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How To Scruff Your Cat

cat_scruffingScruffing a cat can provide a valuable method of containment when you need to restrain her for medical treatment, training, or safety reasons. It's important to know how to do it safely and understand when it's appropriate.

Scruffing is the act of grasping the loose skin high on the back of a cat’s neck.

What Is Cat Scruffing For?

We need only look to nature to find perfect examples of its use. Mother cats use scruffing when first transporting their young. The mother cat picks up her kitten by the scruff and the kitten instinctively hangs quietly while being carried.

As the kittens grow and are too big to carry, the mother cat may employ scruffing for disciplinary reasons. For most instruction, a mother cat will use her voice or push the kitten with her body. In certain situations, however, such as a fight between litter-mates or when safety is a concern and more authority is needed, she may scruff the offender. The kitten will be still and cease the undesirable behavior.

Scruffing can also a be useful tool for us. Many cats retain the scruffing instinct into adulthood and will go limp in recollection. Scruffing is an intense form of control, and it should be used carefully and only for specific situations when other methods don’t work, such as:

  • Trimming nails
  • Combing out mats
  • Giving medications
  • Administering first aid
  • Stopping bad behavior*

*Use extreme caution when attempting to scruff a cat that is angry or agitated. Rather than stopping the bad behavior, this firm rebuke can easily make the situation worse, and you may get bitten or scratched. Scruffing should be used only for cats with calm temperaments that you know and trust very well.

How to Scruff a Cat

Here are the step-by-step instructions for scruffing a cat
  1. Gently and firmly grasp the loose skin on the back of the kitty's neck as close to the ears as possible. The closer to the ears you scruff, the more control you will have over your cat's head and any struggling or biting.
  2. If the cat is to be restrained for examination or administering medicines, gently push her head toward the floor or table and the kitty should lie quietly on her tummy. Use your free hand to lightly hold her rump down or control her rear legs.
  3. If you are scruffing for discipline, firmly and gently say "no" while holding her down until she relaxes. Never yell or shake the kitty.
  4. If the cat must be lifted while being scruffed, you need to support her weight by placing your free hand under her rump or back legs as you pick her up and place her where you want her to be.

Things to Remember When Scruffing a Cat

  • Scruffing is not comfortable for a cat.
  • Use scruffing only when other methods don't work.
  • If a cat is scruffed too often, chances are it will become a less and less effective method of control.
  • If you must lift your scruffed cat, you MUST support the weight of her body or injury may result.
  • After releasing from a scruffing, always reward with petting and verbal reinforcement of her good behavior.
  • Consult your veterinarian to assure you can scruff properly.

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