How to hold a kitten? (Step by step guide)

Posted by Mar 19, 2016 |

holding a kitten

Author Amira

Hi there!

I’m Amira, founder and editor at Cattention.

This website is dedicated to share useful but entertaining information and help You understand Your cat’s actions, behavior and needs.

Welcome to my Cat World!

A step by step guideline how to handle: pick up, hold and put down a kitten.


With their cute face and furry body, it is very tempting to pick up and cuddle with a kitten, and it also sounds very easy.

But just like people, cats also have their own personalities. Some of them can be scared, some nervous and some of them just simply do not like being picked up.

On the other hand, there is a right way and time to hold a kitten so that she will feel safe, happy and comfortable, and holding her in that way will not cause her any harm.

Picking up and holding a kitten correctly can also guarantee a joyful relationship between cat and owner.

As a new pet owner, it is absolutely important for you to understand how to hold a kitten without causing her any stress or harm. But what is the right way to do it? How to hold a kitten correctly?

While different breeds of cats and kittens will allow you to lift them in seemingly awkward positions, we will look at it generally, how to lift and hold them in a way that makes them feel safe and improves the bond between owner and kitten.

If you follow the guideline, you will most likely end up with a happy furry friend who enjoys being held.

Now that we know the importance of handling the kitten correctly, let’s see step by step how to do it.

Step 1: How to approach the cat

Before you pick up your lovely kitty, you have to gain some trust and make sure that she feels secure and completely comfortable in your presence. You can easily achieve this by following some simple tips:

  • Let her know you are coming by either letting her see you or talking to her. If you don’t do so, you might end up with a frightened and panicked cat who would run away in any second.
  • Move slowly and take your time. Make sure you do not scare away your pretty cutie with some sudden movements as most of the felines are nervous around strangers. Believe me; it is worth taking some time to do it slow if at the end you can get some lovely purr-purrs.
  • Crouch down to your kitten’s level and slowly reach out with your hand for her to reassure that you are not a threat.
  • Make her feel safe and comfortable next to you by being friendly and loving. Talk to her gently and stroke her cheeks, head and under her chin. This will make her get ready to be held by you.
  • Make sure she wants to be picked up. Sometimes cats don’t really like to be held by people. To avoid any negative effect (like being scratched) you have to know your cat’s personality, mood, and overall body language. Pay attention to her body, tail and ears. If she is not hiding, but rubbing against you, purring and meowing, those are real signs that she seeks attention and open for some affection. You can be sure, this is the time to pick her up and pet her in your arms.

If this process does not work for you, move away a little bit, wait some time and let her come to you at her own pace and time. Allow her to walk around you and sniff you then gently start stroking her until she becomes comfortable to be picked up.


kittens leaving mama cat
kittens milk
cat diarrhea

Step 2: How to pick up the cat

Once you gained enough trust and your relationship with the kitten has reached a certain level, you can be sure she will accept of being picked up. You can do this with supporting her body correctly. Here are the steps how to do so:

  1. Approach her from the side.
  2. Place one hand near the stomach, right behind her front legs to hold the upper part of her small furry body.
  3. Place the other hand below the kitten’s hind legs. This way the body is fully supported by your hands.
  4. Once your hands are in the right position you can gently lift her up and meanwhile you can stand up straight.
  5. Pull your four legged friend towards your body and keep her close so that she can feel secure.
  6. Let her face your torso so that she can support herself with her front paws on your shoulder.
  7. Provide as much support and physical contact as you can to your kitten to ensure enough safety.

Step 3: How to hold a kitten

Once you managed to pick up your beloved pet cat, you can either hold her against your chest or sit down and place her on your lap.

You can try both ways; it actually depends on your kitten’s personality what she prefers.Some cats like to be held these ways, but there are others who like to lay on their backs with their stomachs up.

I am sure you will find a comfortable way for both of you by time. However, there are some tips to help you:

  • If you hold her against your chest, make sure that her tiny body is always supported at least by one of your hands and your body so that she would never feel insecure.
  • While you are holding her, you can carefully stroke and pet her, or even talk to her gently to make her happy. In return, you might get some purring for your pleasure.
  • If you decide to sit and place your kitten on your lap, you can let her choose her way of resting in your safe company. Once she settles down, you can show love and affection by stroking her while you are watching TV or talking to someone.


kitten bath
cleaning cat's eyes

Step 4: How to put the cat down

Be aware when your kitten no longer wants to be in your arms.

