Why Won’t My Cat Let Me Hold Her? Here Are 8 Possible Reasons

by Monika
Why won’t my cat let me hold her

There’s no better way to spend a rainy Sunday than to watch movies while cuddling with your kitty in the lap. Unless your cat is like my Okica. I have to admit, Okica is no lap cat. She almost never comes to sit on me and if you pick her up, you have 5 seconds to put her down or she’ll wiggle out of your arms like a squid. She loves to be around humans all the time, head bump us and other cute things cats do to show affection but sitting in my lap for hours is definitely not on her to-do list anytime soon.

Why won’t my cat let me hold her?

Here are a few most common reasons that explain why some cats don’t enjoy spending time in our arms and laps.

Being held is not natural to cats

In the wild, cats greet and show affection to other felines by gently approaching, sniffing their butt and rubbing each other. They never pick each other up (that would be cute though) so it is just not something they are used to or that comes naturally to them.

They are easily scared

Scared kitty

Cats don’t feel comfortable being restrained. Even if your intentions are good and you only want to cuddle and snuggle your cat in your loving arms, they don’t see it that way. In their eyes, they are losing control and can no longer move freely so they freak out and claw their way out of our hug.

Negative past experience

Previous negative experiences have a lot of effect on the cat’s behavior. If your cat was a stray or someone else’s cat before, they might have been treated badly which made them fearful of being held and restrained in any way.
Sometimes, the fear can come from necessary situations such as being held at the vet while getting their shots or at the groomer while getting their nails trimmed. Our kitties have no idea what is happening there so they might associate being held with negative situations.

The cat is not used to being picked up

Cats who lived their entire life in a home with no affection and who were never held by their previous owner, aren’t used to it so they might need some time to adjust. If their new home provides a lot of love and snuggles, the feline will learn to trust their human and eventually might even allow you to hold her.

You’re loving on them too much

Holding a cat in your arms

I know it’s so hard to resist those cute eyes and fluffy fur. But if you annoy your cat with too much loving, cuddling and holding, they might start avoiding you when they anticipate you’re about to pick them up. Try to refrain yourself from expressing so much love to your cat and their reaction might surprise you! Don’t force affection on your cat, instead wait for your kitty to want cuddle time and let them come to you for once.

Make your cuddling sessions gentle and under their terms so the kitty knows they can expect their wishes to be granted. When they don’t want more cuddling, stop petting them and let them go their ways. After a few pleasant cuddle sessions, they might start approaching you on their own for some sweet snuggles.

You might be holding them uncomfortably

Have you ever thought about the way you pick up and hold your cat? Could it be that your cat is uncomfortable in your hug? Try to be as gentle as you can and provide a solid support with your arm so they don’t slide down. One mistake many people do is hold the cat on her back as if she was a baby. Most cats don’t enjoy being held like this and might even scratch your face while their legs are pointing up. You can read more about the proper ways to hold a cat in this post by a cat behavior expert Pam Johnson-Bennett.

A medical condition

If your cat was always a big fan of being held and cuddled in your arms but they no longer tolerate it, there might be a medical condition to worry about. Sudden changes in your cat’s behaviour are always something to examine further. Cats don’t just change overnight for no reason. The cat might be in pain while they’re being held. If this might be the case, take your cat to the vet to get them checked out and to make sure everything is alright.

How to motivate your cat to let you hold her?

Everything we do to improve the relationship with our cat and grow trust is based on one thing – making the kitty feel better.

If your petting, cuddling, holding makes the kitty feel good, they’ll want more of it, simple as that. But the tricky part is how to show the cat that cuddling and holding her can be a positive experience? Some things you can do are:

  • Invite your cat to sit on you by putting a few treats or some catnip on your lap. Don’t force them to sit on you, instead wait until them want to do it on her own.
  • Give your cat a few delicious treats while they’re in your lap – reserve extra tasty treats to give them only when they’re in your lap or while you hold them
  • When your kitty finally sits in your lap or lets you hold her, try to resist their cuteness and don’t smother them with love because, chances are, your cat will find it overwhelming and try to escape once again. Be calm and gently pet the kitty so they would enjoy as much as possible.

Good luck with turning your cat into a lap kitty! It will be a long process but worth it in the end! Don’t get disheartened if your cat won’t go near your lap or won’t let you hold her even after you tried every possible thing – some cats, like my Okica, are just not meant to be lap cats and prefer doing their own thing. And that’s OK. We love all kitties, no matter what their purrsonality is like 🙂

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Amy February 20, 2020 - 6:42 pm

Tippy Mooch Ryan Fluffy all of my cats have major different personalities mooch & Ryan are the same but act different as night and day. Tippy is a Tuxedo cat he wines alot he is a stray that my husband took in. My favorite cats are Orange I like there personality and Grey Cats they are pretty to me.

