When I pick my cat up he cries/meows, is this normal?

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By Alana Stevenson

Q: “My wife and I have two 2 yr old males, litter mates. One will let you pick him up and pet him but the other when you go to pick him up, he becomes very stiff, puts his ears back and meows/cries, is this normal?” – Adam

If your cat is unsettled or uncomfortable with being picked up, it could be behavioral or medical. Your cat may dislike being handled or picked up because he is in pain or physically uncomfortable. It’s important to rule out any medical issues by taking him to your veterinarian, especially if this is a new behavior.

More needs to be known about your kitty’s history and experiences with being touched and picked up. Even though the cats are litter mates, they still may have had different experiences with being handled. If your cat dislikes being picked up or seems uncomfortable, you can desensitize your kitty to being touched and picked up and counter-condition him to that handling. Touch him gently in the areas you know he likes. Stop before he looks uncomfortable, stiffens, puts his ears back or walks away. Then begin to touch him in ways that may approximate being picked up i.e., place both your hands on his waist, lumbar region or tummy area, but do not lift him. Touch him for a second and then give him a treat.

You can counter-condition your cat to being touched and picked up. This means pairing things your cat loves with being touched and handled. As you touch your cat – during and immediately afterwards – give your cat treats or feed your kitty. Stop before your cat is finished eating. Eventually you will be able to touch your cat and then give him treats afterwards. Gradually, when your kitty begins to like your touch, you can wean off treats. You can also pair touch and being picked up with non-food based rewards such as being placed on a perch to watch birds at a bird feeder.

How you pick up your cat may also influence his behaviors, as well as how you place him down. Unless cats enjoy handling, they are usually uncomfortable with being picked up from the front or with a person facing them directly or leaning over them. It’s important to place cats down gently so that all four paws are solidly on the ground or surface instead of letting them jump or drop from your arms.

Copyright © Alana Stevenson 2014


Alana Stevenson can be contacted through her website AlanaStevenson.com. She provides consultations by phone & Skype.


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1 thought on “When I pick my cat up he cries/meows, is this normal?”

  1. Some cats just don’t like to be picked up and cuddled, even if that is what we want. Try encouraging your kitten to sit next to you and pet her. She may snuggle in her own way and eventually chose to move onto you lap. She may never want to be picked up, but appreciate her for her own personality and what she shares with you your other cats may never have. She special and unique.

  2. My 6 year old cat (we’ve had him since birth) was laying down on my bed, and when I picked him up to move him so I could fix it he meowed. I was startled because he only meows when he wants food or if he’s trying to come inside. I then tried to pick him up again but he meowed and swatted my hand away. He usually doesn’t do this, do you think he’s in pain??

  3. We own3 cats,all desexed and vet ok, our eldest female 12yrs Lucy and male 11yrs Russell. We rescued a beautiful ginger male kitten who we named Charlie Wonder, he was very underweight and we dont think he was looked after but is now 12months on very settled and calm, the problem is, my nuetered male Russell 11yrs who is persian/ragdoll will not let my daughter 13yrs hold him since Charlie arrived, my ragdoll is the biggest sook to me and gentle but carries on like a chook with my daughter, He was my daughters best freind before Charlie came but now she can only pat him, but he always sleeps with her. I think its behaviour and jealously, my Russell does not attack Charlie and generally cant be bothered by him, my lucy is the boss, and everyone tollerated each other well, am I right in thinking its jealousy, does anyone have strategies or should my daughter just except that Russell just has his boundaries now, truly the cats are really all mine and fine with me. Any suggestions appeciated

    Gingercat lovers

  4. Jack, did your kitten get a thorough check-up including shots? Sometimes the residual effects can be cause of a kitten’s change in temperament. It would be worth giving your veterinarian a quick call to tell him or her about the sudden change.

  5. I have 2 sibling, male and female, age 2. Male very loving and playful. Female does not like being picked up. She will scream and fight you fiercely. She will come to me once in awhile and lay on lap to be petted but jump down after about five minutes. She fights with her brother in playful manner and sometimes runs after him and starts it but seems to actually like it. Why does she scream, hiss and fight when playing? She will only come to you on her terms, not yours. Why she gets so mad when you attempt to pick her up I don’t know. Personality totally different than brothers. Good health, loves her treats and will allow you to pet and rub her belly, just can’t pick her up what is the problem?

  6. My one year old cat doesn’t want to play. He sits around all day. I put him on perforation soft and hard food cause he has sensitive stomack. He only play with his little brother by playing in a box, but when it comes time to play with any toys with me or his five old brother he just lyes there. Some times he will
    Run after his little brother and they play, then the older one puts his ears back and trys to dominate the little one. so my little one bites him back and then gives up on him. My question is what is wrong hom?

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