Most folks have no idea how to hold a cat. Even some people that have had cats all their lives don’t know how to properly hold a cat, or a kitten. I have always practiced the same methods with every cat I have ever had, and what happens to their maturity, and how they react to strangers, has always surprised people.
I don’t have scaredy cats.
When someone strange comes over, they don’t hide. In fact, they greet everyone at the door, even if they were been napping when the visitor arrives. They are eager to sniff the ankles and to be adored with a nice back rub. They love people and they love being around people.
I realize that there are some older cats that come into my home that may already have their own ideas about humans and they may already be frightened every single time there is a knock on the door, but I still strive to make them social. I endeavour to get them used to the sound of my voice by chattering to them and I teach them their names. I want them to feel safe coming to me when I call them.
Making them feel safe all begins with how you hold them.
You gently pick up a cat and support their bottom. My cats love to be carried around the house so they can inspect places up high that they normally wouldn’t have access to. You can gently bounce a cat on your shoulder, but mostly they like the forward facing position, with their front paws draped over your arm.
The most important rule is that once they make the slightest struggle as an indication they want to get down, you let them get down. Never hold them against their will. They don’t forget that. If you allow a cat to get down when they are ready, it’s more likely they will let you hold them more often.
When I release a cat from a standing position I never allow them to just drop to the floor. Most folks think this is okay because it’s a cat and they jump all the time, but it’s not. Especially as a cat ages, you really should be more careful about making them jump down when it isn’t necessary.
I place the cat on the floor.
When a cat is dropped to the floor from a standing position, it’s not a very loving or secure feeling for them. It does feel more like an escape and the next time they will be more inclined to leap from your arms, instead of waiting for you to be ready. This could be a harrowing experience for both of you. What if you’re walking down stairs? Or on a balcony?
When a cat knows they will be let down when they give you the signal and they know that you will place them on a secure surface, they will learn this routine and they will wait for that safe landing.
Always allow your cat to escape when you’re playing, or holding them in your lap. Never hold them while they struggle, unless you’re helping the veterinarian with a medical exam. Once a cat starts to struggle, if you allow them to escape it empowers them. You become less of a threat to their independence. Therefore your lap becomes a safer place to visit more often.
Cats are not toys.
When you think about it, a cat is a great teacher when it comes to some of our relationships in life.
There will always be those cats that no matter how much we do to take care of them, they act like we don’t exist. They will never say thank you or show gratitude with a purr or a head bonk, but will have no problem screaming meows or clawing our legs when the bowl is empty. We will all have those kinds of cats in our lives at some point.
Then there are the absolute loves that take every opportunity to show us how much we mean to them. They purr, they make biscuits on our laps and rub and wind around our legs in adoration. These are the cats that take up all the slack for the ones that demand to be worshipped.
Keep in mind that when you’re holding a cat, you have just accomplished a major feat that some folks might never be able to do their entire lives. Feel good about that.