Can cats be taught to enjoy being held?

I have two kitty boys, both a little over one year old. I got them as kittens, and they have never really liked to be held. One will tolerate it for a moment or two, then struggles to get down; the other begins to struggle right away or holds himself stiffly away from me the whole time. I always put them down the instant they want to go, so they don’t feel like prisoners, but I must admit the struggling hurts my feelings.
My last cat preferred to be carried from place to place, and when he wanted down, merely indicated the spot where I should place him. :slight_smile:
The funny thing is that otherwise these kitties are quite affectionate. They sleep with me, need lots of petting, and like to sit on my lap. So is there some way I can get some more kitty hugs into my life?

From what I observed, this is often times just a personality trait that varies from cat to cat. Some cats are on the mellow side and like being picked up and carried, and others are a bit wilder and don’t like it at all. I don’t know if you can ‘train’ a cat to like to be held.

Sounds like one of my kitties. He’s now five, and he was always like that. For a long time I made what I now consider to be the mistake of never picking him up unless I needed to, which usually meant to do something unpleasant for him (remove him from food, bring him inside, put him in a carrier, whatever).

I’ve been working over the past two years on getting him to associate being picked up with pleasant things. I’ll hold him for a short time and give him his favorite scritchies, and (like you) put him down the second he asks. I’ll also pick him up and give him a treat, then set him down so he can eat it. Or, I’ll fill his food dish when he’s not in the room and then carry him to it. He’s been gradually letting me hold him for longer and longer amounts of time, and even sits on my lap now, which he never used to want to do. It’s taking time, but it’s real progress!

If you don’t already, make sure their little hind feet (and thus the bulk of their weight) are completely supported. Don’t press them to you, and let them move around in your arms comfortably. You’ll get there!

Ours didn’t either until we started brushing her. Now she jumps up and begs for it.

We had a cat who hated to be picked up. Frequent rewards for being picked up turned that around. So yes, they can be trained.

My cat enjoys being held most of the time. I’ll carry her on my shoulder. Then there’s the daily chin scratching.

I feel for you, I used to have a cat that would snuggle in my left arm and be carried all over while I got on with all sorts of stuff, she would dance and everything :wink: . Of the current three the old gentleman tolerates being picked up , but it’s just to please me, the little boy loves a cuddle so long as I’m sitting on the loo :dubious: and the girl stays put only until she notices where she is. Seriously, I was petting her one time while she was on top of some shelves, she leaned too far into a scritch and toppled off into my outstretched arms. She just lay there for a moment before leaping away with an expression of comic horror. It’s the same any time I pick her up, snuggle, purr, swivel head, see the floor and :eek: She was behind the door when the brains were handed out.

When I was a teenager I did successfully train one cat to like being held. She was a stray that a neighbour took in and passed on to us. When we first got her Tabby would growl and generally carry on if anyone picked her up. However her weak spot was her laziness, she always took a long time to steel herself before jumping up into our front window, so I began to give her a helping hand. Starting by placing her straight onto the window sill I gradually got her used to being held for longer and longer until she realised she was enjoying the fuss. I always let her go if she seriously complained of course.

I’m currently working with my new kitten on liking to be held. Several years ago I had the best-cat-in-the-whole-world and he would curl up with me, in my lap, in my arms, whatever. After he died, I got a new one. Whiskey runs the other direction if I’m even thinking of trying to pick him up. I’ve given up on trying to get him to be a lap kitty.

Good luck with your efforts!

This is good to know. I’ll get right on it with my two. There’ve never been keen on it.

We have an autistic cat, too. First time we’ve ever had one that didn’t like to be held. I’ve found that she’s much more tolerant of a little head scratch. She hates any contact behind the shoulderblades. Yet she comes over to be petted. Then you pet her and she flips out. She likes to lay on sleeping people, but NO TOUCHING!

I think the only thing you can do is try and condition the cat to accept your behavior. Pick him up often and try to associate it with things the cat will enjoy like treats.

When my roommate moved in here, she told me her cat doesn’t like to be picked up or held and, sure enough, she struggled like hell. I just continued to pick her up whenever I could and petted her. I made it perfectly clear that, when she wanted to get down, I would let her. I also made it a point to set her down nicely rather than letting her jump out of my arms.

Now she loves being carried around by me (still hates it from my roommate). In fact, when I get home from work at night, she follows me around meowing until I pick her up and give her a hug.

Seven years ago we adopted a cat from a rescue organization. He bonded with my wife rather quickly, sleeping wedged against her on her side of the bed, always her side of the bed. He let her hold him. He wouldn’t give me the time of day unless I had a tin of cat food in one hand; he squirm if I held him. We think he been abused, possibly by a man, and he just didn’t care for me at all. About two years ago he started letting me hold him and he’d lean into me with his body in my arms. Then, this winter when my wife was away on business for a week, he started sleeping on my side of the bed, wedging himself against me. She’d been away been, many times, so it was a new thing.

Most nights now he spend some time on her side, some time in the middle, then some time on mine. Odd, but I guess he just took a long time to accept me. Cats can learn and do change over time, but training them? Cats have minds of their own and will only be trained when they wanted to be.

Another cat often comes into my den when I’m at the computer, meows at me and circles my legs until I get up and chase him around the house, until he lets himself get caught and I pick him up, slinging his front paws over my shoulder. He only does thing with me, never my wife. He’ll let me hold him for five or ten minutes, but only while I’m standing; as soon as I sit down, he hops off.

Good one. I forgot to mention that. Apparently I’m going about this the right way, now if only these furry little turds would straighten up and fly right!