Why Does My Cat Like Being Held Like A Baby?

I remember the first time I saw my cat Mittens snuggle up in my arms like a baby. She was just a kitten then, barely a few months old. As I cradled her against my chest, she stretched out her legs, tucked in her head, and let out the sweetest purr. It was as if being held like a baby relaxed every muscle in her little body. She looked so comfortable and content.

That experience made me wonder – why do some cats, like Mittens, enjoy being held like babies? It seems like such an unusual behavior for an otherwise independent creature. In this article, we’ll explore the possible reasons behind this phenomenon. Understanding a cat’s instincts and needs can help strengthen the bond between pet and owner.

Explaining the Cat’s Instincts

Mother cats have a natural instinct to carry their kittens by the scruff of their neck in the first few weeks of life (https://www.catster.com/guides/how-do-cats-carry-their-kittens/). Kittens are born with an area of loose skin around their neck that their mother can easily grasp.

When mother cats pick up kittens this way, it doesn’t hurt them. The kitten automatically goes limp, which is an instinctual response. Carrying kittens by the scruff is simply how mother cats transport their young from place to place.

Since being held by the scruff is normal for kittens, they associate it with comfort and security from their mother. This early association can lead to adult cats continuing to enjoy being picked up the same way.

Associating Being Held with Bonding

Cats often enjoy being held like a baby as it promotes bonding between the cat and their human through positive physical touch and contact. When a cat is held, especially while being gently stroked, it helps reinforce the human-cat bond. The sensation of being cradled while receiving petting and stroking releases hormones in cats associated with feeling safe and content.

According to Arm & Hammer, regular gentle handling like this releases oxytocin in cats, also known as the “love hormone”, which strengthens the bond between cat and human. Physical contact and affection such as holding, petting and nuzzling are key in establishing trust and companionship.

Feliway also notes that being groomed or stroked around the head, cheeks and ears are prime areas cats love being touched when held. This mimics natural parental bonding and grooming behaviors. So holding a cat like a baby allows them to feel protected while being touched in calming ways that reinforce human-cat bonds.

Feeling Safe and Secure

When cats are held close to their owner’s body, they often feel a sense of safety, security, and comfort. This likely stems from kittenhood when being held by their mother made them feel protected. The warmth and gentle restraint of being held reminds adult cats of that maternal bond from kittenhood.

According to one source, “Cats sleep on people for a variety of reasons, but the most common one is for warmth and comfort. Cats are warm-blooded animals, meaning that they need to maintain a constant internal body temperature.” Being held helps cats feel that comforting warmth and security that all animals instinctively seek (Source).

Additionally, the enclosed feeling of being held with limited mobility triggers a relaxation response in cats. They feel protected by their owner’s embrace, which provides a sheltering environment. This gives cats a sense of safety similar to being hidden in a small enclosed den. The confinement and support of being properly held is soothing and comforting for cats.

Enjoying the Warmth

Cats love the warmth from being held against a human’s body. According to this source, cats enjoy curling up next to warm objects. A cat that is being held like a baby is able to soak up the body heat from their human companion. Cats have heavy fur coats so they don’t always realize when they are getting too warm. The warmth from being held close to a human appeals to a cat’s natural instincts.

Elevated Vantage Point

Cats enjoy being up high because it satisfies their instinctual need for an elevated vantage point to survey their surroundings. When a cat is held up high, they get a birds-eye view of the room that makes them feel more in control. According to this article, cats are predatory animals that feel more secure when they can look down and observe any potential threats. Being up high triggers their hunting instincts by allowing them to spot prey more easily. Additionally, cats have excellent depth perception which enables them to accurately judge distances from a height.

So when a cat owner holds their cat up to their chest or over their shoulder, the cat enjoys looking down at the room from this new perspective. It’s mentally stimulating and satisfying for the cat to take in their environment from the vantage point of being held high. The elevation allows the cat to see more which makes them feel safe and in charge. It’s an instinctive behavior leftover from when cats needed to survey territory and hunt prey.

Lack of Independence

Some cats dislike being held because it takes away their independence. Cats are naturally independent creatures that like to be in control of their surroundings. When a cat is picked up and held against their will, it can make them feel powerless and anxious. Their instincts tell them to run and hide when they feel threatened, which they cannot do while being held.

For some cats, being held goes against their nature as solitary hunters used to prowling alone. It forces interaction and bonding when they may prefer to be more aloof. A cat may see being held as an affront to their dignity and autonomy. They prefer to cuddle, sit or play on their own terms, when they want attention and affection.

According to veterinarian Dr. Lorie Huston: “Most cats do enjoy human companionship, but they want that interaction to be on their own terms. Cats are less domesticated than dogs and closer to wild in nature. Forced interaction goes against a cat’s independent personality.”

While some cats enjoy lap time and being carried, others equate it with restraint and submission. Respect your cat’s boundaries and allow them their freedom. Avoid picking up a cat that clearly dislikes it.

When to Avoid Holding

While many cats enjoy being held like a baby, there are times when it’s best not to pick up your cat in this manner. If your cat squirms, meows, or shows other signs of distress when held, it’s important to respect their boundaries and limit how often you hold them (https://cats.com/why-does-my-cat-not-like-to-be-held). Forcing your cat to be held when they don’t want to can cause them unnecessary stress. It can also damage the bond of trust between you and your cat.

Kittens that were separated from their mothers too early may resist being held since they didn’t get that physical contact during their formative weeks. Senior cats with arthritis or other joint issues may also dislike being held since it puts pressure on their bodies. And cats that don’t fully trust their human yet will likely prefer to stay grounded instead of being picked up.

If your cat protests being held, respect their boundaries. There are plenty of other ways to bond with your cat like playing, petting, and offering treats from your hand. With time and positive reinforcement, your cat may eventually come to enjoy brief periods of being held.

Alternative Methods

While holding your cat can be an enjoyable bonding experience, it’s important to remember there are many other ways to form a connection. Focusing solely on holding your cat could lead to an unhealthy attachment on both sides.

Engaging your cat through playtime is a great way to bond. Toys like feather wands and laser pointers allow you to interact from a distance while your cat taps into natural hunting behaviors. Praise and treats during play help them associate you with positivity.

Regularly brushing or grooming your cat is another opportunity for quality time together. As you gently remove loose hair and dirt, your cat will appreciate the care and attention. This hands-on activity mimics social grooming behaviors cats naturally exhibit.

You can also try clicker training as a way to actively engage your cat’s mind through reward-based conditioning. By consistently associating clicks and treats with desired behaviors, your cat will learn to focus on and respond to you. This helps strengthen your bond through mutual understanding.

Ultimately, any shared experiences like mealtimes, lap sitting, or even just quietly existing in the same space can help deepen your connection. Be patient and let your cat communicate their preferred way to interact.

For sources of additional ideas, visit: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/getting-cat-more-affectionate/ and https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-ways-to-bond-with-a-cat-that-wont-let-you-touch-her


In summary, there are several key reasons why cats enjoy being held like babies. Their instincts drive them to seek warmth, comfort, and security, which are all fulfilled when being cradled in their human’s arms. Holding a cat mimics the maternal bonding and caregiving they received as kittens. While some cats become too independent for holding as adults, many retain their enjoyment of this tactile connection and bonding with their favored human. Holding a cat meets their social needs and strengthens the unique cat-human bond.

The special relationship between cats and their humans is built on trust, care, and affection. For cat lovers who invest time interacting with and caring for their feline friends, being able to hold a cat close provides a profound emotional connection. While respecting a cat’s independence, holding them reinforces the powerful human-feline bond.

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