A cat who is comfortable being handled is a more cooperative patient at the vet, more pleasant around house guests, and easier to evacuate in emergencies. Here’s how you can teach your cat to become more comfortable with being held.

Step 1

Find a suitable reward for good behavior, and have it handy for each step. Some cats respond well to wet food or treats, and others simply enjoy being brushed or petted. Cats can even be trained with a clicker. Every time you complete one of the following steps, give her a reward.

Step 2

When your cat is relaxed and content, gently pet her with long, slow strokes from the head to tail. Carefully, put your hand under her chest. If she squirms, you might have your hands too far back towards her belly.

Step 3

Once you are certain that your cat is comfortable with one hand under her chest, place your second hand on the other side.

Step 4

After she’s become accustomed to being held with either the right or left hands separately, try placing both hands under her chest and lift her front paws off the ground by only an inch.

Step 5

With her front legs off the ground, use one hand to touch each of her four paws individually.

Step 6

Lift your cat about a foot off of the ground with two hands under her chest. Then, switch to holding one hand under her chest with the other grasping her hind paws.

Step 7

Practice holding your cat. The trick is to hold her loosely enough that she doesn’t feel restrained, but firmly enough so that she doesn’t feel unstable.

Some cats are most comfortable being held over your shoulder. Others prefer for you to hold them with one hand on their back, and the other holding their hind legs. Really squirmy cats sometimes enjoy sitting on an arm folded over your chest horizontally while you hold only their hind paws. Most cats don’t like to be held on their backs like a baby.

Slow and Steady

Repeat these exercises a few times a day, for no more than 10-15 minutes at a time. Only move on to the next step once you’re confident that your cat has mastered the previous one. If your cat squirms or becomes defensive, stop and try again the next day.


  • Review the body language of offensive and defensive behavior, or else you could put yourself in a position of be scratched or bitten if an exercise goes wrong.
  • Never force your cat to stay still when attempting these exercises. They are meant to teach your cat to trust you, and your cat will only stay still when she is sure that she can leave at any time.
  • A scared cat never wants her tummy touched.

Do you have a timid kitty who doesn’t like to be held? We have pet sitters who are excellent at making frightened fur babies feel at ease while you’re away. Send us an email today!

Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

“Dooley Held by April” by aprilandrandy on Flickr