. Also, the cat won't feel secure, and the risk of them struggling is therefore greater.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I pick my cat up when he's lying down?
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsVeterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsExpert AnswerStroke him first so you don't take him by surprise. Then slide one hand under his shoulder, and the other beneath his rear end. Gently lift while gathering the cat towards your chest so that he's cradled against it.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I pick up my cat if she doesn't like to be held? We have to do it for traveling to go through the scanner, and we're moving.Jessica WhitmireCommunity AnswerIf you absolutely need to hold your cat, and she doesn't like to be held, then the best option is to wrap her body in a towel or blanket. Practice this a few times before you travel to see how she responds.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I pick my cat up in another way?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerPlace the hind legs against one side of your chest and drape the front legs over your arm on the other side. This puts the cat in more of a natural position like he is sitting down with his paws over your arm.Thanks!
QuestionHow to make a cat really, really love me? I tried playing, but they are not interested.Community AnswerBe patient, as it can take time to develop a bond with a cat. Learn about cats and their body language, and try to understand the cat and respond appropriately, if necessary. Be gentle with the cat. Speak softly, pet it, and notice how it does or doesn't like to be touched. Try lying down near it and see if it comes to you itself, then pet it or just let it settle down by you. Play with it when it wants to play. Don't bother it too much if it's not in the mood. Give it catnip or a treat sometimes. Make sure it has adequate food and water.Thanks!
QuestionMy cat doesn't have a leg. Does it affect the way I hold it? Should I pick him up differently?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerJust be very gentle. You can still pick him up the same basic way. Do it slowly, and if you cat doesn't like it very much, put him down and try another way.Thanks!
- Don't pick up a cat if it is likely to scratch or bite. However, if it is necessary to pick the cat up ( at the vet, for example) wear a long sleeved shirt so that the scratching or biting will not hurt your skin or cut your skin. If your cat bites or scratches really badly, you may even want to consider wearing gloves to keep your hands from getting scratched.
- Some cats simply do not like being picked up. Don't force it. In that case, pick up the cat only when it's necessary, like for taking it to the veterinarian, and perhaps once a week, just so he/she doesn't associate being picked up with the veterinarian.
- Make sure to approach the cat calmly and with no sudden movements, or else you might scare the cat away.
- Approach the cat calmly and slowly without making sudden movements. Then crouch down slowly and let the cat sniff or study you. If the cat thinks you're not a threat it will walk over.
- Pick cats gently with arms. Don't pick up with just one arm on its stomach as this can be uncomfortable and make the cat struggle to get down.
- Make sure you put your hand right behind their front legs.
- Make sure the cat/kitten wants to be held. If hissing, swatting etc. starts to occur, do not pick up the cat/kitten until she/he feels comfortable enough to be held.
- Picking up a cat by the scruff is highly discouraged. The cat can be seriously injured if not picked up by the scruff correctly, and so can you, for this position gives the cat much space to turn around and bite/scratch you.
- If you are scratched, wash it out with soap and water, and use a topical antibiotic. If you receive a cat bite do the same and consult your physician as cat bites can quickly lead to serious infections.
- Do not hold the cat on their back in a baby position unless you know the cat doesn’t mind this position. This makes the cat feel insecure and trapped, and it might panic and end up scratching you. Always hold the cat in an upright position against your body for a more secure hold.
- Always remember the dangers of being bitten and scratched.
- Don't pick up a cat without getting to know it a bit first, and never pick up a stray or wild cat.
Sources and Citations
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