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Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 16925
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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Our cat bolts when we try to pick m up. How can we stop

Customer Question

our cat bolts when we try to pick him up. How can we stop this. We would like a cuddly
cat. If we move the wrong way he bolts.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 1 year ago.

Hello, my name is***** and I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian. I understand that you may be disappointed that Willie isn't as affectionate as many cats are. And you may be puzzled because you have tried to treat him well yet he seems terrified of you.

It may be that being picked up is physically uncomfortable for him because of a tender tummy or back pain. A physical examination by his veterinarian and possibly some blood tests should rule out that.

His abandonment may play a part in his behavior too. Cats that are not socialized with people at a young age may be very fearful of people. They do not learn to read social cues or understand human behavior and become very fearful as a result. This can be overcome in many instances, but it can take a long time.
Some cats simply do not like being picked up. For the most part I think it has a lot to do with personality and confidence. If you think about it it's scary to have a large being pick you up. It's possible that you could get dropped and it's out of your control. Some cats are very trusting and laid back and don't care if someone else takes control. Others are a bit more high strung and cannot comfortably trust that all will go well.
Another part of their personality is their ability to handle any sort of stimulation, good or bad. When they feel overwhelmed their fight or flight reaction kicks in.
Both of these personality traits would also explain his reaction to being picked up, he is not in control of the situation, may feel hyperstimulated, and thus feel the need to escape.
It's not that he doesn't enjoy attention or your company, he just wants it on his terms with his feet on the ground.
You can still have a great relationship with him by allowing him to come to you for affection or leaning over or sitting on his level to give him affection. Some cats also are quite happy with a relationship where playing with toys with their owners is a way for them to connect.
I think the more you insist he be held and picked up the more anxious he will become. Try and enjoy his with the personality he has.
You can use a calming product like Feliway, which is a pheromone analog of the pheromone that cats use to mark things as safe. It comes in a spray, diffusor and collars. Here's a link if you'd like to read more :

If your people come over I would instruct your friends to ignore, but give them treats to give him should he choose to come near. They should not look him in the eyes or try to pet him, just hand him treats. In this way he sees new people as a positive experience rather than a threat.
You can also use a product called Bach's Rescue Remedy. This is a homeopathic product that you can add to his water or food to ease anxiety. See this link for further information:
The most important thing to remember with cats is that the more you try to push them to do something they are terrified of, the more fearful they become, and the harder it is the next time. Taking things slow and positive reinforcement along the way are the best ways to get them feeling trusting and thus more likely to do what you want them to.
Best of luck with your fellow, please let me know if you have any further questions.