How to Handle a New Kitten or Adopted Cat
16 March, 2015

If you have just adopted a beautiful yet fearful kitten (or cat), the first thing you need to learn is how to handle and/or approach your newly beloved feline family member.  It is important for you and your family to lean how to handle your kitten or cat properly especially in the early, formative kitty years.

Give your kitty time to adjust to his or her new surroundings

Although everyone will want to hold the kitten, limit handling for the first few days while your new kitten adjusts. Set up his bed, litter box and food in a quiet room where he can be secured until he gets to know his new home. Introduce one family member at a time, allowing the kitten to come to you and learn your touch.

Be careful when you first approach your kitten

First of all, don’t immediately walk up to an unfamiliar kitten or cat and pick her up.  You should get to know him or her and let your kitty smell and check you out. Pet her lightly on the back, running your hand from shoulder to tail. Pet the top of your cat’s head, and give her your hand to smell. Speak to her in calm, soothing tones. Don’t let yourself get upset or excited if it’s not going well; the cat can sense your alarm, and will resist you.

Use both hands when picking up a kitten

Unless the cat is a very young kitten (in which case it’s safe to pick her up by the scruff of the neck), you should pick up your kitty with both hands, first putting your hand under his or her chest just behind the front legs (using your forearm for additional support). Then support the back feet above and behind the paws with your free hand, cradling the rear of the body so that your cat is fully supported. The key is to success is making your cat feel both safe and comfortable, and keeping her limbs in check so you don’t get scratched.

It can take time for your kitty to get used to being held

If your cat is resistant, spend some more time with her, perhaps sitting on a couch, and letting her come to you for petting. Work up to getting her to sit in your lap, and when she’s comfortable with that, try again to pick her up.  Do this a few times so your kitty is comfortable with it.

As your cat gets older, he might like to be carried over your shoulder

Some cats prefer to be carried like a baby, facing backward with their forelegs over your shoulders, and their hind quarters supported with your free hand. This is fine once you and the cat are accustomed to each other. Initially, however, it’s not a good idea. If your cat is spooked, she’s likely to dig her front claws into your back, and her back claws into your chest to launch away from you.

Never pick up a cat by the middle without supporting the back legs

Never pick up a cat with both hands by the midsection without supporting the hind legs. This will upset most cats and leave their back paws free to scratch you.  And it puts a lot of pressure on your cat’s midsection.

Take extra caution with feral or injured cats

If it’s necessary to handle a feral cat, an injured cat or a cat who seems prone to biting or scratching, wear heavy duty gloves and a long sleeved shirt or jacket.  If you are unaccustomed to handling cats, you should not attempt to pick up feral or injured cats yourself if it’s possible to find someone more experienced to help you.  Injured cats should not be moved unless it’s to move them out of harm’s way (the middle of a street, for example). Then contact a veterinarian to determine whether the cat should be moved, and how best to do so.

Young toddlers should not interact with a young kitten

Children under five should not interact with kittens; many shelters and rescue groups will not allow families with very young children to adopt kittens because children can be rough, sometimes tragically, with kittens. They should be taught never to grab a kitten’s tail or ears, or pick it up by its scruff. Show children how to gently pet a cat’s head and back. Remind them to always wash their hands after being around kitty. Always supervise children’s interaction with kittens, especially if they have friends visiting.

Each cat is different and some kittens (and cats) just don’t like to be handled. While gentle petting andtreatsmay help you gain their trust, don’t assume every cat can be picked up safely on the first attempt. Give it time and chances are that your kitty will eventually come around!


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