What Position Do Cats Like To Be Held?


Cats can be picky about how they like to be held. As cat owners, it’s important to understand the proper way to hold our feline friends to keep them feeling safe and comfortable. Knowing the right way to hold a cat can also help prevent injuries to both the cat and the owner.

Cats have unique preferences when it comes to being picked up and held. While some cats enjoy snuggling up on a lap or lounging over a shoulder, others prefer having all four paws on a solid surface. There are many factors that influence a cat’s particular tastes, including breed, personality, and early life experiences.

In this article, we’ll explore the most common positions cats enjoy when being held by their owners. Understanding the proper techniques can lead to a happier, healthier relationship between cats and their humans.

Held Like a Baby

Many cats enjoy being held on their backs like a baby. This position allows the cat to gaze up at their owner while feeling protected and secure (Source). When held this way, a cat will often relax into the owner’s arms, showing a sense of calmness and trust. Their paws come up in a kneading motion as if they are kneading milk from their mother. Purring also frequently occurs as a sign of contentment.

Cats see owners as parent figures when bonds are formed through play, petting, and caring for the cat’s needs. Being held like a baby triggers a kitten-like response since kittens are carried by the scruff of their neck by their mother. It satisfies a cat’s innate desire to feel protected. However, this position should only be used with cats that enjoy it and trust their owner fully. Forcing an unwilling cat into this position can create fear and stress.

Over the Shoulder

Many cats enjoy perching up high on their human’s shoulder for a better view of their surroundings (1). For some cats, a shoulder perch allows them to observe the world from a safe, elevated position while staying close to their trusted human companion.

Cats are naturally inclined to seek high vantage points, an instinct that traces back to their territorial roots and desire to survey their domain (2). A shoulder ride can satisfy this yearning for heights while keeping the cat within petting range. It allows felines to gain a birds-eye perspective and satisfy their curiosity about the world around them.


(1) https://www.rover.com/blog/why-do-cats-sit-on-your-shoulder/

(2) https://www.treehugger.com/shoulder-cats-felines-like-view-4864038

On the Lap

Many cats enjoy sitting or laying on their owner’s lap. This is because a human’s lap provides warmth and comfort for cats (Cats.com). A lap also allows a cat to be close to their owner and feel protected. Sitting on an owner’s lap enables bonding through petting and stroking. Some cats even knead their paws while sitting on a lap as a sign of contentment. Certain breeds like Ragdolls and Maine Coons are especially prone to lap-sitting due to their affectionate and cuddly natures.

On the Chest

Cats often enjoy laying across their owner’s chest while being petted and stroked (Source). There are several reasons why cats may choose to lounge on their human’s chest:

Cats feel a sense of comfort, security and bonding when lying on their owner’s chest. The warmth of your body and steady heartbeat is soothing for them. Cats also love attention, so stretching out across your chest allows easy access for petting and stroking (Source).

Laying on your chest allows your cat to mark you with their scent from glands around their face. This lets other animals know you belong to them. It can also be a sign of affection and acceptance as they choose to get close to you.

Some cats may lay on your chest to hear better. With their head so close to yours, your cat can more easily pick up on sounds and voices. This allows them to feel included and part of the action.

Overall, a cat laying on your chest signifies contentment, comfort, bonding, and affection. It’s a privilege to have your furry companion choose to snuggle up so close.

Cradled in Arms

One of the most common and coziest ways to hold your cat is cradled in your arms like a teddy bear. This involves gathering your cat up in your arms in front of your chest and cradling them like a baby or stuffed animal. Most cats don’t mind being held this way, especially when they are kittens. It allows them to feel secure and provides full body support.

To properly hold your cat cradled in your arms:

  • Place one hand under your cat’s hindquarters for support.
  • Slide your other hand under your cat’s front legs and chest.
  • Lift your cat up, bringing them into your chest.
  • Let your cat’s back legs dangle naturally with hindquarters resting on your forearm.
  • Cradle your cat close to your body for security.
  • Make sure to provide enough head and neck support by cradling their upper body close.

Cats often enjoy this position when sitting or relaxing with their owner. It makes them feel safe while being held. Just be sure not to squeeze or restrict your cat’s movement too much. Allow them to shift or adjust in your arms as needed for comfort.

Cat Backpacks

Cats enjoy being close to their owners. Cat backpacks allow pet owners to bring their feline companions with them on the go in comfort and style (Yourcatbackpack). These specialized cat carriers are worn like a backpack, with the cat inside a bubble, cage, pouch or other enclosure strapped to the owner’s back.

Cat backpacks come in many designs to accommodate cats of different sizes. Smaller cats may fit in sling style pouches with mesh windows. Larger cats need carriers with more interior room, like expandable bubbles with adequate ventilation (Amazon). Premium brands like Fat Cat Backpack cater specifically to plus-sized kitties.

The main advantage of a cat backpack is keeping your hands free while providing your cat a safe way to experience the world with you. It can help anxious cats feel secure against the owner’s body. Backpacks allow closer interaction since the cat’s face is near the owner’s head. They are great for travel, errands, walks or hikes.

In a Cat Sling

Cat slings allow owners to carry their cats hands-free against their body. The sling wraps around the owner’s torso and has a pouch or hammock for the cat to sit or lay in (Amazon). Slings securely fasten cats close to their owner’s chest, keeping them fully supported while leaving the owner’s hands free.

Because slings hold cats snug against the body, they feel secure and are less likely to squirm or try to jump out. The enclosed pouch design also protects cats from overstimulation and makes them feel safe. For anxious or senior cats, slings can be an excellent way to transport them while providing a sense of security.

Slings are comfortable for the cat and owner. They evenly distribute the cat’s weight across the shoulders and back, reducing strain. The breathable fabric keeps the cat cool during walks. Overall, slings safely secure cats against their owner’s body providing stability and comfort.

Things to Avoid

While cats often enjoy being held, there are certain ways of holding them that they may not like or that could even harm them. Here are some positions to avoid when holding your cat:

Holding a cat on its back like a baby: While some cats will tolerate this, most don’t enjoy having their belly exposed in this position and may feel vulnerable. It’s best not to hold a cat on its back unless it clearly enjoys it (source: https://www.rover.com/blog/how-to-hold-a-cat/).

Dangling a cat with just its front legs held: Never hold a cat just by the front legs or “airplane style.” This can dislocate joints and cause nerve damage (source: https://www.wikihow.com/Hold-a-Cat). Make sure to always support a cat’s hind legs and bottom when holding it.

Squeezing or restraining too tightly: Cats don’t like feeling trapped or having their movement restricted. Avoid squeezing them or holding them in a way that prevents them from freely moving if they want to escape. Let them dictate the level of restraint.

Holding by the scruff for too long: Adult cats should not be held solely by the scruff of the neck. This can be painful and restrict breathing. It’s okay to briefly scruff a cat to contain it, but make sure to also support its weight.

Ignoring body language: If a cat is squirming, whining, swishing its tail, or showing other signs of dislike, let it go. Forcing a cat to stay in a position it doesn’t like will only increase its stress and fear.


Cats can enjoy being held in a variety of positions, as long as they feel secure and supported. The most popular ways to hold a cat include like a baby, over the shoulder, on the lap, on the chest, and cradled in arms. Specialty cat carriers like backpacks and slings allow cat owners to hold their cats while keeping their hands free. When holding a cat, it’s important to support their hind legs and avoid squeezing their abdomen too tightly. Remember that each cat has their own personality and preferences for being held. Pay attention to your cat’s body language to understand which positions they like best. With some patience and care, you can find comfortable ways to hold your cat that strengthen your bond.

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