The 7 Reasons Your Kitten Doesn’t Want to Be Held

Some kittens don’t like being held because they had a bad experience when someone picked them up in the past. Other reasons include poor socialization, pain from an injury, and the kitten’s personality. However, you can take action to help a kitten learn to enjoy being held.  

If you have a new kitten, you’re probably looking forward to picking it up and holding it lovingly in your arms. However, you might be disappointed to find out your kitten resists this type of interaction and struggles to get away from you or even bites or scratches you in response. 

It’s natural to feel disappointed if something like this happens, but there are good reasons some kittens do not like being picked up or held. 

Fortunately, there are actions you can take to improve your kitten’s trust in you, increasing the chances you’ll have a cuddly relationship in the future. 

Here are seven reasons a kitten might not want you to hold it, followed by what you can do to improve the situation.


1. Bad Experiences Make Kittens Resist Holding

If a kitten had a bad experience being picked up and held, it is likely not to want to repeat the experience. 

Your kitten might have come from a home or shelter where people mistreated it and frightened it. This rough treatment could lead to fearfulness when you try to pick it up.

Another possibility is the kitten had a frightening experience being handled during a visit to a veterinarian. 

Some veterinarians restrain kittens by grabbing them tightly by the scruff of the neck to make it easier to take their temperature or administer an injection. Holding a kitten by the scruff mimics what mother cats do when moving kittens around, and it causes a reflex that makes the kitten go limp. 

However, there is a big difference between a mother cat gently picking up a kitten by the scruff of the neck and a person doing this. The person is much larger than the mommy cat and more likely to make the kitten feel afraid when handled this way. 

Also, once a kitten is older than eight weeks, holding it by the scruff does not produce the same relaxation response and might even cause pain, even if it still makes it easier for a person to restrain the animal. 

If your kitten doesn’t want you to pick it up, it might be due to a frightening experience.  


2. Holding Is Not Natural for Kittens

Cats don’t pick each other up to hold one another and cuddle. While this behavior is natural for humans and other primates, it is not a natural expression of love and trust for felines. Instead, the natural ways of expressing affection between cats involve: 

  • Slowly approaching each other
  • Sniffing 
  • Licking
  • Rubbing heads together 

If your kitten resists holding, it could be because this activity does not seem natural or loving from their perspective. 

If your kitten is not cuddly, it could be due to its nature as a cat. 


3. Being Held Might Feel Like an Attack

Cats are predators, but in the wild, they are also prey to other animals. When a predator attacks a prey animal, the first thing it does is subdue the prey by biting its neck or clamping it to the ground with its paws or body weight. 

When you pick up your kitten, it might perceive the action as an attack. The kitten might feel like you are about to kill and eat it, which naturally makes it struggle to try and get away. 

Trying to hold your kitten might feel threatening from its perspective. 


4. Being Held Might Be Painful 

Another reason a kitten might not want to be picked up and held is a physical injury or illness is causing pain. For example, picking it up might result in pain if the kitten has a painful skin condition, a sore leg, a tummy ache, or an injury to any part of its body. 

If you suspect your kitten doesn’t want you to pick it up due to an injury or illness, take it to the vet for a checkup. Addressing the health concern might make the kitten more likely to tolerate being held. 

Be sure to rule out injury or illness as the reason your kitten does not like being handled. 


5. They Resist Holding Due to Poor Socialization

Kittens that do not experience loving contact and interaction with humans in the first two to seven weeks of life might not learnto enjoy having someone pick them up.

If a kitten does not have consistent, positive interactions with human beings during this critical early life period, it can result in the animal avoiding and being frightened when a new owner wants to hold it. 


6. A Shy Kitten Might Resist You Picking It Up

Another reason a particular kitten might not appreciate cuddling is individual personality. Some kittens are friendlier with people and like getting close, while others are shy and prefer to stay on the floor or climb on things by themselves. 

If your kitten does not like being held or picked up, it could be a matter of the kitten’s innate personality. 


7. Some Breeds Less Likely to Enjoy Holding

In addition, some breeds of cats are more friendly and personable than others. Among the most lovey-dovey breeds that often like holding are:

  • Maine Coon
  • Ragdoll
  • Sphynx 
  • Persian 
  • American Shorthair

However, even some kittens from these generally affectionate breeds might not like being held.

If your kitten does not want you to pick it up, it could be because it is a breed that is less affectionate. 


How to Get Your Kitten to Like Being Held

If your kitten does not like getting picked up, here are some things you can do to try and improve the situation.


Don’t Push It

The worst thing you can do with a non-cuddly kitten is to try to force the situation. Pushing the matter is sure to make things worse and might even lead to the kitten biting or scratching you. 

Don’t force it if your kitten does not appreciate holding and handling. Instead, be patient and work on the problem slowly.


Keep the Kitten in a Small Room at First

A kitten is tiny, and a big, new, strange house might make it feel afraid and less trusting about being held. One solution is to restrict the kitten to one room for the first few weeks until it has time to adjust to you and the new environment.

Choose a quiet room with windows and plenty of natural light. Kittens appreciate a view but make sure the windows are secure, so it can’t get out.

In addition, make sure the kitten always has fresh food, water, a litterbox, and some safe toys and places to hide. A kitten might naturally like to hide, so make sure there are some safe spots to tuck itself into to feel secure.

One idea is a cardboard box on its side with a blanket over it. However, block off any areas where the kitten could get stuck or where you could not reach in to get it if necessary. 

After adjusting to a safe space, a kitten might be more likely to enjoy being picked up. 


Spend Time With the Kitten Each Day

Spend as much time as you can in the room with the kitten each day so you can get to know each other. Avoid approaching the kitten.

Instead, sit somewhere and mind your own business. Let the kitten come to you when it’s ready. Kittens are curious, so it probably won’t take too long. 

Keep the environment quiet and calm, and give your kitten plenty of time to get to know you and feel comfortable before you try to hold it. 


Touch the Kitten Without Picking It Up

Rather than reaching down to pick up and hold the kitten, which could be scary from the cat’s perspective, get down to its level. Extend your hand slowly so it can approach and sniff you when it’s ready. 

When the kitten comes to you, pet it gently without trying to pick it up. Patience is the key to success. 


Give Your Kitten a Perch

Cats naturally like perching in high places. The reason is that they are predatory, and getting high up gives them a good vantage point for searching out prey.

Giving your kitten spots where it can safely get up high on a shelf, a dresser, or another location might help it explore the feeling of being high up, making it later appreciate how you can help with this experience. 


Do Not Pick Up the Kitten by the Scruff

Unless you have a severe emergency that requires you to do so, avoid handling a kitten or grown cat by the scruff of the neck. Grabbing a holding-resistant kitten in this manner is likely to worsen the problem. 

Instead, gently place one hand under its chest and the other hand under the rump when you feel the kitten might be ready to get picked up. Then, lift it slowly and be prepared to gently put it down if it struggles or resists. 


Accept It if Your Kitten Does Not Like Holding

No matter how patient and gentle you are, some kittens simply do not like getting picked up or held. If you find this is the case, the best thing to do is accept that you have a kitten that does not want to cuddle and find other ways to play and interact that you both enjoy. 


Have Patience and Accept Your Kitten’s Preference

If your kitten resists you taking it in your arms, take it slow and work at the animal’s pace to see if you can overcome the problem. Be sure to rule out any medical problem that might be part of the issue. 

Over time, your pet may come to enjoy you holding it in your arms. If not, accept your kitty for what it is, and find other ways to enjoy one another. 

Writer: Mary Innes

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