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Humane Handling of Cats, Part 1: Hold on a Minute!

In the first installment of our three-part series on Humane Feline Handling, we share three of the most effective and safe restraining holds for cats, gleaned from our recent webinar of the same name. Copy these cat holds and you’ll be humanely herding cats in no time!

First, before attempting any type of a hold on a cat, it’s good to be prepared:

  • Avoid strong scents on your hands, such as perfumes, lotions or cigarettes. If possible, avoid handling dogs prior to handling cats.
  • Practice holds on a stuffed animal or calm cat before attempting them on a cat you do not know.
  • Prior to picking up a cat, give him a chance to get to know you by offering him the back of your hand to sniff or rub up against.


Taco Hold


  1. Preparing to Make a Kitty Taco

  1. Gathering Your Ingredients

3. Adding a Little Love

4. And…Voila!

Just like Taco Night, this hold is bound to please everyone! The cat you need to move is happy because he is tucked safely inside his cat bed/ “taco shell,” and you are happy because you don’t have to worry about getting scratched or bitten. Simply fold the sides of the cat’s bed around him and firmly hold the bed in your arms. If needed, once the cat is out of his cage, you can use one hand to hold the back of his head for more control.


Football Hold


This hold is aptly named since it resembles the hold a running back would use to move a football down the field—the difference is you’re transporting precious cargo that you can’t afford to fumble.

Note how the cat’s body weight is securely resting on the handler’s forearm, which is braced against her body for even more support. Since this is a one-handed hold, it is best to use it on calm, socialized cats.

The football hold can easily be modified into a two-hand hold by placing your second hand on the back of the cat’s neck. Keep your hand loose but ready, in case you need to grab hold of the cat’s neck for more control. According to Natasha Drain, the ASPCA’s Manager of Applied Research, “Scruffing a cat, where you firmly grasp the skin at the top of the neck or base of the head, can cause some cats to become defensive—and it may not be necessary for all cats.”


 Snake Hold

                     Good for a temple massage, too!

                           Works like a charm…


Drain suggests, “This hold is a great alternative to scruffing calm cats, while allowing you access to scruff the cat if absolutely necessary.” Place your forefinger and middle finger on top of the cat’s head and your thumb and ring finger under the jaw.

Adds Drain, “The snake hold is more advanced and requires practice prior to using it on an unknown cat, but it is well worth the time it takes to learn it.”

In Part 2 of the Humane Feline Handling series, we will discuss useful touch-free handling options, including the Wild Child and Feral Cat Den. In Part 3, we will cover handling tools that should only be used with caution.  

Have you tried any of the humane holds highlighted here? If so, tell us about how it has worked (or not) for you…


Related Links:

Webinar recording: "Humane Feline Handling 101"

"Tip of the Week: Towel Cowl"

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