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Scruffing a cat, or grabbing it by the loose skin from around her neck, has been considered humane and also safe for years, being used as a way of restraining your pet. This method to restrain an animal has been used by pet owners, groomers, and vets alike, and it was considered a way to mimic the way the mother of the cat used to pick her up by her scruff. A lot of handlers are used to pick up cats by their neck scruff. But new studies have started to show that this type of hold is actually an additional stress for the pet, which is why the views on whether you should use scruffing as a handling method are slowly changing. As news about the different issues associated with scruffing is starting to get out, people are finding other ways that are considered better when restraining a cat, for more comfort and safety.
Why is scruffing a problem?
This problem has been widely discussed by both veterinary behaviorists and veterinary technicians in different news publications and pet websites. Below you will find some of the arguments against this particular practice.
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Although scruffing is used to replicate the way a mother will carry her kittens, they also have a reflex to go limp when they are picked up by their scruffs. By the time cats reach adulthood, they start to lose this particular reflex, which is why most adult cats will tense or even become aggressive when scruffed.
Although most kittens have nothing against getting carried around by their scruff and some of them even find it relaxing, for older cats it’s something that stresses and scares them considerably. This behavior isn’t as relaxing as you might think mostly because predators also attack cats at their throats.
And this opinion on scruffing has traveled the world pretty quickly and is becoming more and more popular. The International Cat Care charity, for example, has given a formal statement that talks about the downsides of scruffing.
Are there any alternatives to scruffing?
Some professionals talk about other ways of restraining the cat, which are more comfortable and more importantly, more humane. Although it might seem worse, cupping the cat’s head and jaw won’t evoke the same stress response caused by scruffing while also providing both restraint and stabilization. You can even try to stop the cat from biting while working around her by putting an e-collar on her, which is made to prevent her from reaching around and biting. Another trick that works with most cats is to put a light blanket or towel on the pet’s head so that they can’t see when you are approaching them. Another simple trick is to simply wrap the whole cat in a total or a blanket so that she can’t take her paws out and scratch you while handling her.
Why do you need to restrain the cat?
The cat will have to be restrained in some particular situations, like administering medical care. These are cases in which you have to be extra careful and use an appropriate restraint technique, to minimize the stress she feels and keep her safe. If the care will have to be continued at home, then your veterinarian can show you some appropriate ways of restraining the pet.
If you’re trying to restrain the cat to be able to go through normal tasks like giving her a pill or trimming her nails, then I’m sure you can find other ways of doing it to reduce any stress the pet might experience. If you have a cat that always tries to fight you when you’re trimming her nails, then try to play with her paws more often and you will see that sooner or later she will begin to accept the process. You can teach your cat to be nice while you handle her paws in a positive way by regularly touching them in that area and then giving them a treat when they play nice.
A lot of people rely on scruffing to restrain their pets and this isn’t something new or surprising. Only recently have we started to understand that they really don’t like this way of restraint and find it stressful. But now, that new information arises about better ways of handling the cat, let’s adapt. Look for other, more comfortable ways of handling the pet instead of taking it by scruff. If you spend some time and work toward improving your cat’s behavior, you might get to the point where she will be comfortable with any treatment you have for her, making the experience a lot more fun for everyone involved. If the restraint is needed for an urgent matter, then the vet can help you understand how to best handle the pet.