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Why Doesn’t My Cat Like To Be Held Or Picked Up?

No two cats are the same. Just because you’ve owned one in the past or have known somebody else who has owned a cat that loves to be cuddled, that does not mean that all cats like to be picked up or held.

There can be many reasons that your cat might not like it. He may have had a bad experience in the past. He may suffer some kind of pain or discomfort when you pick him up, or he may be disgruntled that he can climb up himself and you took that away from him.

Cats can be loving and cuddly, but they can also be contrary and difficult, so even if you have a cat that accepts being picked up from time to time, it does not mean that you will be able to gather them up in your arms every time the whim takes you.

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It Isn’t A Natural Position For Cats

In the wild, cats would only really mix and socialize with other cats, and it is not normal behavior for them to pick one another up. They would slowly approach another cat before sniffing, licking, rubbing, and knocking heads together. They would not attempt to lift one another off the ground. Therefore, the whole experience is alien to them individually and evolutionarily speaking.

If anything, cats would only experience being picked up in the wild if they had been caught by a predator and were being dragged away. Even though your cat is domesticated and several generations away from having lived in the wild, these basal instincts remain, especially in those breeds that we would consider to be closer to wild.

cat hides
Image Credit: Pixabay
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Some Cats Gets Scared

The thought of being up and carried away could be terrifying to your cat, and once this terror kicks in, they will not even notice that it is you, the one that feeds them and tickles behind their ears that is doing it.

Even if the act of being picked up does not directly scare them, they could feel fear because they will find it more difficult to get away from any imminent danger or incoming threat. If you have a cat that is easily scared by loud noises or sudden movements, it is likely fear that is putting them off being picked up, too.

A cat hiding under a couch
Image Credit: Rawpixel.com, Shutterstock
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Some Like To Climb Themselves

Some cats are very independent and they can view it as disrespectful if you pick them up when they are quite clearly more than capable of climbing up themselves.

If your cat likes to be up high but doesn’t like you picking them up, provide them with perches such as climbing and scratching posts, or the dedicated cat shelves and layers that you can fit on your walls. Once installed, your cat may choose to climb on top of these shelves and give you eye-to-eye attention this way, instead.

ragdoll cat sitting on a climbing frame
Image Credit: izmargad, Shutterstock
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They Don’t Like To Be Restrained

We generally gather a cat up and put our arms or hands around them when we pick them up. We do this to prevent them from falling, but your cat may not like to be physically restrained in this way, even if it doesn’t mind being gathered up in your arms.

Try scooping your cat up, rather than grabbing them, and see if they are calmer with you picking them up like this.

cat hiding
Image Credit: Pixabay
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Previous Negative Experiences

Like any animal, cats learn from experience. If you’ve adopted an adult cat, you have no idea what its previous owner did to it, or what experiences it had to endure before arriving with you. If your cat had to endure abuse at the hands of a former owner or any other person, it is perfectly reasonable that they would be afraid of you picking them up.

More recently, your cat may simply associate being picked up with going to the vets or the groomers or having something done to them that they do not enjoy.

It may be possible to retrain a cat so that they forget the negative experience, and associate being picked up with a positive experience (think tasty treats) but you should appreciate that this may never happen and, even if it does, it will take a lot of work to reprogram such behavior.

angry orange cat
Image Credit: Pixabay
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They May Be In Pain

Another reason that your can might dislike being held or picked up is that they are in pain. If your cat previously enjoyed, or at least put up with, being gathered up in your hands, but they now hate it, it may be time to consider a trip to the vets.

Your cat could be suffering a physical injury or something that is invisible to the human eye and cannot be detected without the professional help of a veterinary checkup.

Remember that cats learn by experience, so even once the problem has been fixed and the pain is gone, they may still be reluctant to be picked up.

Related Read: Why Doesn’t My Cat Like Me Anymore (And How to Fix That)

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How To Encourage Holding

It is possible to train or retrain a cat. Your pet kitty can be taught that being picked up or held isn’t necessarily a wholly negative experience. Take your time, be understanding, and don’t force your cat to stay in your hands if it is clearly terrified or hating the experience.

Some cats will never enjoy being picked up, while others cats will enjoy the experience. You can try giving your cat a healthy treat whenever it lets you pick it up and keep hold of it, too.

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Featured Image Credit: Ukki Studio, Shutterstock