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Is It OK to Pick My Cat Up by the Scruff?

- Provided by VetStreet.com
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Q. Does picking cats up by the scruff hurt them?

A. Lifting a cat or suspending its body weight by its scruff (the skin on the back of its neck) is unnecessary and potentially painful. And it’s certainly not the most respectful or appropriate way to pick up or handle your cat.

The best way to pick up your cat under normal circumstances is to spread your hand under his chest, and as you lift, slide your other hand and forearm under his hind end to support his weight. Then pull him against your chest for more support. Holding your cat this way makes him feel less vulnerable. Your grip should be loose, but with enough contact to feel any tension.

If your cat starts to squirm, put him down the opposite way you picked him up: Put his front paws on the ground and support his rear as he steps fluidly out of your arms. If your cat ever freaks in your arms, don’t fight to hold him: Just open your arms and let him blast off. (And then work with him slowly to build his trust and confidence, through an understanding of feline body language.)

Why Your Vet Might Scruff Your Cat

Veterinarians have traditionally been taught to hold a prone cat's scruff in order to control them for examinations and procedures. 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, and some behaviorists now say gripping the skin in “mother cat fashion” causes stress and can make the cat more fearful. That’s not what you want in the exam room. Cat-friendly practices are now using or experimenting with ways to allow a cat to relax in an exam room, such as having cubbies for hiding in, or breaking open a carrier to allow the cat to rest in the bottom half. And when it comes to handling a cat, vets don't scruff automatically, because some cats react better to a looser hold.

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Specialty Care

Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

As part of the VCA family, we have over 83 specialty hospitals across the US and Canada which provide referral specialty care, so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: behavior, cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, integrative medicine, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology, rehabilitation, reproduction, and surgery.

Find a VCA Specialty Care Animal Hospital near you:

 

See all VCA Animal Hospitals >

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Emergency Care

In case of emergency, please call us immediately at 781-641-3673.

If it is after hours, check with one of these 24-hour emergency clinics:

Massachusetts Veterinary Referral Hospital

20 Cabot Road
Woburn, MA
781-932-5802
 

Angell Animal Medical Center

350 South Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA
617-522-7282
 

VCA South Shore Animal Hospital

595 Columbian Street
Weymouth, MA
781-337-0069
 

Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center of New England

180 Bear Hill Road
Waltham, MA
781-684-8387
 

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