how to scruff a cat properly

How To Scruff A Cat Properly: Learn When and How

Scruffing a cat is the term used for picking a cat up by the scruff, the loose skin in the back of its neck. This is something that is done by mother cats when picking up and moving their kittens. If you pick a cat up by the scruff, you will largely immobilise him, and you will certainly prevent him from biting or scratching you, which may enable you to do things like give a cat medication. However, this is not something to do without practice and should not be done too often.

cat scruffing its kitten

The Process

  • Before you start, make sure that your hands and arms are clean and free from any overpowering scents.
  • Spend some time petting and calming your cat, make sure you are calm and stress-free too.
  • Put your cat on a supportive surface like a table or worktop.
  • Remove your cat’s collar if he has one, collars are not stretchy and you may unintentionally choke your cat if you scruff him with his collar still on.
  • Gently grasp the loose skin on the back of your cat’s neck in your whole hand. Do this as close to his ears as you can, his ears should go back if you have him in the right place.
  • Just doing this should immobilize your cat, but if you need to pick him up make sure you support his back end with your other arm.
  • Scruff your cat for only as long as is necessary to do what you need to do, then put him back down on a supportive surface before you let him go. Under no circumstances should you drop your cat from a scruff.
  • Spend some time petting and calming him before you move on.

Related Post: Best Cat Collar

Reasons For Scruffing

  • You may need to clip your cat’s nails.
  • If your cat has managed to mat any of his fur you can scruff him whilst combing out the matted area.
  • If you need to give your cat medication.

Related Post: Best Cat Nail Clippers

When Not to Scruff a Cat

  • Do not pick up a sleeping cat by the scruff. Imagine how you would feel being woken suddenly by being grabbed from behind.
  • Do not scruff a cat while he is eating.
  • Do not attempt to scruff a cat who is excited or stressed, it is better to leave whatever you want to do for a while until your cat is calm before trying to scruff him.
  • Do not attempt to scruff your cat if it obese or has arthritis.
  • Do not scruff your cat if he is old.

Scruffing is only really done by mothers to their young kittens, it is not done as cats grow older, so they will not be used to it.

Scruffing can hurt if you do not do it correctly, so be prepared to adjust your hold to pick up more scruff or to let your cat go if he appears uncomfortable or distressed.

man scruffing a cat

Alternatives to Scruffing

  • Keep the environment stress free and make sure that your cat is supported on a good flat surface (possibly with a mat or towel to grip on to.
  • Massaging your cat’s head can help to calm him, place your middle three fingers onto the top of his head, then place your thumb and little finger behind his ears and rub.
  • Many cats find being swaddled in a towel (sometimes with one paw free), to be preferable to any other kind of restraint. This also give you the option of slightly tightening the towel if you need to.

Always remember to calm and pet your cat once you have finished whatever needs to be done and released him from the restraint. NEVER use scruffing as a means of punishment for you cat.


  1. Brian Bourquin, DVM, How To Hold a Cat By the Scruff, WikiHow
  2. Denise LeBeau, Scruffing a Cat — Why You Shouldn’t Do It and How to Restrain a Cat the Right Way, Catster

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