Holding a cat might seem simple, but doing it correctly ensures the safety and comfort of both the feline and the handler. In this guide, we'll explore the nuances of holding a cat and why it matters.
I recently taught my cat Mia to cuddle, this is even better than holding her. She comes on command (and I reward her for it)
Understanding Cat Body Language
Cats communicate volumes through subtle physical cues. While their vocalizations like meows or purrs are audible indicators, their body language often provides more information about their state of mind.
Tail, Ears, and Whiskers: The Cat's Communication Toolkit
A cat's tail is its emotional barometer. A tail held high often suggests confidence, while a tucked tail can indicate fear. Rapid, twitching tail movements might indicate irritation.
Ears that stand erect and forward indicate curiosity, while those that lay flat signal fear or aggression. Whiskers also play a role.
Forward-facing whiskers often accompany a playful or curious demeanor, while those pulled back indicate unease.
Respecting a Cat's Personal Space
Every cat is an individual. Some may relish a tight cuddle; others might prefer keeping all four paws on the ground. It's crucial to read their signals and respect their boundaries.
Preparing to Hold a Cat
Before even thinking of lifting a cat, understanding the basics of approach can ensure a positive interaction.
The Art of the Gentle Approach
Rapid or unexpected movements can be jarring for a cat. When approaching, move slowly, lower yourself to their level, and speak in a soft, reassuring tone. Offering an extended hand allows the cat to sniff and familiarize itself with you. This gesture can be likened to humans shaking hands – it's a non-threatening introduction.
Look for positive cues: a raised tail, purring, rubbing against your legs, or a soft, slow blink – often termed a "cat kiss." These are indicators of a cat's comfort and willingness to interact.
Lifting and Holding Techniques
Imagine you're lifting something precious and fragile. Start by placing one hand beneath the cat's chest, just behind the front legs. Your other hand should support the cat's hindquarters. This two-handed approach evenly distributes their weight and prevents undue stress on any one part of their body.
Various Holding Styles
Cradle Hold: Like holding an infant, this hold allows a cat to relax into your arms, with its head near the crook of your elbow. This is a great way to hold the cat when the cat likes to cuddle and there's a lot of trust.
Football Hold: Best for slightly restless cats, this involves tucking the cat's body under your arm with its head pointing backward.
Shoulder Perch: Ideal for cats that enjoy heights, but ensure your hand supports their back legs, giving them a sense of security. This is my favorite way to carry Mia around, in fact, is how we move around when we travel.
Here's a short video showing the football hold:
Teaching a cat to jump on your shoulder isn't easy, but it's totally worth it.
Key Tips and Precautions
The scruff is the loose skin at the back of a cat's neck. Mother cats carry their kittens this way, but it's inappropriate and potentially harmful for adult cats due to their weight.
Similarly, while some cats enjoy belly rubs, many find it threatening. It's a vulnerable area, so always proceed with caution.
Reading Signs of Discomfort
If a cat growls, hisses, or its body goes rigid, these are clear signals of discomfort. If any of these signs appear, it's best to gently set the cat down and give it some space.
Every cat has a unique personality. Some may be outgoing and trusting, while others might be more reserved or even fearful.
It's essential to be patient. Let the cat dictate the pace of interaction. Soft talking, treats, and toys can be tools to win their trust. If an unfamiliar cat remains skittish, consider revisiting the interaction later.
Setting the Cat Down
When it's time to release your feline friend, lower them close to the ground, allowing their feet to touch down first. This ensures they feel grounded and secure, reducing any potential for panic or injury.
The act of holding a cat is a blend of understanding, patience, and technique. By respecting their boundaries and ensuring their comfort, you can create a foundation of trust, fostering a deeper bond with your feline friend.
Stay Wild, Stay Safe and we'll see you outdoors!
Albert & Mia