Is it ok to pick my adult cat up by the scruff of the neck?

“Hold it from scruff and it will learn a lesson!”. This is what was advised when I bought my furry fellow.

I was reluctant because it didn’t seem right to me. But people do it all the time. Vets do it to examine the cats. Upon doing some research on the internet, I finally got my answer that cleared my mind and I finally decided what to do.

So, If you are a new pet parent and want to know whether scruffing the cat is a humane way to treat your pet then read below. Here’s the highlight of what I found out:

Scruffing a cat, especially big cats, is not advisable. It doesn’t make the cat obedient but increases stress and anxiety in your cat. Consequently, the cat will retrieve due to the fear and the bond between you two will weaken. Mother cats do scruff kittens but at very early stages. Scruffing is also done in other scenarios also but this doesn’t work at home.

Want to know more? Let’s start with what exactly scruffing is.

What is scruffing?

Scruffing is the way to hold a cat from the loose skin on its back of the neck. There are various techniques for scruff. Some hold lightly and take less skin to scruff while others take a thick skin and hold tightly.

Scruffing technique is practiced since forever and it is believed that scruffing retrieve the cats fr doing something bad and unwanted. However, now it’s a controversial topic as scruffing is also seen as a disrespectful way to hold your cat.

Let’s see where the idea of scruffing came from and what are the natural circumstances under which cats scruff each other or other animals scruff cats.

When cats are scruffed?

Scruffing is a natural behavior that occurs in cats but under specific conditions such as:

Mother cats scruff kittens

Mother cats scruff the kittens that are just born. They do so to carry the baby rather than teach them discipline. Mother cats apply jus the right amount of pressure that doesn’t hurt the kitten. The teeth of cats have sensors that can sense the amount of pressure they’re applying. Also, the kitten flanks and has reflexes that allow it to remain flexible.

Mother cats don’t scruff their kittens forever. They do so for a few weeks and then the kitten walks independently.


Scruffing is common during mating. The male cats scruff the female to make them immobile. Otherwise, the female starts attacking the male. That is why scruffing is necessary during the mating process.

Predator attack

The predators attack cats from behind and scruff them so that they can’t move. Obviously, predators don’t scruff the cats gently and the cat feels a lot of pain in the process.

Cats also scruff their prey, like a mouse. But they scruff the mouse in a way that the muse remains scratch less.

Is it good to scruff your adult cat?

Scruffing isn’t a good way to handle your cat as a feline owner. Whether your cat is big or small, you never know when you’ll hurt your cat while scruffing. Scruffing increases stress in your cat and it will do no good to your cat.

When you’ll scruff the cat, you’ll notice that it becomes immobile. That doesn’t mean it’s relaxed and satisfied or it’s learning a lesson. The cat becomes immobile because of fear of what’s next. As a result, the cat would not bond with you the way you want.

The vets often scruff the cats to handle them while examining. Again, vets should also avoid scruffing as there are various other safe ways to deal with the sick cat.

Why scruffing is bad for your car?

When you hold your cat through the skin on the back of its neck, you’re hurting it. What is the consequence of this? Let’s see.

Escalates bad behavior

When you scruff the cat than for the time being it will not move anymore. That doesn’t mean it is disciplined. It feels fear and doesn’t move. After some time, the stress will induce aggressive behavior that will spoil your cat.

Handling your cat this way makes it feel insecure and it becomes defensive. This induces bad behavior in cats.

Increases stress and anxiety

Adults cats don’t have reflexes that allow them to be flexible enough to be scruffed. So when you scruff the cat, it makes efforts to carry its body along and that’s hard to do. This increases stress in your cat. In the long run, the cat might get sick or gets muscle spasms.

Decreases trust level

Your cat will get scared of you if you scruff it routinely. This isn’t good for your relationship with the cat. After a few days, your cat will run away from you and will avoid you. You didn’t adopt a cat to make it scared of you, remember?

So, scruffing isn’t good in any way. You have to choose some alternate and friendly ways to deal with your cat. It isn’t that hard to train your cat with love and affection.

Alternate safe ways to handle your cat

Let’s see what you can do except scruffing to deal with the aggressive behavior or tantrums of your cat.


Have you ever swaddled your cat with a soft towel? Swaddling is a great way to help your cat relax and be cozy. Swaddling helps reduce stress and bad behavior in cats. Also, your cat will feel more secure and comfortable around you.

Swaddling will make your bond stronger with your cat as he’ll love you for this.

Hold gently

Carry your cat by lifting it through he chest. Put the other hand on the back to help support his body. Allow it to move the paws so that it remains calm. If the cat isn’t feeling good while you hold it then gently put it down and try again after sometime.

Offer food

If your cat is running around and isn’t behaving then he might be hungry. Offer some nutritious cat food and allow him to eat it happily. Don’t overfeed your cat. If you’ve already fed h then offer some light snack.

Check the cat’s health

Bad behavior can be due to the bad health of your cat. So, instead of scruffing it to teach it a lesson, get it checked by a vet. Maybe your cat is feeling pain or having some other health issues.

Check the cat’s living conditions

Instead of scruffing the cat when he’s upset, check his living conditions. The cat might get frustrated due to the overflowing litter boxes or not having a proper place to live in. Provide a comfy place for your cat and make sure the litter box is clean.

Play with your cat

Try to give quality time to your pet. Maybe the cat is frustrated as he’s alone and wants your time. Bring some pet toys for your cat and engage them in healthy activities in a fun way. This way, you will be able to train your cat very well without inducing any fear and stress in him.

The Bottom line

Scruffing is the way to hold a cat from the loose skin on the back of its neck. Mother cats scruff the kittens in the initial days of their lives. But this is the way to carry their kittens, not to train them. So, if you’re thinking to train your cat by scruffing it then it’s not a good idea. Scruffing induces anger, fear, and stress in the cats. Your cat won’t be able to bond with you and be comfortable around you.

There are many other safe ways to train your cat and that also in a fun way. Read above to learn those ways and enjoy yourself with your feline fellow!


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