Grabbing a child by the scruff of the neck used to be something parents called discipline. These days it’s called abuse. Grabbing your cat is no less invasive. An angry meow, a hiss, or a growl is the same as you saying, “No!”
When tabby balks at being picked up, the problem could be how you lift or hold him. A common mistake is to pick your cat up by the scruff of her neck. In practice, the only time it’s acceptable is in order to save its life.
You may have seen mother cats use this tactic, but they do it with a soft mouth and their hold is nearer the kitten’s shoulders than its neck. In addition, a kitten being moved by its mother is tiny. It weights next to nothing. Long before it has grown enough to be adoptable, it will move on its own and its mother will no longer pick it up by the scruff. You shouldn’t either.
Use both of your hands to pick up your cat in the same way that you would pick up a toddler, but keep in mind that it is not a toddler.
Cats don’t like to be cradled. Cradling, like a human child, exposes their most vulnerable area. Many cats don’t enjoy belly rubs as much as our dogs do, and only when she lies down and exposes her underside to you.
It could be the way you look at your cats that puts him off.
Look at your contented cat. Notice his narrowed eyes and his relaxed body. He has no reason to look wide-eyed at the world. He feels safe and calm. His squint is a message of contentment. Often a cat prefers to warm up to one who isn’t fond of cats instead of a person who is. That’s because when humans are happy or excited, we widen our eyes. Cats are hunters. When they get excited, it’s usually time to pounce on something. Cats assume your wide eyes mean the same thing.
When you look at your cat, narrow your eyes. Try a slow blink. It’s a sign of trust and, some cat-lovers think, affection. If the cat blinks back, he sees you as a friend. Don’t just reach down and scoop her up though. Introduce yourself. Scratch the top of her head, her jowls, or under her chin. This is your agreement to carry her scent, and it feels good to your cat. If she walks away from you, let her go. Try again later. If the cat is warming to you, she’ll let you know by rubbing harder against your fingers or purring.
Be patient. If you’ve been a Tabby Grabber, it may take some time for your cat to figure out that you’ve changed your ways.