If she starts moving around or trying to escape, you can be sure it is time to let her go.

Always place her down gently and safely by bending down and releasing her when her four paws are touching (or almost touching) the ground.

Do not be surprised if you start bending and she will do the rest by jumping out of your hands.

How to train your cat to be held?

Since kittens are much more willing and receptive to learn new things, the most effective time to train a cat to enjoy being held is in their very early age.

There are several different tricks and tips you must know if you want your cat to be cooperative. Although the process of teaching requires a lot of patience, it is absolutely worth the time in the long run.

  1. Start early but not too early

If you are going to try lifting your kitten for the first time, keep in mind that kittens should not be picked up before they are two weeks old.

Even until four weeks, only little handling is recommended as the mother cat can be very protective and touching her babies could cause her stress.

Also, note that kittens must be socialized by the age of twelve weeks otherwise it will be really hard to train them.

This means the best time to train your cats is in their early weeks, from the age of two weeks until they become twelve weeks old.

  1. Hold your kitten in daily basis

The way and the amount of handling a kitten receives will determine whether she becomes familiar with people and remain comfortable while being picked up.

If you are going to interact with your lovely kitty at the first time, I suggest you try it when she comes to you for attention, rather than you going and trying to pick her up without knowing, what mood she is in. Just sit down, wait and when she comes to you, use the steps mentioned above to hold her for two to five minutes.

Keep in mind that you are lifting her from her place of security and it is natural that this will only scare her. But by repeatedly interacting with her (a few times a day) will help her become more people oriented in the future and less fearful as time goes by.

  1. Use positive rewards

Although it is nearly impossible to find something that will motivate a cat, there are still some rewards that can be used to train a cat.

Once you have managed to lift up your kitten, offer her some small treats so that she develops a positive association of being lifted up. You can consider giving her a small toy or her favorite kitten food in moderation.

Just remember, she must get her reward immediately in order to understand the association correctly.

  1. Avoid punishment

Negative reinforcement methods usually create fear and distrust, and can even destroy the relationship between the kitten and the owner. Therefore, you should always reward in a positive manner and never make threatening motions. Be patient, use positive rewards and sooner or later you will experience good result.

If you adopt an adult cat, you can use the same method, but make sure you give enough time for her. Be very patient as she might require more time to learn and to become a proper family member.

While you can train a kitten or cat to enjoy this kind of social interaction, some felines may never want to be picked up, and that may be a part of their personality.


how many toes does a cat have
rope for cat scratching post
loneliness in cats

Dos and Do Nots

By now you should have some clue on how to handle a kitten from the begging like approaching her until putting her down and even on how to train her for being held. As a summary, I collected some short tips not to forget the main things.


  • Approach your kitten in the proper way – move slowly, crouch down and make her feel safe.
  • Know your kitten’s body language, mood, and behavior before holding her.
  • Always make sure she wants to be held before you picking her up.
  • Pick her up by supporting her body correctly.
  • Stroke and pet her while holding and spending time with her.
  • Always place her down gently and safely.
  • Start to train her in her early age (2-12 weeks) and train her on a daily basis.
  • Use positive reinforcement while training.
  • Give proper instruction to children before they pick up and hold a kitten.
  • If you are scratched, wash it out. If you are bitten, consult your doctor.

Do Nots

  • Do not approach a kitten suddenly or with fast movements.
  • Do not take it personally if the kitten does not want to be held.
  • Never try to lift a kitten by the scruff of her neck, only her mother will know how to do this in a manner that is both safe and gentle on the kitten’s little neck.
  • Never pick up a cat by her tail, or her legs or upside down.
  • Never attempt to pick up a cat without knowing her mood and behavior.
  • Never try to hold a cat while she is eating or using her toilet.
  • Avoid over-handling kittens in their very first weeks.
  • Do not encourage rough play, biting or scratching.
  • Do not use threats and punishment while training your kitten.
  • Do not force a kitten to do something against her will as this causes anxiety and fear towards humans.