Right or wrong way to carry a cat? Photo by GrooverFW (Flickr)
Picking up a cat is not as straightforward as some people think. These are my thoughts. I would welcome the thoughts and ideas of visitors.
The first consideration is that we usually pick up our cat because we want to. It is possibly for our pleasure. If we do pick up our cat for our pleasure it is probably sensible to ask ourselves if our cat doesn't mind being picked up. Or is he or she is in a suitable frame of mind.
Some cats don't mind and some do. Some cats are lap cats and some are not. Cats are individuals. We should get to know our cat's likes and dislikes.
My lady cat doesn't go on my lap. I can pick her up and place her on my shoulder. She likes that, for a while. My three legged boy, Charlie, asks me to pick him up to take him to the kitchen for his food. He doesn't much care for the actual process of being picked up but is fine when actually picked up.
Sometimes people turn cats over in their arms and carry their cat like babies (see photo). I would think that most cats would dislike this. It places them in a position that is too vulnerable for comfort. Whether a cat accepts this depends on the cat's character.
Cats should be properly supported when being picked up and held. Children have a habit of picking up and carrying cats in a very ungainly and uncomfortable way. Children should be taught how to pick up and carry a cat.
We should be wary about placing our face too close to our cat when he or she is picked up. I place my face very close to both my cats and kiss them etc. I know that is OK. But some cats might feel a bit ill at ease being picked up and to compound that by thrusting one's face into theirs can cause a defensive reaction from the cat.
You can tell a cat is slightly unsure about something if he or she licks his lips. This is displacement activity and is a sign of uncertainty. He is thinking.
Some people pick up their cat by the scruff of the neck as a mother cat would a kitten. The kitten goes limp. This is a practical way of picking up an apprehensive cat. But if the cat is an adult he should be supported by the feet. This method should be used to a minimum for heavy cats.
A frightened cat can be picked up using a towel and possibly gloves to protect us from scratches. We need to be aware of the cat's state of mind. This is easy to judge from the cat's demeanor. I feel that not enough attention is paid to the cat's emotional state and to work around and with that. It makes things much easier for the cat and us if we do.
Aggressive cats are frightened cats and it is best to remove the cause of the fear, to calm the cat down before attempting to pick up the cat.
I am thinking of an animal control officer who picked up a feral cat that scratched him. He had the cat killed. Total ignorance really as he caused the problem.
In conclusion we should pick up a cat if the cat is in a mood to accept it. We should do it in a manner that suits the cat. This means plenty of support for the body and in a way that reassures the cat and does not make him or her anxious.