I had always wanted a kitten who would let me snuggle him in my arms like a baby.
But when I brought my kitten home, he ran under my bed to hide. Whenever I walked toward him to pet him, he ran away. When I tried to pick him up, he tried to squirm out of my arms.
So I researched reputable organizations and experts to find out how they raised kittens to become cuddly. When I applied their techniques, my fur baby started to enjoy being in my lap. He didn’t run from me. And he didn’t hide under my bed anymore. In fact, he started to jump onto my lap on his own and snuggle against my belly!
How do you raise your kitten to be cuddly? Give your kitten lots of love, attention, and handling when she is young. Coax her to come out of hiding. Don’t overstimulate or scare her. Value your relationship with your kitten, and respect her need for space.
Let’s delve deeper into these techniques that have worked for and other cat owners.
1) Leave your kitten with her mother and siblings during your kitten’s first 8 weeks of life.
Sadly, you can’t always control this as kittens often taken away from their moms too early! This is often a result of people trying to help after they find a litter of kittens not realizing that their mom will come back! But to help your kitten develop into a healthy cat, leave her with her mother and siblings for at least the first 8 weeks of life. Do not separate them too early. Keep them together to help your kitten develop positive social skills.
2) Prepare to welcome home your new kitten.
Before your kitten arrives, prepare her bed, food and water dishes, litter box, and toys. Doing so will help her to settle in and to feel safe and secure. You will also be less anxious and will not have to scramble to prepare things after your kitten’s arrival. Instead, you can focus on caring for your fur baby!
3) Coax your kitten out.
I remember when I first brought home my kitten. The first thing he did was hide under my bed! Kittens often hide because they get scared and easily overstimulated. But it’s not good for them to hide by themselves all day. In fact, they hide because they feel afraid. Your job is to help your kitten become more confident and to feel safe when he is in the open. To help your kitten become sociable, coax him to come out and play. Gradually block off her hiding areas. You can use pillows or other objects to block out hiding areas, such as under the bed. Block areas underneath appliances and furniture. Do not block off all her hiding areas at once, or she might become more afraid.
Next, use food to encourage your cat to come out. Never give him food in his hiding spot, such as under the bed. As cat expert Jackson Galaxy describes, once you give in and place food in your cat’s hiding area, your cat will know that he can get food in his hiding area. Then he will know that he does not have to leave.
Instead, put the food first close to his hiding area, but outside of it. This will help coax him to come out. Put tape on the floor or another marker so you can keep track of where you keep your cat’s food and water dishes. Then every day, move that tape gradually farther away from his hiding area and toward the center of the room. Even if you only move the tape by three inches, you will make progress.
Slowly, your kitten will learn that he is safe to come out of hiding and venture toward the center of the room.
Also, use toys. Play with your cat using toys to encourage him to come out of hiding and toward the center of the room. As Galaxy describes, when your cat pounces onto a toy, your cat will feel like he is the king of the world. Your cat will feel powerful and confident. Then your cat will feel safe coming out of hiding spots. He will realize that he has nothing to fear and it’s on to the next step!
4) Handle your kitten.
It’s crucial that you and other people handle your kitten during her first few weeks of life. How much you handle her as a kitten will determine how sociable she is as an adult cat. According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), handing kittens for even 15 minutes per day between birth and 12 to 14 weeks of age helps cats to enjoy being around people more. AAHA also says that if kittens are handled by multiple people when the kittens are between five-and-a-half and nine-and-a-half weeks old, they are more likely to not be afraid of people later in life. They are also more likely to become interested in people later in life.
Be sure to give your kitten much petting, love, and handling so that he learns to trust you. The more you play with your kitten, the more likely that he will become sociable when older.
Be sure to handle your kitten before he is seven weeks old. According to AAHA, the last stage during which first exposures to humans can readily help cats become comfortable with humans is within the first seven to ten weeks of life. However, at this stage, more time per day with humans is required to get the same results as what one would obtain if the cat were younger. Therefore, it’s crucial to spend significant time petting your kitten each day at this stage if she was not handled when she was younger.
While you typically can’t adopt your kitten before seven weeks old, you can ask the shelter about where your kitten has been. Many kittens spend their early weeks in a foster home which is great if you’re looking for an extra cuddly kitten!
5) Remember that cats are different from dogs.
Sometimes, dog owners subsequently get a cat. However, what your dog enjoys might stress out or scare your cat. There is the term “scaredy cat” for a reason! Cats easily become afraid. If you scare your cat, she won’t want you to pet her. Instead, she will hide from you.
For example, sometimes dogs like to be chased. However, do not chase your cat. If you chase your cat, you will frighten her.
Similarly, some dogs enjoy belly rubs. However, a belly rub can scare your cat because her vital organs would become vulnerable.
Remember, cats have instincts because they could potentially be prey in the wild. Cats can sometimes be predators, but they can also sometimes be prey. To survive, they have protective instincts and are easily afraid of potential threats.
6) Provide your kitten with plenty of socialization.
