Domestic cats can interpret holding them as play. It fact in some cases the cat might see it as rough play. It is a complete reversal of intention by the cat’s owner. If this is correct you can see how an owner can innocently pick up his cat to give him a cuddle because it feels nice for the owner and find his cat biting his hand, and when put down, attacking his feet. Cats find human feet convenient targets to attack in play. This is not true aggression but aggressive play. All cat play is built around biting something.
Why is it that domestic cats can interpret holding them as play – in fact roughhouse play? Once again you won’t find this specific topic discussed in books. We have to rely on our own experience. The problem may even occur with a lap cat meaning a cat that likes to be in close contact with their owner. The reason is not to do with being in close contact with their owner. It is about the handling.
The Chest Hold
When you pick up a cat you place your hand under her chest and stomach. To a cat this may feel like playing rough; the equivalent to being jumped on by another cat in play. It may be the chest hold which stimulates the play response. When lifting a cat up to the chest area her face is confronted with the human’s face. This can be uncomfortable to a domestic cat.
Holding a cat around the chest and supporting him under his rear while gently squeezing him close to you may feel like play to the cat. At its heart it is unnatural to the cat. However, it is certainly not a universal reaction. Indeed it may be quite rare. But if it does happen in some households it might annoy and irritate the owner. This may lead to a breakdown in the relationship if it is already weak.
As individual cats can interpret holding them as play it is important to always respect the cat and do what he accepts or likes. It is obvious but forcing an issue will not work.