Breaking the myths about scruffing your cat
I’m not a big advocate on scruffing cats and during my work days I often hear clients tell me that, as a way to get their cats to obey them when they have been ‘naughty’, they scruff them ‘”because that’s what their mummies would have done when they were kittens”
These are some of the facts below to highlight why scruffing is never a good idea in most circumstances.
- Many cats react adversely to scuffing resulting in aggressive behaviour
A kittens relationship with its mother is based on a different set of principles. A mother cat knows the precise pressure to place on the skin at the back of the neck. She scruffs her kittens mainly to carry them. For an adult cat the action of a human scruffing it is frightening and puts the cat into an un-relaxed and guarded state.
Cats have pressure sensors on their teeth which explains why they have the ability to, as my cat did, carry a baby mouse in their mouths without so much as a scratch on the mouse and then the next minute ripping another unlucky soul to shreds.
Lifting a cat or suspending its body weight by its scruff (the skin on the back of its neck) is unnecessary and could be potentially painful. It’s certainly not the most respectful or appropriate way to pick up or handle your cat.
The theory was that since kittens go limp when their mothers carry them by the scruff, a tight grip on the loose skin over a cat’s shoulders would trigger the same response. But this “flexor reflex” occurs only in very young kittens. It is now thought that gripping the skin in “mother cat fashion” causes stress and can make a cat more fearful.
Scruffing should only ever be used in a situation whereby you need to restrain a cat quickly because of adverse circumstances. Apart from this scruffing should never be used as a training action or reprimand. Reprimanding a cat in this way, after it has performed an un-wanted behaviour (but natural behaviour to the cat), will result in a cat who is now pissed off and still having no idea why you have just scruffed it!
Treat your cat with respect and train it in a proper manner. Forceful actions such as scruffing should never be anyone’s choice of action.
I see many photo’s on the net of people holding their cats in mid-air, by the scruff of their necks, and seeing this as funny. It’s amazing how ignorant these people are. Laughing at their cats’ expression and body posturing when all I could see was a cat probably in pain.
A big thank you to the people below for their knowledge and expertise with cats.
Dr Marty Becker
Dr Sophia Yin
Karen L Overall
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