Watch: Animal behaviorist shows how to teach your cat to accept handling

Cat owner strokes her cat
(Image credit: Getty)

Not all cats enjoy physical attention so don't take it personally if they growl or try to scratch you when trying to pet them or pick them up. Of course, everyone wants to share a cuddle with their feline companion and ensure their guests feel comfortable around their pets. That's where this animal behaviorist's simple training trick will help ease your kitty's reaction to being handled.

It doesn't take much to try this cat expert's top tip, you'll just need a backscratcher and some of the best wet cat food. Using cat food instead of treats for training is a healthier option than feeding your kitten treats regularly, plus wet food is packed with moisture keeping your cat well hydrated.

An animal behaviorist specializing in cats, has demonstrated online how to put these two tools into use to teach your cat how to feel more relaxed while being stroked or handled by humans.

In a short video shared to the Cat School Clicker Training Instagram page that has gained over 4,000 likes, the cat trainer shows how to use food as a distraction while reaching in with the long-handled back scratcher to help them become more comfortable with physical touch.

In this demonstration, the cat behavior expert works together with a black cat called Raspberry to work through the simple steps:

In the video you can see Raspberry look dubiously at the backscratcher, wailing a little in defense, as it comes to touch her back but as soon as a spoon of wet food is placed in front of her she quickly changes tune, purs into the food as she gobbles it up, unfazed by her owner stroking her.

The cat expert explains, "Using a backscratcher and wet food on a spoon, I’m helping Raspberry learn to accept handling. " By doing this, the trainer is helping the cat make positive associations with being stroked.

She also uses verbal reinforcement while trying out the trick. The food reward and verbal praise should encourage your cat to respond to your touch like this in the future.

Fellow cat owners who know all too well how hot and cold cats can be when it comes to being handled have shared their reactions to this helpful video. One said, "What a great way to teach trust", while another stated, "It takes a lot of time and effort, but it's worth it! Keep going Raspberry! You'll get there!".

It's never a good idea to force anything on your pets and you certainly don't want to taint your relationship with them by not respecting boundaries, but this trainer from the Cat School shows how you can start to build trust in a caring way.

If you see a positive response from your cat with this food-in-spoon trick then you should gently extend your fingers toward your cat to sniff you. If they push their head back into your hand then it's likely they want to be touched, but if not it's best to leave them be. Or if you aren't getting anywhere with touch you can still bond with your kitty using one of these best interactive cat toys.

Jessica Downey
Staff Writer

With over a year of writing for PetsRadar, Jessica is a seasoned pet writer. She joined the team after writing for the sister site, Fit&Well for a year. Growing up with a lively rescue lurcher kindled her love for animal behavior and care. Jessica holds a journalism degree from Cardiff University and has authored articles for renowned publications, including LiveScience, Runner's World, The Evening Express, and Tom's Guide. Throughout her career in journalism she has forged connections with experts in the field, like behaviorists, trainers, and vets. Through her writing, Jessica aims to empower pet owners with accurate information to enhance their furry companions' lives.