Why Cats Aren’t Fond of Being Held

Cats have diverse personalities. While some cats enjoy being affectionate and snuggling with their owners, others prefer their own space and merely tolerate human presence. Although some cats appreciate being held, others may squirm and become rigid as soon as you pick them up. There are several reasons why your cat may not enjoy being held.

Insufficient Socialization as a Kitten

A lack of socialization is the primary reason why cats may not enjoy being held. The period for acclimating a kitten to being held is relatively short. The optimal time to socialize a kitten is between 2 and 7 weeks old. Kittens that have positive experiences with being held and cuddled during this window tend to be more inclined to enjoy being held as adults. Older kittens can still be socialized when they are older, becoming affectionate and friendly towards humans, but they may retain a dislike of being held. A study found that the more socialization a cat experienced as a kitten, the less likely they were to try to escape while being held. [1]

Trust Issues

Being comfortable with being held by a human involves trust. Cats that don’t fully trust their owners are less likely to be willing to be held. Being held can feel restrictive and threatening to some cats, especially those that have been traumatized or abused in the past.

Mood and Discomfort

Your cat may simply not be in the mood to be held. It’s crucial to interpret your cat’s body language when attempting to hold them. They may be engaged in play or seeking a quiet place to rest. If your cat’s body is stiff or they are squirming to break free, gently put them back down for now. A flickering tail is also a sign of annoyance with being held and a desire to be released. Your cat may even growl or hiss to indicate their irritation. A content cat that enjoys being held will exhibit a relaxed body.

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While pet owners consider themselves as their furry companions’ guardians, a frightened cat seeks to flee and hide in a dark, quiet place. Instinctively, cats do not flee into their owners’ arms.

Illness or Injury

If your cat suddenly starts disliking being held, they may be sick or injured. Cats tend to hide their pain, so it may not be immediately apparent that something is wrong. If your cat is repelled by touch or being held, consult your vet to rule out any medical issues.

Personal Preference

Some cats will simply never enjoy being held, even if they were properly socialized. Cats have distinct personalities and unique ways of demonstrating affection. Some cats may only enjoy sitting near you, while others constantly seek to be in your lap. It’s important to accept your cat’s preferences regarding how they choose to show affection. Read your cat’s body language to understand when and how they want to be affectionate. Forcing your cat to be held against their will can result in a cat that becomes distrustful and distant.


[1] Lowe, S. E., & Bradshaw, J. W. (2002). Responses of pet cats to being held by an unfamiliar person, from weaning to three years of age. Anthrozoƶs, 15(1), 69-79. DOI: 10.2752/089279302786992702

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