what does it mean to scruff a cat

‘Scruffing’ of a cat is a term used to describe restraining a cat by firmly gripping the loose skin at the back of the cat’s neck – this is sometimes accompanied by lifting the cat up or heavily restraining the cat in other ways.

Why Cats Are Scruffed

Only two situations exist in which cats are grabbed by the scruff of their neck: when they are kittens and during mating. It is not helpful to replicate any of these scenarios in a house. Predators and fighters will also grab cats by the necks, but this is not the same as scruffing; this is a method used to render cats immobile.

As Kittens

Cats are most commonly scruffed by their mother as kittens. “When carried in this manner, kittens have an innate tendency to become limp,” says Dr. Miller. But during adolescence, this instinct disappears, and mother cats stop scruffing their kittens naturally when they are around two months old. “.

Why and When Are Cats Scruffed?

As Kittens: Kittens go limp due to a flexor reflex. The first few weeks of a kitten’s life are when this reflex manifests itself. Only in their first few weeks of life do mothers grab their kittens by their scruff in order to move them. Contrary to popular belief, they do not act in this way to punish them. It’s critical to keep in mind that humans are not cats. Because cats have pressure sensors on their teeth and a mother cat knows exactly how much pressure to apply to the skin at the back of the neck, they can carry a mouse in their mouths without getting scratched.

Attacked by a Predator: Cats are frequently seized by the scruff of their necks when they are seized by predators, such as a big bird of prey.

Mating: The male cat will mount the female from behind and use his teeth to grab her by the nape of her neck. This is thought to be a defensive maneuver by the male because female cats frequently attack males during mating, immobilize the female, and provide her the right orientation for mounting. Male cats’ genitals are covered in tiny, keratinized spines that are meant to induce female ovulation, which can be uncomfortable for the female cats. For this reason, female cats frequently attack the male cat during mating.

Only in certain situations—during their first few weeks of life, during mating, during fights, and when they are being attacked by a predator—will a cat grab them by the scruff of their neck. In a home, veterinary, or shelter setting, none of these scenarios are beneficial to imitate.


Is it OK to scruff a cat?

“People should never hold or restrain a cat by their scruff, as it could compromise their trust with the human handling them,” say Dr. Miller. Overtime, your cat may associate the pain they feel from scruffing with you—which may cause them to fear you.

Why does scruffing a cat paralyze them?

They can do that because kittens have a reflex in which their bodies go totally limp when picked up by the scruff—a reflex that is lost by adolescence. What is often seen as “relaxation” in a scruffed cat is actually behavioral shutdown. In adult cats, scruffing triggers fear and stress rather than relaxation.

What age should you stop scruffing a cat?

Once a kitten has reached about twelve weeks of age, they will be too heavy to lift by the scruff without causing them pain or discomfort, and lifting an adult cat by the scruff will be both painful for them and place too much pressure on their shoulder blades, and can even cause bruising beneath their fur, which will …

Why does my vet scruff my cat?

Why do vets & techs scruff cats? Scruffing is often used in the veterinary field when a tech or doctor is concerned that they may be bitten, scratched, or attacked by a cat and is often employed as a measure to prevent it, even if the cat shows no outward signs of aggression.