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Why you shouldn’t pick up your cat by the scruff of the neck

Why you shouldn’t pick up your cat by the scruff of the neck


Hi, my name is Dr. Uri Burstyn I’m a veterinarian in Vancouver BC and I’d like to welcome you to my series of practical skills for pet owners I’m here to talk today about why you should never pick up a cat by the scruff of the neck now when I did my how to pick up a cat video a lot of people asked that in the comments or mentioned that they Think it’s okay to pick up cats by the scruff And certainly I think we’ve all seen the videos out there of cats being grabbed by the back of the neck and lifted it up I’m sure everybody’s seen the cat clip video where you put a little clip on the back of the neck and it makes the cats sort of freeze and sit there and Yes, that is very cute and cats do kind of freeze a little bit when you grab them by the back of the neck But you should never ever pick up a cat. Let me tell you. Why first Of all what is the scruff of the neck they have this nice thick batch of skin here It’s very nice to massage and stroke in kittens Mother cats do carry their kittens by the scruff, which is this little fold right up here. You can see it on Lancelot And in kittens, it’s totally fine. You know they have they have a very small body weight so the ratio of body weight to the strength of their skin is really quite low and it’s very Comfortable for them to be picked up that way. However, once you get over about eight ten twelve weeks of age What happens is they grow And the volume of their body, their body mass grows much much faster than the surface area or the strength of their neck skin So once they’re past that eight to ten week age when a mother cat was naturally carry her kittens it no longer becomes appropriate to lift their whole body weight by this little patch of skin, but having said that you know, It is certainly nice to Pat them there most cats do really enjoy a little massage up here and Certainly when you’re relaxing home with your cat by all means play with a scruff. They love it. Look how relaxed Lancelot is This is totally fine, but I would never ever ever try to pick him up by the back of the neck It’s gonna hurt him. It’s not effective, it should really never be done. Despite the Despite the cute internet videos that you can get out of it And even when you have a little kitten honestly, you know You you have you have hands you have prehensile hands mother cats have teeth They need to pick them up by the scruff of the neck. You can just lift up a kitten There’s no need to scruff them now cats will freeze when they’re held onto there and there’s a number of reasons for that Part of it might be those kitten instincts that they retain Part of it might be that when cats mate. The male will often bite the back of the neck of the female and Her natural response particularly when she’s on heat is to freeze Although it seems that both male and female Cats do freeze a little bit when they have a little pinch on the back of the neck But I think the important thing to remember is that this is not really a weight-bearing structure as cats get older You know, they have a increased collagen production in their skin, it gets a lot thicker particularly male cats This skin is basically armored. It is incredibly thick You know when I’m doing surgery on Or repairing wounds up here there this even the scalpel blade will have trouble cutting through the skin It’s really armored because when cats fight or when their predator grabs them, this is really the best protection they have Is the thickness and toughness of the skin up here so this becomes very thick but it is not as elastic as it was when you had a kitten and Again, you know Lancelot here weighs seven point seven kilograms last time I checked and he’s not even that obese He’s just a really big cat And it’s just completely inappropriate to have all of that weight hanging down over this little flap of skin Now if you grab them aggressively there will he stay put? Sure, he will freeze for a moment most cats will but it’s probably because it’s very Uncomfortable for them and a little puzzling as to what is happening It is certainly the one time so the one exception to the rule of never pick up a cat by the scruff is in an emergency situation now when we’re working with a cat and if The cat’s welfare or the welfare of one of my staff is in danger So let’s say have a hyper aggressive animal or something falls or something untoward happens We will grab the scruff just for a second just to reposition our pet add Just into a place where we can control them more appropriately just you know Squish them hug them wrap them in a towel do something else So in the emergency situation sure you do what you have to do But you should never casually lift a cat by the back of the neck. It is really uncomfortable for them and Really not at all safe because it’d be honestly you’ve have an actual aggressive cat You grab by the back of the neck? You’re gonna get bitten, you know? It is not a magic handle. They will turn around and chomp you It is not an effective way of restraining an aggressive cat at all And what I always tell my staff and clinic is that look good cats don’t need to be scruffed bad dangerous cats It’s not gonna work. Anyways, it’s not an effective way of restraint. So why would you ever do it? So I hope that clears that up Please go home. Be nice to your cat Don’t pick them up by the scruff of the neck, but you can certainly give them a little massage there Thank you very much for watching. Please click like and subscribe Feel free to share this video with your friends and if you want to support our good work Please check out our web store. We have some adorable squish the cat merchandise there for you Please give it a look and once more thank you very much for watching my videos

100 thoughts on “Why you shouldn’t pick up your cat by the scruff of the neck

  • so this is the vancouver in bc.. intriguing lol. the guy looks familiar, i'm in kelowna. why do you look so familiar?! and yes.. this… moms do this to kittens but it's different. so many people think it's okay to do.

