How to pick up a cat (Pics included)

How to pick up a cat (Pics included)

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If you’ve recently brought home your first cat or if you just want to learn more about how to live with a new cat, picking them up can be a challenge. Picking up cats can be difficult as their bodies seem to be made out of jello. Furthermore, cats with claws inflict lots of scratches when not handled properly. Follow our step by step guide on picking up a cat below.

how to pick up a cat demonstrated

Step by Step Instructions

Step 1: Put your hand under their chest

When picking up a cat, you should put your dominant hand under the cat’s chest and use that as a firm anchor. This hand and arm will support the majority of the cat's weight so it’s important that you get it squarely in the middle of your cat’s torso.

Step 2: Use your other hand to support their backside

Using your other, non-dominant hand, you want to cross it under your arm to support the cat’s backside. Unlike dogs and most other animals, cats have flexible spines and it can be nearly impossible to pick up a cat with a single hand.

Moreover, your cat will fight you if it feels threatened, trapped, or merely uncomfortable. Supporting your cat’s behind will make it feel less like it’s being dragged along up into the air. If you try to pick up a cat one-handed without practice, often the cat will struggle and squirm around until you drop it. Crossing your arms to hold the full length of your cat will not only help you retain control but give your cat less reasons to try to get away.

Step 3: Make sure their tail and legs are free as you carry them

Although cats like to lay down with their paws tucked under them, they will generally prefer to have their legs and tail free to swing around as they’re being picked up. A trapped leg or tail may trigger a trapped feeling, creating anxiety in your fur baby giving them the motivation to try to get away.

I like to imagine I’m a tree branch and my cat laying over my arm with my other arm supporting the backside of the cat to provide stability.


Tip 1: Make sure the kitty is comfortable

Before you attempt to pick up any cat, make sure the cat is comfortable and calm. Getting picked up is an unnatural experience for your cat and it’s instinct is to fight back. Cats have a strong sense of being the prey so they will usually be a little anxious when a giant human plucks them off the ground.

Tip 2: Use the scruff on the backside of their neck

If you absolutely must carry your cat and they fight back a lot, firmly grasp the extra loose skin on the back of the cat under the neck. When they’re just little kittens, momma cats pick up and move their babies all the time. They do this by biting gently on this area of loose skin and lifting slowly.

control a cat with the scruff of its neck

Do not try to lift an adult cat this way because as they get older, the skin becomes less pliant and the cat weighs a lot more than it did as an itty bitty kitten. You can however use a light but firm grip to signal your cat that you’re it’s momma and it’s gotta be carried right now. As long as your cat’s weight doesn’t fully depend on this grip, you and your cat will be fine. I recommend doing this before you lift your cat with your other arm to maintain control.

Tip 3: Don’t pick up dangerous cats, trap them

If you’re reading this guide because you want to pick up a cat you know will pose a problem and danger, don’t pick up the cat. Trap it. Trapping cats isn’t really that difficult and more importantly will prevent you from getting injured.

If your friend just got a new cat and you’re not sure if you should hold it, don’t just go for it. Firstly ask the owner if it’s alright and then check in with the cat. Does the cat seem comfortable with you? Is it trying to give you space or come in for snuggles? Cats may be our fur babies but they’re more like independent fur teenagers.

Trap them in a cardboard carrier and transport them to where they need to go. Don’t risk a number of diseases or serious cuts just to save a bit of extra time. Trap them or call an animal rescue center to help.

trap a dangerous cat

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