To help your kitten become cuddly, provide her with a variety of people to be around. You want to help her to become comfortable not only around you but also around other people, too. When one of your friends comes over, ask your friend to be quiet so as not to frighten your cat. The sound of the doorbell ringing can frighten your cat. Ask your friend to come into your home in a quieter way. If your kitten hides when your friend visits, then place a treat outside of your kitten’s hiding spot to encourage her to come out.
7) Don’t force your cat to come to you, but attract your cat to come to you.
As Jackson Galaxy explains, when friends go to the home of someone with cats, the friend who is allergic to cats or afraid of cats is the one whom the cats will climb all over.
Cats want to explore on their own terms, and they are more likely to come to you if they don’t think you’re forcing them to come to you.
Nobody likes to be forced. If you force your kitten to come to your lap, you will scare her. Instead, give your kitten the option to come to you with the freedom to choose not to come to you. Respect your kitten’s will.
To attract your cat to come to you, use treats. You can start by placing a treat far away from you. Then your cat will come to it and eat it. Then you can gradually place the treats closer and closer until your cat comes to your hand, and eventually, your lap. Practice this frequently for many days so your cat will associate coming to you with positive things, such as treats.
8) Don’t force your cat to stay on your lap.
One of the great benefits of a cuddly cat or kitten is the lap time! That’s why you might feel an urge to grab, snuggle and hold your beloved kitten on your lap forever. However, the grabbing of your cat will frighten her. Then she won’t trust you in the future, and she won’t want to go onto your lap in the future. You want your cat to feel free to remain on you or leave your lap if she wishes. Then she will trust you more and will be more willing to go on your lap again in the future. But if you try to force her to stay on you, she will feel afraid of going on your lap ever again. So do not squeeze your cat or hold her too tightly.
9) Do not discipline your cat.
If you discipline your cat—such as by spraying her with a water bottle—she will become afraid of you, and you will damage your relationship with her, according to cat expert Jackson Galaxy.
Instead, find ways to train your cat that don’t require you to discipline her. For example, Galaxy doesn’t like it when his cat goes on his counter, so he bought an air-compressing can that automatically sprays air when his cat goes on the counter. Then his cat is afraid to go onto the counter.
Meanwhile, Galaxy still maintains a positive relationship between his cat and himself. Another method is to put double-sided tape on a mat. Then put that sticky mat with the sticky side up on top of your counter when you don’t need to use it. Then your cat will associate the counter with that weird sticky feeling. Then your cat won’t want to go on it.
Galaxy asserts that cats often need an alternative for their inappropriate behaviors. There is always a reason behind a cat’s behavior. Try to figure out why your cat is doing certain things, and try to think of an alternative. A cat who likes to go onto a counter might need a cat tree or activity tower to play on so that he can enjoy being at a high height in an appropriate way.
If your cat is doing something inappropriate, do not yell. Instead, firmly say, “No.” No matter what happens, do not discipline your cat, or else you will damage your relationship.
10) Do not bathe your cat unless absolutely necessary.
If you want your cat to hate you, give him regular baths! Cats do not like being bathed, and most do not need regular baths. Cats generally do a great job of cleaning themselves. Their tongues are designed for cleaning their fur. Let your cat clean himself. You can still provide grooming and brushing, especially if your cat has long hair. You can also clean your cat’s ears.
However, some exceptions exist. Hairless breeds, such as the sphinx, do need regular bathing, or else their skin becomes too oily.
11) Pet your cat the way she wants you to.
Pay attention to your individual cat’s preferences so that you can see what types of stroking she enjoys. Every cat is different. As you spend time with your cat and pay attention to her, you will start to understand her individual preferences. According to cat behavior expert Pam Johnson-Bennett, some cats enjoy long, gentle strokes. Other cats want shorter strokes that don’t go down their entire bodies. As you spend time with your cat, pay attention to which kind of petting she prefers.
Remember to not pet near the base of her tail. Many cats do not want you to pet them there. They have unique scent glands near the base of the tail. Also, do not pet too harshly. You do not want to overstimulate your sensitive cat.
12) Care for your cat’s needs.
As you care for your cat’s needs, she will learn that she can trust you. Give her nutritious food and clean water. Talk to your cat in a soothing, calm, cheerful voice while you supply her with fresh food and clean water. Clean out her litter box at least once a day. Give her treats. Provide her with toys, a cozy cat bed, and a scratching post. You will win her heart and you’re sure to have a cuddly kitten that will soon become a cuddly cat!
However, do not give your cat too many treats. You don’t want your cat to become obese. Obesity can cause a host of health problems. It can also make it harder for your cat to clean herself because she won’t be able to lick the hard-to-reach places.
13) Remain calm around your cat.
Emotions are contagious. If you’re happy and peaceful, your cat will also feel safe, happy, and peaceful. But if you’re anxious and scared, your cat will also feel stressed, anxious, and scared. So before you spend time with your cat, first take some deep breaths and regulate your own emotions. Think happy thoughts. If you are happy, then your kitten is more likely to want to be around you.
