Is It OK To Pick My Adult Cat Up By The Scruff of The Neck?

1. Understanding the Scruff of the Neck

The scruff of a cat’s neck is the loose skin located between the shoulder blades. It is an area that is rich in nerve endings and is used by mother cats to carry their kittens when they are young. However, when it comes to picking up adult cats, it’s important to consider the following:

  • Physiological Differences: Adult cats have a more developed musculoskeletal system compared to kittens. Their bones, muscles, and ligaments are stronger and more capable of supporting their weight. However, the scruff of the neck is still a sensitive area, and handling an adult cat in this manner can cause discomfort or even injury.
  • Emotional Impact: Cats have evolved to associate the scruff of the neck with their mother’s care and protection. Picking up an adult cat by the scruff may trigger a stress response or even feelings of fear or vulnerability. It’s important to prioritize your cat’s emotional well-being and choose handling methods that promote trust and positive experiences.
  • Alternative Handling Techniques: There are other ways to safely handle and lift an adult cat that are less likely to cause discomfort or distress. These methods involve supporting the cat’s body and providing a sense of security during lifting.

2. Risks and Potential Harm

While picking up an adult cat by the scruff of the neck may have been appropriate when they were kittens, it can pose risks and potential harm when attempted with an adult cat. Here are some reasons why this handling technique should be avoided:

  • Injury to the Cat: The scruff of the neck is not designed to support the weight of an adult cat. Lifting them solely by this area can strain their muscles, ligaments, and delicate nerves, potentially leading to pain and injury.
  • Discomfort and Stress: Being lifted by the scruff of the neck can be uncomfortable and distressing for adult cats. It can trigger feelings of fear, anxiety, or a sense of helplessness, which can damage the trust and bond between you and your cat.
  • Negative Association: If your cat is repeatedly picked up by the scruff of the neck, they may develop a negative association with being handled or approached, making it more difficult to interact with them in a positive and stress-free manner.

To ensure the well-being of your cat and maintain a positive relationship, it’s important to explore alternative handling techniques that prioritize their comfort and emotional needs.

3. Alternative Handling Techniques

There are several alternative ways to pick up and handle an adult cat that are safer and more respectful of their physical and emotional well-being. These techniques involve providing proper support to their body and minimizing any potential discomfort or stress. Here are some alternative handling techniques:

  • Two-Hand Support: Place one hand under the cat’s chest, supporting the front legs, and use the other hand to support the hindquarters. Lift gently and securely, ensuring that the cat feels stable and secure throughout the process.
  • Scruff Support: If you need to restrain or hold your cat briefly, such as during grooming or veterinary procedures, you can use the scruff of the neck as a secondary support while also supporting their body weight with your other hand.
  • Carrier or Towel: If you need to transport your cat or move them without causing stress or discomfort, using a carrier or wrapping them in a towel can provide a sense of security and make the process easier for both you and your cat.

By using these alternative handling techniques, you can ensure that your cat feels safe, secure, and respected during any necessary lifting or handling situations.

4. Understanding Your Cat’s Body Language

Understanding your cat’s body language is crucial when it comes to determining their comfort level and readiness for handling. Cats communicate their emotions and boundaries through subtle cues, and being aware of these signs can help you gauge whether they are receptive to being picked up. Here are some important body language cues to observe:

  • Tail Position: A relaxed and upright tail indicates a more content and comfortable state, while a tucked or thrashing tail may signal fear, anxiety, or discomfort.
  • Ear Position: Forward-facing and relaxed ears indicate a calm and comfortable state, while flattened or pinned-back ears can indicate stress or unease.
  • Eye Contact: Soft, relaxed eyes suggest a more relaxed and comfortable state, while dilated pupils, wide-eyed stares, or averted gazes can indicate fear or stress.
  • Body Posture: A relaxed and loose body posture, with no signs of tension or stiffness, indicates a more comfortable and receptive state. Conversely, a hunched or tense posture may indicate discomfort or anxiety.

By paying attention to these cues, you can better understand your cat’s comfort level and determine whether they are open to being picked up or if they would prefer to be left alone.

5. Building Trust and Positive Experiences

Building trust and creating positive experiences around handling and interaction is key to maintaining a healthy and happy relationship with your cat. Here are some tips to help you build trust and create positive associations:

  • Positive Reinforcement: Use treats, praise, and gentle petting to reward your cat during and after handling sessions. This helps them associate being handled with positive experiences and rewards.
  • Gradual Desensitization: If your cat is uncomfortable with being handled, start with short and positive interactions, gradually increasing the duration and intensity of handling over time.
  • Respect Boundaries: Pay attention to your cat’s signals and respect their boundaries. If they show signs of discomfort or stress, give them space and allow them to initiate further interactions on their terms.
  • Provide Safe Spaces: Ensure that your cat has access to hiding spots, perches, and other safe spaces where they can retreat to when they need alone time or feel overwhelmed.

By prioritizing your cat’s comfort, respecting their boundaries, and creating positive associations, you can strengthen your bond and make handling experiences more enjoyable for both of you.


Picking up an adult cat by the scruff of the neck is not recommended. While it may have been appropriate when they were kittens, adult cats have a more developed musculoskeletal system and can experience discomfort or injury when lifted solely by the scruff. By understanding alternative handling techniques, observing your cat’s body language, and prioritizing their comfort and trust, you can ensure positive handling experiences and maintain a strong bond with your feline companion.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *