New cat owners often have no idea how to handle their cats correctly. It is very important to pick up a cat in the correct manner, since picking up a cat the wrong way could make the cat very nervous and uncomfortable, or even damage it. On the other hand, picking up a cat correctly can help to ensure a secure and happy relationship between the cat and its owner. Therefore the right way to pick up a cat is something which every new cat owner should learn.
Mother cats pick up their kittens their kittens by the scruff of the neck, and hold and transport them this way. This is fine for very young kittens, up to the age of about three months. But once a kitten has grown beyond this stage, it can be dangerous to carry it this way. A fully grown cat is far too heavy to be picked up this way, and you could damage its neck muscles by picking it up in this manner.
Children, and even some adults, often hold a cat around its middle, and try to carry it with its legs dangling. This is uncomfortable for the cat, and is in any case a very awkward way to pick up a large cat. Cats can react to this method of handling by struggling or even trying to scratch. I volunteer for a cat rescue organisation, and we sometimes have cats returned to us because they have tried to scratch their new owners or their children. This is frequently due to them being handled incorrectly.
How, then, should you pick up a cat? Actually, some cats do not care; you can cradle them like babies, or they will jump on to their owners’ shoulders. But in general, for most cats, the best way is to put one hand under the cat’s body behind its front legs, then support the back legs and hindquarters with the other hand. That way the cat is fully supported and comfortable. Many cats held in this way will enjoy putting their paws on their owner’s shoulders. They will then let you know they are happy by relaxing and maybe purring.
Of course, some cats do not like being picked up, even if you are handling them correctly. It can be very frightening for a nervous cat not to be completely in control, and even some bolder cats dislike having all four paws off the ground. If this is the case, do not try to force the cat, or hold it against its will. Again, this is a way to get yourself scratched or bitten. It is best to allow a cat to do things in its own time and at its own pace. So, if you really want to have a lap cat which enjoys being held, pick it up now and then to get it used to the idea, but always let it get down when it wants to. That way, the cat may in time learn to enjoy being picked up…but it may not. With a cat, nothing is guaranteed, every cat is different, and some cats will never like being picked up.
However, if you follow the guidelines above, you are likely to end up with a happy cat which enjoys being handled. And that is very rewarding for both cat and owner.