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If your cat is overly anxious about being held in certain situations, such as being carried by a child, you can create the same closeness by substituting some other interaction for the holding: Have the child sit on the floor or in a chair and invite the cat onto his lap. This minimizes the cat’s risk of falling and allows her to easily move away if she desires. Keep in mind that all interactions between children and cats should be supervised by an adult, to ensure everyone’s safety.
When your cat needs to be moved, consider alternatives to lifting, such as using a food lure or toy, or teaching the cat to follow a target. And even around the house, a crate can be useful for relocating a fearful cat — just be sure to teach your cat to see her crate as a positive, safe space where she can relax.
Some cats dislike being held because they associate it with other things they dislike. For many cat owners, holding is synonymous with petting, an activity some felines only tolerate or would rather avoid all together. This association may make your cat resist being picked up or held.
I once had a three-legged cat who loved being held, but sometimes he would put out his claws and try to jump down. After observing his behavior, I realized he was afraid of being dropped when I put him down, regardless of how close to the ground he was when I let go, because his missing front leg limited his ability to steady himself. To address this, I stopped lowering him to the ground when I was done holding him; instead, I would release him onto something high enough that he could move forward out of my arms, rather than down, like a cat tree. From there, he could climb confidently to the ground at his own pace.
Finally, look for ways to create a calm atmosphere while you hold your cat by surrounding him with comforting scents. Drape a blanket that your cat has laid on across your chest while you hold the cat; the blanket will have her smell on it, which can be soothing. You can also spray a calming pheromone like Feliway, or a soothing scent like lavender, directly on your shirt before you pick your cat up.
If your cat still dislikes being held or carried even after you try these suggestions, talk to your veterinarian, who may recommend a veterinary behaviorist for help addressing the situation. It is possible that your cat may have underlying anxiety or a medical issue that is causing her to overreact to handling.
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Training consultant Mikkel Becker demonstrates the proper way to handle a cat — and how to safely introduce him to children.
One key tip: It's important to remember that some kitties just don't like to be held, so if he shows any signs of aggression or seems skittish, you shouldn't try to pick him up.
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