Can I teach my cat to be held?

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can I teach my cat to be held?

can my cat learn to be held photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

Shelter kitten likes to be held
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

Ever gone to a shelter and picked up a cat, and the cat instantly relaxes? Some do, but not all cats will – some just don’t like it. They don’t like being picked up, and certainly don’t want to be held.

What if your cat doesn’t like being held?

Have you said to yourself (and your cat) Can I teach my cat to be held? 

My cat use to hate being held. I’d scoop her up, and she’d immediately start squirming. Sometimes she’d unintenitionally scratch me as she jumped out of my arms. Her name is Marnie, and she’s a rescue. She was three when she joined our family. I don’t know how she was treated by her previous family, but she definitely was neglected: she was skittish and emaciated. And if I were to venture a guess, she may never have been held as a sign of affection. It’s likely she’s been grabbed, swatted at, but held with love? Probably not. I wondered: can I teach my cat to be held? So I thought about how to let Marnie feel comfortable being picked up and held.

can my cat learn to be held?

Can my cat learn to be held?
photo by s.dunaif ©2017

cat learning to be held

Marnie learning to be being held
photo by s.dunaif ©2017

So I started very gradually.

  • I’d simply pick her up and release her – immediately. It was important to let Marnie get use to being picked up.

I wanted her to associate being picked up as non threatening. After a few weeks, she seemed to be less nervous when I picked her up. She was ready for the next step.

 

  • I’d keep her in my arms for a few seconds, then let her go – before she became squirmy

This was to help her gain trust while being in my grasp; we did that for a few weeks. Then, once Marnie was ready to be held a little longer, we added more time.

  • I held her, releasing her as soon as she got fidgety.

This was to let Marnie feel in control of how long she wanted to be held.

Finally, she let me hold her and purrs.

  • Marnie was relaxed enough to enjoy being held – most of the time!

 

cat learns to be held - and likes it

Marnie learned to be held – and likes it
photo by s. dunaif©2017

 

 

 

After nearly 18 months, Marnie knows she is loved.

 

 

 

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