How to pick up a cat properly without receiving a scratch on the face?

You must know how to pick up a cat properly because handling felines is a very risky process. The bossy nature of cats is known to all as they like their space and status to be respected and not intruded on without permission. Every feline has different preferences when it comes to handling and you will learn the basics of the process of picking up cats rightly as you will continue to read.


Troubles of cat during handling                  

If a cat doesn’t like to be held, it can be due to the following factors:

  • Preference for space and control
  • Scared of contact
  • Mishandling in the past
  • The trauma of rejection by the mother cat
  • Pain due to health issues like arthritis
  • Sense of humiliation or disrespect
  • Anger, stress, or aggression issues

Mechanism of picking cats properly

how to pick up a cat properly

We have divided the whole process into clear stages and each one of them is equally important to follow.

Make the right approach

The first step about how to pick up cat is starting with the right approach to be made towards the cat instead of pouncing upon her and ending up scratched at worst. You need to observe the body language of your cat to understand if it’s relaxed or not. The relaxed mode of the cat usually features normal eyes, relaxed body posture, still tail, forward-facing ears, un-stretched fur, and no vocalization.

Once that ensured, walk towards the cat very calmly and without making any noise that can startle her into defense. Now you need to check if the cat wishes to be touched at all and for that, stretch out your hand to her for sniffing. If she sniffs it with a relaxed gesture, then it’s a thumbs-up but you need to back off if it declines your approach.

As a follow-up, start petting the cat now for some time and observe how it reacts. If your cat still remains relaxed throughout just like it has been all the while and lets everything come on smoothly, it is ready to get picked up. If you observe any change in the body language, that’s when you deter.

The technique of picking up

If the first step goes well, you have to now put the right technique in use for picking up the cat which can be challenging but will come out right with practice. Each step that you take need to be very calm and smooth. The main idea of the right technique about how to pick up a cat properly is that putting more of your body points in contact with the body of the cat makes it feel more relaxed and comfortable.

  • Make a supporting gesture by putting one hand under the front legs of the cat and the other hand under the back legs. This will give a securely held feel to the cat.
  • Keep the cat level and pick her up now with both the hands in sync.
  • As you lift the cat, bring her closer to your body or chest portion immediately to make her feel warm and safe.

Holding the cat rightly

Now that you have lifted the cat, you can continue to hold her in arms for as long as the cat starts showing signs of discomfort and that wouldn’t be too long. You can wrap your arms around the kitty and keeping her close to your chest is important. Allow the cat to make any move in your arms freely.

Keep an eye on the body language of the cat while it is in your arms. As soon as she starts showing signs of discomfort like growling, tail twitching, body tensing, etc., it’s a signal that she wants it out of your hug now.

Releasing them safely

It is equally important to release your cat out of the hug safely and correctly. You can either put her back in the previous place or put her at a different spot depending upon the requirement. It will be better to kneel to few inches above the ground and allow the cat to jump out of your hands safely to keep her safe and yourself too from any back claw scratches.

Picking up kittens rightly and safely

The same process that we explained above about how to pick up cat applies to the kittens too. However, you might feel intimidated by their smallness and may want to take some extra caution. You can do that by being even gentler in the hold as the kittens might just fit into your palm and that’s even better for better control.

It is important to pick kittens rightly as wrong holds can leave a lifelong impact on their mind and might even turn out to traumatic.

Mistakes to avoid while picking up cats

The lesson about how to pick up a cat properly cannot be complete without knowing what mistakes you need to avoid and here are some of the crucial things to remember:

  • The first and foremost thing to avoid is picking up the cat when her body language is telling you otherwise.
  • Holding up the cat by its scruff, shoulders, or back skin on the neck is undesirable.
  • Don’t forget to hold the cat closer or it can feel insecure.
  • Don’t hold the cat for very long.
  • Never allow the children to pick cats unsupervised.
  • Don’t let the cat jump out of your hold from much height.

Tips on handling reluctant cats

If a cat doesn’t like to be held, then there is probably nothing you can do to pick her up. However, you can make her comfortable with being picked up, and here are the things you can do:

  • Try picking her up in the right way and see if her reaction improves in every lift.
  • In situations that require mandatory handling of the cat, assess the need properly and then only go ahead with the picking.
  • Distract the cat with toys, laser lights, catnip, or any other thing as an alternative method to re-locate it.
  • It is important to calm down the cat after any engagement and then pick it up.
  • Be watchful of your face and hands too and wear gloves or long sleeves during mandatory handling.
  • Teach trigger words to the cats that give them the hint about the handling and get the chance to feel comfortable. You can also use a clicker to grab their attention.


We hope you must have understood how to pick up a cat properly by now and will be careful the next time you need to handle your cat. The key is keeping patience on your part and allowing the pet to give you the sign of willingness. If any of these things go missing, the consequences can be bad.

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Luna Tran

My name is Luna and I am a great cat lover and a cat owner of three lovely cats. I have owned many cats till now and have dedicated many years to nurturing and caring cats. Through this blog, I am here to share my knowledge and experience about cats.