Monika February 27, 2020 - 5:40 pm

Aww cute names. My Fungi is the queen of whining, she never stops!

Amy February 20, 2020 - 6:44 pm

I am learning to live cats have had several in the last 2 years. Orange cat 3 tiger stripped cats 1 tuxedo cat. My husband and son are cat lovers

Patricia Iwanicki June 24, 2020 - 4:25 pm

My husband and I have a new kitten. We named him Milo. We were told when they showed us the pictures that he was a very calm kitten and that he loved cuddling. It even showed him sleeping on a foster owner very peacefully. However, after the first day, he hated being held and would run away from us when we tried. He did make progress in all other areas… learned to use his kitty litter within the first 24 hours, eats very well and drinks plenty of water, and he plays with his toys endlessly. If he sees that we are sitting peacefully doing something like watching tv, or working on our computers, he will come up to us and sit right next to us and even put his paw on us, but picking him up takes so much work! He knows that I am the more proactive at luring him to catch him and pick him up and he runs past me…but he also does it with my husband too at not too much of a lesser degree… and he hides… sometimes all day. We put a loose collar on him with a bell so we can hear him…he doesn’t mind it at all or squirm in it. So what does anyone deduce from all of this behavior…did I scar him for life by picking him up or pursuing him too much? Is he ever going to come around? Please let me know if you have an answer…thanks so much! 🙂

Monika June 25, 2020 - 9:25 pm

It’s hard to say what is happening inside his head but it sounds like your cat might just be one of those that hate being picked up and held. If that is so, he might never be interested in being held. You can try easing him in slowly by offering treats on your lap and similar lures.

Vel January 30, 2021 - 7:04 pm

Have you tried taking the collar off of him to see if it makes any difference? What we perceive as ‘they don’t mind it at all’ and what the reality of nonverbal kitten behavior are often two very different things. Just because he’s not actively squirming or clawing to get it off of him doesn’t mean it isn’t bumming him out. Also, the people from whom you adopted him… it may be that they led you down the garden path as the agency from whom I adopted my two babies did (long story, I digress). Have you had your kitten thoroughly checked out by a vet? There may be an underlying physiological reason, best to have an exam to be certain. Lastly, I’d back off just a bit, maybe not try to hold him at all. We have, as it turns out, two formerly feral kittens. At first they wouldn’t come anywhere near us. They’re now truly loving cats, rubbing up against us, letting us pet them (but sometimes that’s on their terms only LOL), even sleeping tucked up with us on the bed. But we don’t actively pursue them—we let them pursue us. Thus far it works. We’re not quite up to lap-sitting yet but I feel that’s in the future. But this process has taken us three and a half months so far so be patient. Best of luck to you.

Mandi October 6, 2020 - 7:18 pm

My cat Chowder is a lovable cat. He will jump up and sit on me, he loves to be pet and groomed. He is friendly but sometimes can be a little skittish. However, he won’t stay in my arms when I pick him up anymore. Every time I do he jumps down. He won’t last more than 20 seconds in my arms. I let him jump down so he knows I am not trying to hurt him. He is 16 years old and used to love to be held. Could it be that he’s getting older now and doesn’t like it as much. He’s been this way the last 4 years or so.

Monika October 22, 2020 - 11:00 am

Could be that he just stopped liking it. If he hasn’t been through any trauma that would make him stop being cuddly, it might just be that his preferences changed.

roxy December 17, 2020 - 6:51 pm

my cat will nerver let me hold her she keeeps scraching me

Carol May 23, 2021 - 10:16 pm

He may have arthritis and being held is painful. The older they the chances are that he has developed arthritis

roxy December 17, 2020 - 6:50 pm

my cat will nerver let me hold her she keeeps scraching me

LAURA September 30, 2021 - 8:55 pm

My Clyde will sit on my lap all the time. He is so skittish running thru the house. He wont let you pick him up. When lucky to actually pick him up, he immediately tries to get down. We haven’t been able to take him for his annual checkup. We really want to take him on the road with us in the RV but … can’t catch him! Crazy!

Donna May 3, 2022 - 7:48 am

I bottle fed a kitten that was abandoned by its mother.Her back leggs are so long she couldn’t walk for a little while .She has grown into them some but they are still very long .She Will not let you hold her
.She sleeps in the bed with me and lays beside me but will only let you rub her .My friend thinks she has some bobcat in her .Is that possible

Monika May 6, 2022 - 1:03 pm

The interfertility between bobcats and domestic cats has not been proven yet, although it might be possible. So it’s not very likely your cat is a hybrid.


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