Is it Okay to Scruff My Cat?

YESSSS… It’s perfectly fine to CONTROL your cat with your hand when you NEED to do something to him. Let me explain!

This might be the most controversial post I’ve ever written, but it’s something that both Whitney and I feel very passionately about. Let me begin by asking you a question. What do you do when you need to safely control a dog? Any guesses, it’s an easy one… You put a leash on it. The leash keeps the dog under your control and also keeps them safe (from moving traffic, other dogs, etc…). It also helps you control them in the veterinarian’s office and at the grooming salon. The vet and the groomer also use the leash to keep pups in one place while they are there. This ensures they don’t get cut by the scissors while they are trying to jump down (mostly), and keeps them still while administering vaccinations and drawing blood (very important not to move while a sharp needle is headed straight for the jugular). They use their hands and body to keep the dog still as well. Makes sense, right?

So how do you control a cat that is trying to escape, or attack during a procedure? You can’t put a leash on them for control (yes you can put one on them for fun- as a novelty… “Look at me, I’m walking my cat!” But let me see what happens when a fire truck goes by while you’re walking your cat on a leash. Just sayin’- it ain’t gonna end well. What you CAN do to safely control and calm a cat when needed is grab them firmly by the scruff of the neck with one hand, and use the other hand to hold their back legs. Usually this position is assumed while the cat is lying on its side to quickly and successfully complete whatever you need to do to them, but I’ve also had to scruff cats who were about to leap out of their owner’s hands in our parking lot (because they didn’t use a carrier). I’ve also scruffed kitties who were literally attached by their claws to their owner’s neck or chest, with the owner unable to free themselves (eye roll), in order to safely ‘extract’ them without causing major arterial damage. This isn’t information I’ve read on some pseudo Animal -expert website either, this is real- life, learning on the job, practical experience. Here’s why.

Working as a veterinary technician for a Cat-Only clinic, you can imagine I saw ALL KINDS of cats. Feral cats that had been trapped for spay and neutering, bottle babies that were so spoiled they wanted to claw your face off, sweet little shelter cats that just wanted to be loved- you get the picture- absolutely everything. We never turned anyone away- EVER. We did have to sedate some cats in order to examine them, but what people don’t understand about that, is that the technician still has to get them OUT of the carrier or trap somehow, and hold them still, so that the vet can administer drugs! That means no matter how insane the cat is (and don’t forget- they could be rabid- and one was once- that’s for later), it is the technician’s job to hold it still so that everyone can safely accomplish their job. How do you quickly control a cat to ensure your mission is a success? You firmly hold it by the scruff of its neck. Plain and simple.

If it’s that easy and safe then why do people claim you shouldn’t do it? Good question. Because people are crazy. Just kidding, there are a few legit reasons why this method may have fallen out of favor with some people, but what it has been replaced with isn’t better, so hear me out. Not every cat responds well to being scruffed. Maybe 1/10 or even less.. 1/20 cats doesn’t like being held that way, and actually becomes worse. No big deal to us- if we try it and the cat doesn’t like it then we grab a muzzle and a towel and try to hold them down without touching their neck. Simple. It’s no reason to not use the method on the other 19 cats though. Regardless of what I think… in some clinics or grooming salons, all cats that act up (even slightly) get sedated. The new way of thinking is that the cat is lashing out because it’s stressed out, so in order to reduce everyone’s stress level (mostly the owner’s if you ask me) the cat is anesthetized so that its completely unaware of what is happening to it.

I guess in a perfect world there’s nothing wrong with this. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and at the salon we see old cats who aren’t healthy enough for sedation. We see elderly clients who are on fixed incomes and can’t afford sedation. We see cats who are perfectly fine with being restrained by one hand while being shaved… so tell me, why would we do it any other way? Sure there are cats that are so aggressive or scared that we have to call in the big guns (The mobile vet) to sedate them, but even she would agree that there’s no reason to do that with the majority of cats.

Let me assure you, we do everything we can do to ensure the cat has a positive grooming experience. Instead of pulling (or dumping) them out of the carrier, we take the lid off so that we can gently pick them up out of it. We use Feliway phermone sprays on towels to calm them. We have barriers between cages so they can’t see other cats while waiting (key for cats), and we have a strict no-dog policy (even for friends)! All this being said… sometimes you need to quickly control a cat with your hand in order to do your job, and we think you should do the same at home when needed.

Last year, one of my cats needed daily bandage changes on one of his legs. I had to remove the old bandages, clean and soak his leg for 5-10 minutes, apply Manuka Honey to said leg, then re-apply the bandages. He absolutely hated it. He was on three or four different medications as well. The doctor said he could possibly lose his leg. Luckily I know how to control a squirmy cat. Just consider if I hadn’t been able to do it (like a lot of our readers and followers and clients). My cat could have lost his freaking leg because I couldn’t woman up and hold him still! Holding him by the scruff also ensured he got ALL of his antibiotics every day without fail and more importantly, without DRAMA. And to me, this is what occasionally holding your cat by its scruff really ensures… that there is no drama when you need to control your cat, whether this means you are trying to wrangle it into a carrier, or trying to medicate it for a groom. And isn’t that what we all want? Zero drama?

Soooooo, if you’ve been needing to tackle grooming at-home because there are no feline groomers in your area, OR you just wanted to trim your kitty’s nails regularly to save your furniture… it’s okay to hold them by the scruff of their neck while you do it. In fact, it will be even faster and easier if you enlist someone else to hold them, while you do the grooming or trimming if needed. Just promise us you won’t use a leash (unless it’s for a fun IG photo op), and for God’s sake don’t walk your cat near a fire station-Because I’m not going to help you remove the cat from your face if you do.


Shannon & Whitney


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