If you’re always calm and happy your kitten is much more likely to want to be calm too- that means more cuddling!
14) Play with your cat regularly.
Playing with your cat will also help you to develop a strong bond with her. Kittens have much energy and need physical, active playtime to release it. Give your kitten attention.
As cat behavior expert Caitlin Gawa suggests, play with your cat for at least 5 to 10 minutes per day. She says that often, cats bite or scratch their owners who pet them when their owners have not played with them enough. When you play with your cat, your cat will release aggression. Then your cat is less likely to bite or scratch you. Kittens especially need to release their pent-up energy.
Jackson Galaxy tells people to not use their hands, feet, or arms as toys for their kittens to latch onto or bite. Instead, use actual toys as toys for your kitten. Even though your kitten’s teeth might be soft now, they will become sharp once your kitten grows up. Galaxy asserts that what you teach your kitten is critical. Teach your kitten that hands are not toys. Give your kitten proper alternatives to your hands as toys. Give your kitten actual toys. Then, when your kitten becomes a full-grown cat, you’ll still enjoy playing with her—and won’t need to worry that she will bite you!
After all, we’re trying to get a cuddly kitten we want to teach our furry friend to stay calm around humans and not to treat them as another toy to chomp on!
15) Don’t make your cat feel threatened.
Don’t speak loudly or move suddenly. If you speak loudly or move suddenly, you might scare your cat. Cats easily feel threatened. Instead, speak quietly and move slowly. Doing so will help your cat feel comfortable and not afraid around you.
Some of the facts about not scaring your cat are counterintuitive. You might think that walking toward your cat with your hands and arms stretched out to pick him up will show your cat that you care and that you are so excited to hold, hug, and love him. However, your cat may feel afraid of you.
16) Don’t stare; instead, give your cat the slow blink.
When two cats feel aggressive toward each other, they stare at each other. Do not stare at your cat, or else he will feel that you are a threat. Imagine if your cat was in a wild. A predator would probably stare at her before trying to catch her.
Instead, give your cat the slow blink, also known as “kitty kisses.” We covered this our article covering how often cats blink in a minute! To avoid staring at your cat, try doing the slow blink sideways while looking toward a different direction instead of staring directly at your cat. Slowly close your eyes, and then slowly open your eyes. Repeat this process as many times as you want. This process will help your cat feel a sense of safety. In the wild, you would not normally close your eyes, unless you felt safe. Closed eyes signify and rest. Your cat might even slowly blink back at you! If she does, that means you have shown her that she is safe.
Even in urban settings, such as neighborhoods, or while cats are sitting in window sills, cats give each other the slow blink to communicate with each other.
17) After your cat comes to you, pet him where he likes to be petted.
Once I learned where my cat likes to be petted, he started to enjoy being around me and was even more cuddly! According to cat expert Caitlin Gawa, cats enjoy being petted on many parts of their faces. They like being petted under their chins, on their cheeks, and on the areas between their eyes and ears. The area under their chins is especially enjoyable. Additionally, you can pet your cat all along his spine. However, do not pet his tail or belly. Generally, cats do not want to be petted on their stomachs or tails. And remember to be gentle, not harsh. Cats easily get overstimulated; they easily feel scared.
To further help your cat enjoy being petted, do something that he enjoys while you pet him. For example, you could groom him, give him food, or give him treats. Then he will associate being petted with pleasant activities.
18) Groom your cat.
Cats enjoy being brushed. Cats instinctively want to feel clean. In the wild, it would be dangerous for cats to have scents on them from everywhere that they have been. Cats even groom other cats to build relationships with each other. By brushing your cat, you will develop a good relationship with him and likely make him more cuddly.
19) Help your cat feel safe when being picked up.
Kittens may feel afraid of being picked up. To help your kitten feel safe, hold your cat over a bed, couch, or other close and comfortable surface. Then your kitten is safe in case she fearfully jumps out of your arms.
20) Adopt two kittens at the same time.
I once brought home two cats at the same time. They cleaned each other, played with each other, and slept with each other. Even though they weren’t biologically related, they were like brothers. Adopting two cats at the same time is a great way to help your cats develop affection and socialization skills. Adopting two cats at the same time can help your cats become friendlier and with two cats you’re almost guaranteed that one of them will be extra cuddly!
Kittenhood is short, yet formative. How you treat your kitten will determine her relationship with you and her relationship with other humans for the rest of her life! So if you want to raise a kitten that’s cuddly, friendly, and happy be sure to give your kitten not only warmth but also the space she needs. Remember, kittens easily become overwhelmed and scared.
Also, encourage her using positive rewards, such as treats, to come out of hiding and to come toward the center of the room. And always be careful to never damage your relationship with your kitten. Instead, be gentle and non-forceful. Always focus on meeting her needs. When you pet her in the most enjoyable areas, such as under her chin, in the space between her ears and eyes, and on her cheeks, your kitten will feel safe and happy around you. As you build a good relationship with her, she will most likely start going to you and even jump onto your lap to snuggle against you!