  • I had to hold a cat by the scruff in an emergency. Hattie had slipped and fallen behind a washing machine. I thought she would leap up on her own, so I waited, but the surface of the machine was too slippery for her to climb out on her own. I tried moving the machine, but the area the machine was in didn't allow for me to move it very far. She still couldn't get out. I reached behind the machine and managed to grab her sides, but I couldn't get a good grip on her because my arms weren't long enough, and she meowed like she didn't like me grabbing her like that. I had to scruff her as a last resort. I reached in, grabbed her scruff, and gently lifted her up from behind the washer. About ten minutes later, she came up to me and showered me with nuzzles, purring, and rubbing. I guess she was saying thank you. 🙂

  • I love cats! Thank you for these videos, you're the pet Bob Ross. Lancelot is so mellow, I love it, I wish you could have met my cat Deliah, she was so chill. Like both the vet and the pizza guys were almost alarmed by how relaxed and friendly she was. Also your assistant Jess is really cute.

  • I'm loving your videos! Would you be able to cover animal behaviour that indicates anxiety/upset but is frequently misinterpreted by pet owners?

  • How should I pick up an aggressive or an afraid cat? For example if I must carry them to a place or something. It's different instead calm cats :/

  • Hey Dr. Yuri! My partner and I are looking at getting a young cat very soon (roughly three months old), and I was hoping to harness train the kitten so that I might take him for visits to the park, or just out into the world in general. Now, I don't ever expect a cat to walk alongside me like a dog, or to respond to leash activity like a dog does. I expect a cat to wander as they like and to generally explore their environment on their own terms. I also don't intend to do this in big visits or to jump right in. I want to let the kitten first get used to his new home, and then just maybe put the harness on him while he explores the apartment for a few hours a day until a park visit seems doable.

    I want to make sure that this kitten gets lots of exercise, and lots of experience with other animals and people because I just think it's a good policy with any pet to keep them social. I also know that since my partner and I are in a studio apartment, taking the kitten out for trips would make living in a small place more acceptable for this kitten. I was wondering if maybe you could do a video with tips and advice for this sort of thing? I've been doing research, but not everyone agrees on everything it seems. D:

  • Oh hell..I didn't know..I used to do it now and again whilst messing with one of my cats..playing and rough tumbling..never aggressively or often…Sorry Tiger ..I didn't know. RIP little girl 😳😳

  • Attempting to pick up my British Shorthair look alike it The way to b shredded. She goes ballistic and use every sharp implement she has been endowed with as well as the ability to bring them to bear in ways that should not be possible for a creature with that body structure. Getting her to the Vet is “interesting”.

  • Can confirm: my young cat gets overstimulated very easily. Occasionally I'll be petting him on his scruff, and he has no problem reaching around to give me a chomp.

    Also Lancelot is entirely too handsome, and 7.7kg! What a unit!

  • we took my grandma's outdoor cat to the vet and the cat was totally calm but the vet grabbed her by the scruff to take her out of the carrier and it was totally unnecessary. i didn't like that vet at all.

  • I love how when you demonstrated grabbing the back of the neck aggressively Lancelot just looked up at you as if to say "What are you doing dude?"

  • I never really understood people casually picking their adult cats up by the scruff of the neck, it looks uncomfortable, all that body weight being help up by what is effectively just skin being pinched together, imagine how it'd feel to be held up by say the flesh under your upper arm.

  • Oh I’ve occasionally been picking up my 4 month old cat by the scruff when he’s being naughty. I feel so bad about it now. I’ll avoid that from now on. Thank you for this video I’ve learned a lot.

  • I always put my arm under my cat's arms and my other hand under the back paws to pick her up. When i put her down, i get her super close to the ground and let her gently put her foot down before letting go.

  • I'm taking care of five adult cats and four kits, I've always pick all of them up from their scruff, I thought that was right because mother cats do that when they are kittens, I thought their scruffs never changed from kit to adult.. now I tottally won't do or think the same again but… Can I do something to "heal" them in case they got injuried someway? like, I dunno, some massages or anything..? Do I have to take them to the vet? it's very expensive a single consultation in my country.
    And sorry if you already said something related in the video, my english isn't good and can't understand somethings.

  • I work at a vet clinic and all the assistants scruff every cat that comes in. Every cat. That’s how they trained us. It’s so interesting to learn a different way. I’ve been bit twice by cats and gone to the hospital for them so not sctuffing them makes me nervous. I’d like to know what to do for highly aggressive cats? I mean the ones who are basically feral and angry and then you have to poke them with needles or examine them and they need a muzzle. Is it okay to scruff those cats? I’m gonna send this video and the how to hold a cat video to some co workers. Thank you!

