What Effect Does Grabbing a Cat by Its Scruff Have?

Picking a cat up by the scruff may lead to unnecessary discomfort.
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Even if you've seen images of countless wise mother cats picking their kittens up by the scruff, that doesn't mean that you can do the same thing with the same exact results. When it comes to holding a kitty via the nape, mama -- and only mama -- knows best.

About the Scruff Hold

According to the San Francisco SPCA, holding a cat by the scruff entails softly but firmly picking her up by the thin skin behind her neck. Mother cats typically use this technique to hold their wee kittens, but using their mouths instead of their paws, of course.

Discomfort and Pain

The ASPCA urges cat owners to never pick their little ones up by the scruff, whether the pet is a tiny kitten or a full-grown adult. The Humane Society of Greenwood notes that mother cats exclusively are capable of doing this in the correct manner. If you decide to emulate the mother cat method, you may end up just causing your pet unnecessary pain and discomfort. Not good at all. The main effects of grabbing a cat by the scruff are just those -- pain, discomfort and perhaps even some confusion.

If you try to pick your cat up by the scruff, you may notice her squirming frantically in an attempt to break loose -- yikes.

Appropriate Holding Style

Instead of the classic scruff hold, the ASPCA recommends another safer and more comfortable style for picking up cats. This style involves putting one hand securely below the hind legs and the other directly in back of the front ones. When you first pick a cat up, always do so slowly and calmly. Make sure never to be abrupt, as you could risk startling the poor kitty.


You may notice that veterinarians occasionally adopt the "scruff" technique for grabbing cats of all ages -- a throwback to their tender time as kittens. However, veterinarians are qualified professionals that undergo rigorous training in all matters regarding felines -- including safe and comfortable lifting methods. The bottom line is -- don't try grabbing your cat by the scruff at home!

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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