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Getting a grip: cats respond negatively to scruffing and clips
  1. Carly M Moody1,
  2. Georgia J Mason2,
  3. Cate E Dewey1 and
  4. Lee Niel1
  1. 1Department of Population Medicine, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2Department of Animal Biosciences, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Lee Niel, Population Medicine, University of Guelph, Guelph ON N1G 2W1, Canada; niell{at}


Use of scruffing and scruffing tools (eg, clipnosis clips) to immobilise cats is contentious, and cat handling guidelines vary in recommendations regarding these techniques. The current study examined whether cats show negative responses to the following restraint methods: (1) scruff (n=17), (2) clip application to the dorsal neck skin (n=16) and (3) full body (a known negative; n=19). Each cat was also handled with passive restraint (control) for comparison. During handling, cats were examined for behavioural (side/back ear positions, vocalisations, lip licking) and physiological (pupil dilation ratio, respiratory rate) responses. Full-body restrained cats showed more negative responses than passively restrained cats (respiratory rate: p=0.006, F3,37=4.31, p=0.01; ear p=0.002, F3,49=6.70, p=0.0007; pupil: p=0.007, F3,95=14.24, p=0.004; vocalisations: p=0.009, F3,49=4.85, p=0.005) and scruff-restrained cats (pupil: p=0.009; vocalisations: p=0.04). Clip restraint resulted in more negative responses than passive (pupil: p=0.01; vocalisations: p=0.007, ear p=0.02) and scruff restraint (pupil p=0.01; vocalisations: p=0.02). No differences were detected between full-body restraint, known to be aversive, and clip restraint. Full-body restraint and clip restraint resulted in the greatest number of negative responses, scruffing resulted in fewer negative responses and passive restraint showed the least number of responses. We therefore recommend against the use of full-body and clip restraint, and suggest that scruff restraint should be avoided when possible.

  • cat
  • restraint
  • stress
  • veterinary
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  • Funding This study was supported by the Ontario Veterinary College Pet Trust Fund, and a Discovery Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

  • Competing interests LN reports grants from Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and from Ontario Veterinary College Pet Trust Fund, during the conduct of the study.

  • Ethics approval All animal procedures were approved by the University of Guelph’s Animal Care Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement No data are available.

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