When we brought the Downton Tabbies home as fosters in August, it was evident they were completely unaccustomed to being handled on a daily basis. Aside from visits from volunteers who loved on them and foster care, probably most of what they had experienced was rough manhandling that involved being scruffed, put inside a carrier, and taken to the shelter, the vet, or a temporary home, all of which are stressful places and situations for cats. The whole experience must have been like an alien abduction to them.
Picking up and holding a cat is part of socializing that cat, a topic I’ve discussed at length with my vet once I took the boys in as fosters. It is also an integral part of having to hold and, on occasion, restrain an animal for certain situations. Good examples would be to trim a cat’s nails, clean their ears, or to administer medication. Also, getting them into the carrier is a challenge every cat owner and cat must face!
With some coaxing and a lot of patience, Charlie is submitting to being picked up. The trick is getting him to disengage his claws from fabric or his tower. Once scooped, he does well if he is held close to the body in a semi-circular ball. I think he likes the reassurance, support, and security my arms provide as I hold him. I also give him smooches, sneak in belly rubs if his tummy is exposed, and talk to him. On several occasions I’ve been rewarded with purrs. For some reason, Aaron hasn’t had as much luck being able to catch and pick up Charlie as I have.
Garrus is another matter. He hops, wiggles, shimmies, darts, and skitters away from both of us when we try to pick him up. If we’re able to actually get a grip on him and hold him for a few seconds, he uses his long back legs to kick off of our arms or chest to spring away. Then he looks back reproachfully at us. Once he’s onto us, he gives us a wide berth until he is certain that we won’t try to pick him up. Clever boy.
I’ve spoken about his tactics with his vet and her technicians, who have provided a few tips and a lot of encouragement. We have to move slowly with Garrus and acclimate him accordingly. Aaron and I have made it a goal to habitually pick him up just a few inches off the ground a couple times a day. We don’t pick him up each time we pet him or else he will avoid our approach. As I’ve mentioned, he’s smarter than Charlier and a bit feistier.
This evening I demonstrated both persistence and patience as he walked in figure-8s around my legs, apparently wanting rubs but seemingly catching onto the idea that I might want to pick him up but not sure exactly when I might do it. In due time I picked him up twice, each time putting one hand in front of his chest (to prevent him from hopping off) and the other beneath his hind legs and bottom to give him ample support (and to prevent him from kicking).
I gave him a break and rewarded him with his favorite form of affection: scritches on the side of his neck and chest simultaneously. He began to purr, relaxed, squinted his eyes, and semi-flopped on the floor. Stroking him and talking to him all the while, I managed to scoop him up into my arms and held him for about half a minute–a record! Amazingly he continued to purr! I smooched his head and told him that he was such a good boy. I’m not sure if Garrus appreciated such praise but Aaron concurred.
Then Garrus had enough and flew out of my arms, his back paws flying off my chest. He didn’t give us the side-eye this time because instead he got a treat for not being such a wiggle-worm when being held. His claws left a tiny hole in my shirt. C’est la vie. I still won.