A Vet Explains How to Pick Up Your Cat Like a Pro (Bye Bye Scratches)

3 years ago

Cat owners know that these little furry friends are not always willing to be picked up. Sometimes, you just try to pick up your pet and you end up with a big red scratch on your face. Cats don’t really care if you have to take them to the vet or whatever. Picking up and carrying a cat can be a simple operation (and safe, you really don’t need to get scratched). But for that to happen, Dr. Uri Burstyn, a veterinarian from Canada, told us what his secret is.

Bright Side found out everything about Dr. Uri Burstyn’s technique on how to pick up a cat correctly and wrote this article for you in the hopes that we will save you from getting scratched next time you have to take your cat somewhere!

Start by checking whether or not your pet is willing to be picked up.

Whether it is because you want to express your love for your cat or because you actually have to hold it to give it some medicine, carrying them is a delicate operation. Still, everything can go just fine and you can manage not to be scratched if you do things right. The trick is pretty simple, and actually quite straightforward: you have to make your cat feel comfortable and safe before and while it is in your arms.

And what would be the very first thing you’d expect someone to do if they want to hold you? Dr. Burstyn gives away the answer in this video. The first thing you have to make sure of is that your pet agrees to be held. Start by approaching your cat cautiously. That way, he or she will be able to first sniff your fingers. Also, if you’re afraid of getting scratched, you can just pull them away.

The goal is to pet the cat. Try doing this on its cheeks or under its chin, always gently. If you see your cat is happy and accepts you petting them, you can proceed and hold it. If not, it is better to just leave it alone.

Pick up technique #1: Chest and abdominal grip

The veterinarian says that “the key to picking up a cat safely is to make them feel supported.” We can do that by placing one hand on the cat’s chest while the other hand is on its abdominal area. Then slowly lift the kitty up. By lifting up the cat in this way, it will not be hanging from its armpits.

As long as it feels comfortable, the cat will not feel compelled to “kick” in the air with its hind legs, which also lessens your chances of being scratched. Now, if we want to prevent it from running away, the secret is to put a bit of pressure on it. If you already have the cat in your arms, it is recommended to hold it close to your body.

Then, if you need for it to be still, for example, so you can cut its nails or something like that, you can just hold it closer to your body. Don’t be afraid of doing this, because the cat will not only not feel pain, it will actually feel protected and safe, so it will stop moving.

Pick up technique #2: The football carry

Another way to hold a cat is what Dr. Burstyn calls the “football carry technique,” you’ll see why in a minute. This technique basically consists of a simple way of holding the cat by its abdomen and its bottom, while making sure that its head is located under our arm. If you’ve ever held a football, you’ll probably understand what it feels like. In this case, you can also be holding the cat tightly against your chest so that it feels safe and secure.

If you ever find yourself in an emergency situation or in some scenario where you have to act fast, this technique is probably the best call to pick up your cat. It’s efficient and safe. It also comes with the added benefit that one of your hands will always be laying on its back, so that makes it way easier to control its hind legs and prevent it from scratching you.

Pick up technique #3: The shoulder carry

This is the type of grip that requires the least amount of work from our side since the cat will be doing its part too. The idea is pretty simple. Start by getting close to the cat and then let it climb up to one of your shoulders. Once it starts climbing, you just have to place your hand on its bottom to give it more support. With the other hand, press its back tightly against you to give it that sense of security we were talking about before.

When your pet wants to come down, just lean over to a nearby surface, like the floor or the bed. The cat will understand that it has to come down and will turn around and jump on its own feet.

Pick up technique # 4: The baby carry

As the name suggests, this technique is pretty similar to the one we normally use to hold a baby in our arms. Simply start by lifting up the cat and then placing a hand on its chest. Your arm will be on its bottom and will act as support to lift up the cat. Then let the cat rest on its back on your arm and gently place the opposite hand on its chest.

However, keep in mind that you should only try this technique if the cat trusts you and you know each other well. If it’s not the case, you might be better off trying a different technique or you’re exposing yourself to some serious scratching!

What you should never do

Just like there are many appropriate ways to pick up and hold a cat, there are some inappropriate ones that could even end up harming your pet. For instance, it is not recommended for you to hold your cat by the armpits, using your index fingers and thumbs as support. Not only is it very uncomfortable for the animal, but it is also unsafe.

The part that connects its front legs to its torso is a muscle, and you could hurt it or make it sore if you pick it up and make the weight of the cat hang from there only. It is also not a good idea to lift the cat up by its front legs. It’s almost a sure thing that it will be afraid of falling and will keep moving its hind legs in such a way that it could scratch you.

Does your pet like to be carried? Do you use any other techniques to pick up your cat? Let us know in the comments!


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I loved it that my cat really loved hugs and almost never denied one. I really miss him, it's been a year so far since I hugged him last time... a few weeks ago I made a portrait in honour of him, and couldnt stop crying. got it from petroyalportraits if anyone needs it to depict their kitties..


Pfff, my parents cat is such a hug lover, he would never scratch anyone :p


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