by Barbara George
Tellington Ttouch Behaviourist
There are certain requirements for both you and your cat to enjoy the experience of being held and cuddled. Just as some people are not comfortable with prolonged close contact, so some cats are resistant to being picked up and cuddled.
Cats that were feral or have a feral Mom or grandmother often feel the need to be in control of their paws and feel stressed when held.
Start the process slowly by letting your cat know she is about to be picked up. She needs to be prepared, feel safe and relaxed about the anticipated cuddle. Approach from the side, talking to her and gently stroke from head to tail. Approaching directly from the front could be seen as confrontational and from the back she may be startled when touched.
Place the hand nearest her head under her front legs and support the chest. Start lifting slowly and place the other hand behind her back legs just behind the paws. Continue to lift, supporting the back legs while holding the chest. This way your cat is held carefully and safely without hurt.
If lifting onto your lap, allow her to settle comfortable while gently supporting and containing her. Rest her front paws on your shoulder or chest. Slide your other hand so that her back legs are in the crook of your elbow and place that arm along her side. If she prefers not to put her front paws on you then support her chest with this hand. Now your other hand is free to stroke her.
Watch for signs that she is becoming restless or over-stimulated. Ears back, tail twitching, hissing or pushing with her legs to get away. Rather put her down before she becomes stressed and is more resistant to being held. Too many bad experiences and she will not stay around to be picked up again.
Putting her down is the reverse of picking her up. Slide your hand back to under the lower portion of her back legs. Place your free hand back on her chest; now it may be easier to have your hand under her chin between her front legs.
Place her gently on the floor, back legs first then front paws down. Give her a stroke from head to tail to end the session on a good note.
It is always acceptable to talk to your cat, so continue to do so, even when she is back on the ground and having a good wash.