‘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.
International Cat Care is against the use of scruffing as a method of restraint, because of the stress and distress it can cause to cats. Scruffing is commonly used where people are fearful that they may be bitten by a cat, and while it may reduce this risk, the act of scruffing and the imposed restraint on the cat can be highly intimidating, may cause fear and panic, and often provokes or escalates defensive aggression. It is therefore both counterproductive and compromises the welfare of the cat.
Gentle handling techniques are much less stressful and allow the cat to have some sense of control, which is important for the cat’s wellbeing. We provide educational resources such as videos (click here) and written guidelines (click here) to help veterinary staff and others caring for cats to use handling techniques that are better for the cat’s welfare, including ways to handle cats that are showing defensive aggression (eg, towel-wrapping and sedation where appropriate).
We encourage all veterinary clinics to pledge never to scruff cats. Click here to find out more and to pledge to go 'scruff-free'.
There may be very rare exceptions when scruffing is needed as a very last resort for temporary restraint, if there is imminent danger to the cat or to personnel, but scruffing should never be used as a routine means of restraint.