  • Wonderful videos, especially when you show us how to give a cat a pill. The best on the internet, thanks for the advise, I really needed it, and guess what, I tried it and it worked. Again thank you!

  • This was very helpful the very first time I brought my cat to a vet they scruffed her and it really hurt my feelings to see her like that. I felt like it was wrong because she is a very friendly cat and loves everyone but they told me it’s normal so I believed them at the moment. Well now I know ! Nobody can scruff my child

  • My cat is 20lbs (9.07 kilos) and I would never pick him up by his scruff. I'd be afraid to break his neck. When he's being aggressive, I usually just grab his head with the heel of my hand over his eyes and he freezes. No need to pick yhim up. I wouldn't pick up an angry cat that's that big anyway.

  • I totally agree with this. I'm not a professional but I think it's easy to tell when the cat is too heavy to be carried by the back of their neck alone. If I do hold them by the scruff I use my other hand to support their bottom.

  • So I have a 7 month old kitty (Jinx) and he’s great.. however he doesn’t seem to learn. If he does something he’s not supposed to do I’ll spray him with water and it doesn’t phase him. And then I’ll pick him up and move him but then 5 minutes later he’s back doing what he’s not supposed to be doing… I could spray him and spray him but he’ll just sit there looking at me. He’s probably thinking to himself “why is this woman spraying me repeatedly??” He jumps up on my kitchen counter, kitchen table, tv stand and so on. I’m worried he’s going to end up getting hurt because now he’s climbing up our Christmas tree and biting at it. I feel like it’s hopeless. Do you have any suggestions?? I should also add that I also have a second cat who is 1 (Jasper .) He is my first cat and he learns so fast and is such a good boy. However he’s overly scared… he has very high anxiety. He’s not so bad around me but he’s terrified of my husband. I tried talking to our vet for some advice but I guess there’s not much I can do. I’d have to say my cats are spoiled and treated very well. I have no idea what causes these issues.

  • thanks a lot for teaching me that because my brother trys too do that a lot and nw i am going to say no no no dont do that u will hurt her

  • Thanks for this. I dont really pick up by the scruff. But I didnt think it was a bad idea at all. Won't be doing it in the future now

  • Always, they'd tell me to grip 'em by the scruff of the neck. Puppies? The scruff. Bunnies? The scruff. Cats? The scruff. Never felt right to me, always felt so… well, uncomfortable, putting myself in the critter's… shoes? I have quite dexterous hands… big ones, at that. Very good at picking up critters in a much more gentle manner, yes yes.
    So relieved to see that the scruff-grabbing isn't endorsed by a proper vet!

  • I feel so guilty. I’m in a wheelchair and can’t pick my cat up. I had an emergency and needed to get her into her carrier very quickly and grabbing her on the scruff was the only way to catch her and put her in. I felt bad when I did it, lots of cries from both of us, but I never pick her up that way as normal. She jumps into my lap when she wants to and we save our cuddles for then, and for bed before going to sleep.

  • thank you for the information! I never liked people picking up my cat or any cat by the scruff, so when my vet's assistant did it i was very uncomfortable but I didn't say anything because I figured they knew more than me. Now I know never to go back to that place again!

  • On two occasions I picked up my cat Onyx this way and he's a massive cat about 11 kilos. Both times he slipped out the front door and I quickly grabbed him by the scruff as he was leaping off the first step. Both times he screamed at me for doing it. I wish I had seen these videos before I got him. I had never owned a cat before he ended up at my place. It was a bit of a learning curve for the both of us.

  • Is this ok for very small cats? I do this occasionally to my 8 year old tom cat (a true, unaltered tom. Which makes his small size even more odd). I suspect he was the runt of his litter as despite being provided as much good food as he wants, he never got much bigger than 6-7 pounds. (He's a tiny little guy). I figured that for obese cats or large breeds this would be risky, but sometimes you only have one hand free and need that cat to be somewhere. I'll refrain from doing it in the future if its harmful at any weight.

  • I'd be VERY interested in a "How to restrain an aggressive cat" video. No matter how small and cute the little guys are, when they're so angry they're on the verge of attacking you, having needles for teeth and razer blades for fingers is pretty intimidating. I've had some success with throwing a big blanket on top of them, scooping them up in it and putting them in a room alone to calm down.

  • Very interesting video. I was working in Vancouver as a petcare professional what ever the heck that means. Sadly I got very sick and developed an animal allergy at 23 somehow.

  • I actually went through the Physics of calculating the Pressure the cat feels when you grab them by the nape of the neck. For Lacelot, which you said was 7.7kg, and assuming that the area you grabbed was about 0.4in^2, Lancelot would feel about 188.65psi, assuming that you grab him to the point that his entire body is hanging from that one point. To compare, getting stepped on by an elephant exerts about 100psi. ssssoooooooo, don't grab your cat like that.

