Why Does My Cat Meow When I Pick Her Up

By Mittens •  Updated: 04/09/23 •  9 min read

Every cat is unique and what counts as normal behaviour for one individual may not be so clear cut in another. Some cats love to chat and chirp and have a lot to tell you whereas others prefer to keep their silence.

When I go to pick up my cat I know that the normal response can be anywhere from running to avoid me to curling up in my arms, giving a little mew of greeting and rubbing my face with their little fluffy forehead. Cats will generally tell you if now is a good time to be carried or not and some cats will even climb into your arms uninvited and demand this service.

If your cat is prone to being vocal when you pick them up or maybe they only make a noise on occasion it may have you wondering why does my cat meow when I pick her up?

Your cat will meow when you pick her up because she’s happy to see you or maybe she has something important to tell you. If it’s more of a sudden meow then she could be in pain or unwell. Some cats will meow when they sense something is off with you and they’re worried about you.

To figure out which of these fits your feline friend then here’s a bit more about how cats communicate and ten common reasons why your cat will meow when you pick them up.

A Cute Kitty Being Held By Someone

How Do Cats Communicate

Cats in the wild do not typically communicate by meowing. Adult cats will make murmuring or chirping sounds to greet each other or their young. Meowing is thought to be the way kittens try and gain their mother’s attention but as cats became domesticated they discovered that this form of communication works well to interact with humans as well.

Cats will meow at humans for many different reasons ranging from them wanting attention to them trying to communicate pain or fear. If your cat is prone to meowing when you pick them up or they have suddenly started doing this then here are ten reasons that this could be happening.

Ten Reasons Why Your Cat Is Meowing When You Pick Them Up

1. Your Cat Is Pleased to See You

The first (and most obvious) reason why your cat may be meowing when you pick them up is that they are pleased to see you. Maybe you have been out at work all day or even just out of their sight for a while. When you scoop them up they are so happy to see you that they let out a greeting “mew” perhaps followed by a little head rub or placing their paw on you.

Not all cats are thrilled at getting an unexpected lift somewhere so make sure the meow is in a friendly tone and accompanied by positive body language to ascertain that your furry friend is happy to spend some time in your arms.

2. Your Cat Wasn’t Expecting to be Picked Up

A Surprised Kitty In Someones Arms

Another reason why your cat may be making some noise when you pick them up is that you have given them a fright. If your cat was focused on something else and suddenly they’re swinging way up off the ground then it’s no wonder they may let out a cry of shock.

May sure you approach your cat gently and in a way that they can see what you’re about to do before you attempt to pick them up.

This also gives your feline friend a chance to reject your offer by walking away which is actually a positive thing for your relationship with them. Your cat should always get a say in these kinds of situations as this helps them feel more in control and trusting of you.

3. They Actually Have Something Important to Tell You

Your cat may have something very important to tell you and picking them up brings them closer to you so gives them the perfect opportunity to share all their news. It may be about a mouse they murdered earlier that day or a new bird that came near the window. They may need their litter box emptied or their food bowl topped up and now is the ideal time to tell you all about this.

Make sure you pay attention to their body language to see whether they are distressed or relaxed and if they are keen to go down away it may be because they want to show you the cause for their concern.

4. They Don’t Like Being Picked Up In General

It’s worth considering your cat as an individual as some cats really just don’t like being picked up. If this is the case then they may vocally object to being whisked off the floor, even if you do this in a gentle manner.

If your cat is not a fan of being picked up at all then it’s unkind to continue to try and do this. It’s always best to let cats come to you when they’re ready to interact and allow them to set the boundaries of what they are comfortable with.

5. You Smell Like Another Cat

If you’ve been cheating on your fluffy friend, chances are they will know about it the moment you walk in the front door. Cats have a very developed sense of smell and it’s especially acute when picking up the scent of another feline.

If you’ve been visiting a friend who also has a cat or maybe you’ve been getting cosy with the neighbourhood stray this can be either interesting or distressing for your cat when they realise you’ve been unfaithful to them. This is another reason why your cat may meow when you pick them up.

6. They Can Sense Something Is Off With You

A White Cat Meowing

You and your cat share a very special bond and just as you can tell when something is not right with them, cats can also sense when something is off with you. If you’re feeling miserable, depressed or under the weather, chances are your cat will pick up on this. If your cat is suddenly making a noise when you go to pick them up it could be them sensing your emotions and trying to comfort you.

7. They Are In Pain

Cats are notorious for hiding when they are feeling unwell or sore and it’s all too easy to not notice when something is ailing them. Your cat could be in pain for many different reasons and picking them up may be adding pressure to the sore spot.

If your cat is older, consider arthritis, especially around the hips and tail base. Cats are also prone to infections and abscesses which can happen if they fight with other cats or get injured in the undergrowth. Other injuries and illnesses can also cause pain for your cat so if you feel they are sore in any way always take them to a vet as soon as possible so they can quickly receive treatment to help get them back to feeling as good as new.

8. They Could Be Feeling Unwell

As opposed to just being in pain your cat may be feeling generally unwell and being picked up is not for them at this point in time. Your cat could be feeling nauseous, dizzy, achy or just lethargic and hope that by giving you that meow you’ll understand how they’re feeling. If you’re worried that your cat is trying to tell you that they’re not feeling well then the best thing to do is take them to see a veterinarian so that they can either figure out what the problem is or put your mind to rest that nothing is wrong.

9. Your Cat Doesn’t Like the Way You Are Holding Them

Another reason why your cat may become vocal when you pick them up is that they just don’t like the way you are holding them. Maybe they’re lacking support somewhere or they don’t you holding their legs or touching their belly. Try to gently adjust their positioning and if they settle down then you have your answer!

10. You Just Have a Chatty Cat

Last up and maybe the most overlooked reason why your cat meows when you pick them up is that they are just a chatty individual. Some cats are way more vocal than others and like to get a word in at every chance they get. If your cat is always making some sort of noise then chances are it’s nothing unusual that they meow when you pick them up. Try to engage in conversation with them and you will strengthen your bond with your feline companion.

Final Thoughts

There are so many reasons why your cat may be meowing when you pick them up. If it’s something that’s typical for your individual cat then this may be due to them greeting you or having something important to tell you. If it’s an unusual behaviour for them then they may be trying to tell you that they’re unwell, in pain or that they feel it’s time to be fed. Finally, it could be them picking up that something is not right with you or they’re just looking to have a chat with you.

Either way, the bottom line is, if it’s a positive meow then interact with your cat and if it’s a warning meow then either let them have their space or book an appointment with your vet as soon as possible to rule out any illness.


Meow. Meow! My name is Mittens and I am a proud feline writer. It's not easy taking over the keyboard from my purrson, but I am determined to share my cat tales with the world. I may spend most of my days napping in the sun and playing with my toys, but when inspiration strikes, I am ready to pounce on the opportunity to write about all things cat. From the joys of catnip to the struggles of hairballs, I am here to provide a cat's perspective on life. Scratch my chin and give me some pets, and I'll keep on writing like the purr-fessional I am.

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