What Age Should You Stop Scruffing a Cat? [Answered]

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What Age Should You Stop Scruffing a Cat

Did you know that scruffing, the act of holding a cat by the loose skin on the back of its neck, has an expiration date? At what age should you stop scruffing a cat? you might wonder.

Surprisingly, what many deem as a harmless kitten-handling technique can become a source of distress for adult felines. Dive into this article to uncover the ideal age threshold and the reasons behind it, ensuring your feline friend’s utmost comfort and well-being.

When to Stop Scruffing

From the outset, it’s essential to understand that scruffing, while reminiscent of a mother cat’s method of handling her kittens, is not recommended by most veterinarians for adult cats.

The reasons are multifaceted, ranging from physical to emotional well-being.

1. The Age Threshold

By the time your kitten reaches 8 months, scruffing should be completely avoided. Their transition into adulthood brings about significant physical changes. Their weight increases and the elasticity of their skin reduces. These changes make scruffing not just uncomfortable, but potentially harmful.

2. Transition from Kitten to Adult

Mother cats, in their innate wisdom, adjust their behavior as kittens grow. They often completely cease the act of scruffing when their kittens are about 2 months old. This natural behavior change is a clear indication of the progression away from the practice.

Moreover, the reflex in kittens that causes them to go limp when scruffed, a sign of comfort, fades as they mature. By adulthood, this reflex disappears, turning scruffing from a source of solace to one of distress.

Risks and Consequences of Scruffing Beyond the Age Limit

Scruffing a cat beyond its kittenhood is like trying to fit into your favorite pair of jeans from 10 years ago. It might seem like a good idea, but the results can be, well, uncomfortable.

Let’s explore the not-so-fun side of scruffing and why it’s best left in the past as your cat grows up.

Physical and Emotional Impact

A. Potential Injuries

Scruffing an adult cat is a bit like trying to wrestle with a feather pillow that has claws. It’s not as easy as it looks, and it can lead to some serious consequences.

Here’s what can go wrong:

  • Discomfort: Imagine being lifted by the back of your shirt. Not pleasant, right? That’s how your cat feels.
  • Suffocation: In extreme cases, improper scruffing can restrict airflow. It’s a risk not worth taking.
  • Skin Damage: Adult cat skin isn’t as elastic as kitten skin. Scruff too hard, and you might cause damage. Your cat will not send you a thank-you card for this.

B. Stress and Anxiety

A scared cat hiding in a litter box

Cats are masters of hiding their feelings (aren’t we all?), but scruffing can cause emotional distress that’s hard to ignore. Here’s how:

  • Fear and Distrust: Your cat might start seeing your hand as a scruffing claw rather than a petting tool. Trust can be eroded, and rebuilding it is harder than assembling IKEA furniture without instructions.
  • Behavioral Changes: Ever seen a cat turn into a moody teenager? Continued scruffing might just do that. Look out for signs of aggression or withdrawal.

In the grand scheme of cat parenting, scruffing might seem like a minor detail. But just like overfeeding them with treats, it’s a small thing that can lead to big problems.

Signs Your Cat Dislikes Being Scruffed

Cats, with their enigmatic personalities, often communicate more through actions than vocalizations. While some might tolerate scruffing, many adult cats find it distressing. Recognizing their discomfort early can prevent potential physical and emotional harm.

Here’s how to discern if your feline friend is not a fan of the scruff:

1. Physical Reactions

  • Hissing and Growling: These are immediate vocal indicators of discomfort or fear. If your cat hisses or growls when you attempt to scruff them, it’s a clear sign they’re not enjoying the experience.
  • Trying to Escape: A cat that wriggles, squirms, or tries to bolt away is signaling their distress. Their body language is shouting, “Not a fan of this!”
  • Swatting or Biting: Some cats might resort to using their claws or teeth to communicate their displeasure. It’s their way of saying, “Enough is enough!”

2. Behavioral Changes Post-Scruffing

  • Hiding: If your usually sociable cat suddenly turns into a hide-and-seek champion after being scruffed, it’s a sign they’re trying to avoid a repeat of the experience.
  • Avoiding Interaction: A cat that shies away from touch, especially around the neck area, or becomes wary of human hands, is likely associating them with the discomfort of scruffing.
  • Over-grooming: Excessive licking, especially around the scruffed area, can indicate stress or an attempt to soothe themselves.

Alternative Handling Techniques

The world of cat handling is vast and filled with techniques that won’t leave you or your feline friend in a twist. Let’s explore some cat-friendly alternatives that even the most finicky feline will approve of.

Proper Lifting and Carrying

A. Supporting the Body

Cat looking at his owner

Picking up a cat isn’t like grabbing a bag of groceries. It requires finesse, grace, and a touch of cat whispering. Here’s how to do it right:

  • Under the Front Legs: Gently place one hand under the cat’s front legs, close to the chest.
  • Support the Hindquarters: On the other hand, support the cat’s hindquarters. Think of it as a cat-carrying hug.
  • Hold Close: Keep the cat close to your body to make them feel secure. No wild swinging, please!

B. Special Situations

Cats, like people, have their quirks. Whether it’s medication time or dealing with an aggressive cat, here’s how to handle those special situations:

  • Administering Medication: Try using a towel or blanket to wrap the cat, leaving only the head exposed. It’s like a cat burrito, but less tasty.
  • Handling Aggressive Cats: Use thick gloves or a towel to protect yourself. Approach slowly and speak softly. Remember, even the grumpiest cat can’t resist a gentle touch.


Alright, fellow feline aficionados, we’ve dished out the details on scruffing. Now, it’s your turn. Do you have a story or insight about your cat and scuffing? We’re all ears (and whiskers). Drop your tales and thoughts in the comments below.

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