Have you ever tried to cuddle up with your cat but instead you are met with squirms and whirling wrath? If you’ve ever had to grudgingly say “my cat won’t let me hold her”, you aren’t the only one. There are thousands, if not millions of cat owners in your exact predicament. It doesn’t matter how much you love snuggling with your cat. Your expression of affection is not appreciated by your pet cat.
Do Cats Like to Be Held?
The short answer is no. Many cats don’t just like being held. Some cats don’t mind the experience and might even enjoy it, but most cats can do without the physical interaction and here’s why:
- Cats love to keep to themselves
Cats are quite self-sufficient and love their personal space. They are loners and formal animals. As socially-awkward animals, an occasional affectionate scratch is more than enough physical contact for them. If you want more, it would have to be at their own pace.
- They are easily scared
Picking up cats can be terrifying for them. If your cat is the type that spooks easily or runs to hide when it hears quick movements and loud noises, it is probably afraid of you picking it up. You would be scared too if a creature ten times your size suddenly picks you up.
- It probably wasn’t properly socialized
If your cat didn’t come in contact with a lot of people as a kitten, it will likely have residual feral tendencies. Kittens that had no human contact are hostile to humans when they eventually meet them and are less likely to tolerate being held. On the other hand, kittens that were handled daily by humans are more open to human contact. Interacting with your kittens at an early stage could usher them into a life of tolerating or enjoying human contact.
- Negative experiences
Cats sometimes associate being held with traumatic experiences. This includes innocuous acts such as restraining them for vaccinations, trimming their nails or taking their temperature to unpleasant acts such as mistakenly dropping them or abusive humans. All it takes is one or two bad incidents for it to register as a negative experience and make them wary of being held. Seeing as cats and humans have different definitions of what they consider traumatic, you do not know if holding it triggers a past negative experience.
- They don’t see it as a natural interaction
Being held isn’t a normal interaction between cats. When a cat is trying to be friendly, it sniffs, rubs and licks another cat. They don’t show affection by cuddling or picking themselves up, therefore, it is a new territory for your cat. One which can be misconstrued as antagonistic. In most cases, it interprets your “unnatural” interaction as an attack or an effort to restrain it. So while you’re wondering “why doesn’t my cat like to be held?” it is thinking “this human wants to kill me or eat me”. This is why it struggles to get away.
- They find it demeaning
Yes, your act of affection could be considered disrespectful by your cat. As much as they love being up high, cats would rather get to those heights themselves. Having you hold them up is disrespectful as far as they are concerned.
- Painful injury or medical condition
If your cat used to be a big snuggler and suddenly resists being held, it could be a painful medical condition. Carrying it probably exacerbates the injury so it prefers being left alone. Monitor your cat’s behavior and moods. If you suspect an injury is the culprit, take it to your veterinarian to be sure he’s physically fit.
- Their breed and temperament
Some feline breeds like Ragdolls and Ragamuffins love being held. They love it when humans pick them up or hold them. Other breeds like Maine Coons and Abyssinians are not tolerant to human interaction. Likewise, some cats like humans, have an outgoing or charming personality while others are forever fussy and moody. So if your cat wails and squirms when you try to cuddle it but your neighbor’s cat loves being held, do not think your cat hates you. It is not you, it is his breed or personality.
It is important to be sensitive to your cat’s preferences regardless of the reason it might have for hating being held. Do not force it as it may become even less willing to interact with you. To get it to turn around, exercise patience and let it come to you first.