Picking up your cat can be a fun way to bond and show affection. However, you may notice your feline friend lets out an odd, high-pitched squeak when you lift them. This squeaking sound is different from a meow and can leave you wondering why cats make this noise when handled.
There are several possible reasons for a cat to squeak when picked up, including happiness, fear, discomfort or pain. By understanding the potential causes, you can learn to pick up and handle your cat in a way that makes them feel secure. With time and positive reinforcement, squeaking when picked up can often be reduced or eliminated.
An Overview of Cat Sounds and What They Mean
Cats are known for their signature meow, which they often use to get a human’s attention or ask for something. Purring indicates contentment, while growling or hissing shows aggression or fear.
Some cats also chirp, which is thought to be an expression of excitement or interest, often directed at prey or toys. Chattering signals anticipation, usually related to spotting potential prey.
Squeaking is less common and can have a wider range of meanings depending on context. It is typically a short, high-pitched vocalization.
Kittens often squeak frequently to get their mother’s attention. Adult cats generally squeak less often, which makes this sound more notable when it occurs.
Cats have a rich vocabulary of sounds they use to communicate different emotions and needs. Being familiar with your cat’s range of vocalizations is key to understanding what they are expressing.
Happiness and Excitement
One of the most common reasons for cats to squeak is simply happiness or excitement. A cat who squeaks when you pick them up may be expressing:
- Affection towards their owner – Your cat is happy to interact with you and be close to you. The squeak signals this positive emotion.
- Enjoyment of being handled – Some cats take pleasure in being picked up and even carried around. The squeaking indicates they are having fun.
- Interest in a new experience – Cats can squeak when encountering something intriguing and exciting. Being picked up by a new or infrequent handler can produce this response.
Signs your cat is squeaking happily:
- Relaxed body language – Loose muscles, upright tail
- Purring or kneading while squeaking
- Squeaking when you interact with them in other ways
- Seeming eager to be picked up and held
If your cat seems relaxed and content when squeaking, they are likely expressing positive feelings. Happiness-based squeaking is generally nothing to worry about.
Fear or Discomfort with Being Handled
Cats often squeak when picked up due to fear or discomfort. This response is common in cats who:
- Are not frequently picked up and handled
- Have negative associations with being held
- Dislike having their feet off the ground
- Feel physically uncomfortable about how they are being held
For these cats, being picked up is an unpleasant or even scary experience. The squeak signals “please stop this and put me down.” It may be accompanied by:
- Squirming, clawing or biting to get free
- Ears flattened back and pupils dilated
- Hissing or growling
- Urinating/defecating from fear
With patience and positive reinforcement, cats can become more comfortable with handling over time. But forcing unwanted contact will only make the fear response stronger.
Physical Discomfort or Pain
Cats may also squeak due to physical discomfort or pain when picked up. Potential causes include:
- Arthritis – Cats with arthritis in their legs or back may feel pain when their limbs are positioned unnaturally while being held.
- Injuries – Soreness from healing cuts, sprains or other injuries can cause discomfort when handled.
- Health conditions – Illnesses that cause muscle weakness, nerve pain or bone tenderness can make cats squeak when their bodies are positioned certain ways.
- Improper handling – Grabbing a cat’s armpits or hind legs can pinch sensitive skin and nerves. Tight squeezing can put painful pressure on muscles and organs.
If you suspect your cat is squeaking due to discomfort or pain, handle them very gently and consult your veterinarian. Treating any underlying medical issues can often resolve pick up-related squeaking.
Age and Breed Differences
A cat’s tendency to squeak can vary based on factors like their age and breed:
- Kittens squeak frequently as they develop their voices. Their squeaks naturally decrease as they mature.
- Siamese and other vocal breeds often squeak more than quieter cats. Their talkative nature extends to squeaking.
- Elderly cats may start squeaking from age-related discomfort. Their bones and nerves become more sensitive over time.
So while increased squeaking can signal an issue in adult cats, it is also normal in very young or vocal breeds. Consider your cat’s age and breed before becoming concerned about new squeaking.
How to Pick Up and Handle Cats Properly
Using proper technique when picking up your cat can help prevent fear and discomfort that leads to squeaking:
- Approach slowly and let the cat see and sniff you first before lifting them.
- Grasp the chest and hindquarters at the same time, supporting the cat’s weight against your body. Avoid squeezing their armpits or belly.
- Pick up the cat smoothly and hold them close to you. Limit dangling to prevent injury if they squirm.
- Pay attention to body language, and never force handling if they seem reluctant.
- Give treats and affection during and after pick ups so your cat associates being held with positive experiences.
Over time, regularly handling a cat properly helps desensitize them and reduces anxious or painful responses like squeaking.
When to Be Concerned About Squeaking
In most cases, occasional squeaking is nothing to worry about. But seek veterinary guidance if:
- Squeaking starts suddenly in adulthood or intensifies in frequency/volume
- Squeaking is accompanied by other symptoms like appetite issues or lethargy
- Your cat seems to be in significant distress when squeaking
- Squeaking prevents necessary handling for medical treatment or care
A sudden increase in squeaking volume or frequency can indicate an underlying medical issue or injury. Always err on the side of caution if your cat shows signs of suffering.
Training Cats Not to Squeak When Picked Up
With time and effort, cats who squeak when handled can learn to become more comfortable with the process. Here are some training tips:
- Start by gently petting them in the chest/belly area to get them used to light touch there
- Next, place one hand briefly under their belly when petting, then remove it
- Slowly work up to sliding both hands under them while giving treats, lifting just an inch, then setting them down
- Gradually increase lift height and duration over multiple sessions if the cat remains relaxed
- Rushing the process or forcing handling will undermine training, so go at their pace
This gentle desensitization method can work wonders. But accept that some cats always prefer having four paws on the floor. Respect their limits rather than forcing unwanted handling.
Why does my cat make a squeaking sound when I touch her belly?
Some cats dislike having their bellies touched because it makes them feel vulnerable. If your cat squeaks when you touch her belly, she is likely expressing discomfort or fear. Let her determine if and when belly rubs occur to avoid distressing her.
Why does my new kitten squeak so much?
Frequent squeaking is very common in kittens as they are learning to control their voices. Their squeaks will naturally decrease as they become adults. Excessive handling can also cause anxious squeaking, so give your kitten breaks from being picked up.
Is it bad to pick up a cat that is sprouting?
Squeaking alone is not harmful to a cat. But it often signals they are unhappy, scared or in pain. Try to avoid picking up cats who show signs of distress when handled. Instead, work on acclimating them to touch through training.
Why does my cat make a chirping sound when I pick him up?
Some cats chirp when excited or intrigued. If your cat seems relaxed and content when chirping during handling, he is likely expressing happiness rather than fear. Chirping and squeaking have different meanings.
How do I get my cat to stop squeaking when I hold her?
Use gentle handling techniques, give your cat treats and affection during and after pick-ups, and slowly acclimate them to being handled. Avoid excessive handling against their wishes. Some cats always prefer minimal handling. Let your cat determine their limits.
Cat owners often react with surprise the first time their feline lets out a high-pitched squeak during handling. While an unusual sound, squeaking has a range of possible meanings rooted in your cat’s comfort level and personality.
With careful observation of body language and consistency in gentle handling techniques, cats can become more accustomed to being picked up. But it is also important to respect cats that never take to handling, and identify and address any fear, pain or medical issues causing distressed squeaking.
Understanding the nuances of your cat’s vocalizations provides insight into their mindset and builds a strong human-animal bond.