  • I saw my brother doing this and kindly asked him to please not pick up my cat like this and he essentially called me an idiot for not knowing anything about cats 😪

  • My boyfriend always tries to grab our cat by scruf to reprimand him and I hate when he does it. It breaks my heart every time when I see it 😢

  • I would understand doing this with a kitten, but why the hell would someone think it's alright to pick up a FULLY GROWN cat by the scruff of their neck?! That's just not right, even if the cat doesn't complain. And I'm not even a cat owner!

  • How do you pick up an aggressive, angry cat then?
    Normally I use one hand to scruff the cat, and use the other to support the opposite end (below the stomach as a support) to help handle the weight. But one of my cats is extremely aggressive and even this doesn't work on her.
    She's overdue to the vet because we simply can't get her into the cage to take her there.

  • What about the cat who hides in a totally (for humans) inaccessible spot when it's time for a claw trim? The cat will fit through the space, but not both hands, and there is virtually no manuervering room; scruffing them is the only way to get them out of that spot! (This is under the headboard of the bed, and the bed platform itself is too heavy to move away from the otherwise free-standing headboard unit.) The moment they hear clippers being used, that's where they go; they won't allow me to catch them anywhere else; that is their last resort hiding place… (and no, they've never been hurt by a too-close claw trim.)

  • thank you for posting this!! i’ve watched a lot of people in animal care pick up cats by the scruff, and it’s always made me deeply uncomfortable. most of them would say that mother cats would do it if i asked, which never sat right with me. i really hope i can become a vet like you someday, you’re such an inspiration. i have to cop one of those t-shirts haha.

  • Nobody better ever picked it my cats up by their neck like that I will knock them out my cat are the most specialist animals/my children. I'm also very picky to who pets my cats because I don't want nasty hands touching my cats. My house is very clean my cats are very clean and very healthy and I refuse to let just anybody pet my cat's I am their owner or better yet it's more like they are my owner and I only let people who that are clean I have sanitizer all around my house to keep my house clean even and when people come to my house and they want to pet my cat's I make them use a hand sanitizer rub it on their hands all the way up to their elbows practically and then I make them wait holding her hands in the air for 10 seconds letting the hand sanitizer evaporates on their hands so that my cats don't get it on them my cats and even in there systems and then they can pet just the back of my cat's.

  • Please make a video on how to handle aggressive cats ! My cat is aggressive and acts like she hates me . I saved her from a public park once I heard someone dropped her off at said park and she ran straight to me and I took her immediately , as a kitten probably just old enough to just not need their moms milk anymore . She is a year old now and I still treat her like a princess , but she always has a attitude and swats at us and when family comes over . Help !?

    Btw I LOVE you and your channel . My cat's name is Peaches , and she's a tuxedo cat who's very intelligent ! 🙂 I was jealous seeing your tuxedo cat so calm and able to love on it . HAHA <3 Keep doing videos , me and my mother has learned a lot !

  • We have a male Maine Coon that weighs in excess of 20 pounds and would never consider picking him up by the scruff of the neck. He is very loving and easy going at home but turns into "Catzilla" when he goes for a vet check. Because he is such a large cat they will not attempt to handle him at all unless he's anesthetized which can be very costly.
    Possibly because of his size and the long thick fur when he uses his litter box we usually have to grab him and clean his backside up or it will be all over the house. He's strictly an indoor cat so when we take him to the vet one of the tech's is a groomer and since they can't handle him without "sleepy time meds" we have his underside and backside shaved. He comes home looking like a lion. The fur is beautiful but it seems to "hold on to" whatever he tries to leave in the litter box.

  • i have to skip the first 8 seconds because dr uri is just being too nice and i feel guilty sitting here in my underwear at 4am eating strawberry icecream by the pint

  • You completely undersell how effective a scruff restraint really is, I work in vaccination campaigns going thru even a hundred of dogs and cats a day and i can tell you the scruff is extremely effetive especially when understress. It all comes down to technique and practice

  • Oh my god. I have been picking my cats up by their scruff for SEVEN YEARS because I thought it didn't hurt them!!! I just randomly googled it, not because I thought it was hurting them but I wondered if it was safe for them as they got older. Wish I had known this sooner! Thanks for the info

  • I sometimes use the scruff when my cat is doing something wrong. I grab the scruff and move it away, like a mother cat would do, with his paws still on the ground. My cat seems to understand better that way that other methods I tried. If I need to lift it from the ground to move it away, I put my other hand underneath it to relieve the weight from the scruff. But I won't just carry it by the scruff, generally I'll jut put it on my shoulder.

  • The reason why cat's freeze from this. Is because you are pinching the nerves in between the centre neck muscle and the side neck muscles. This can be done to a human. If you know what you are doing. It partially paralysis the legs of the human…….

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