To Scruff or Not to Scruff - Groomer to Groomer
To Scruff or Not to Scruff

To Scruff or Not to Scruff

By Deborah Hansen

There is a lot to say on the topic of scruffing. As a house call groomer who caters to clients who love their cats more than life itself, if I scruffed in my daily work I would not have any clients. My clients made me find alternate ways to control cats.

That said, I absolutely do scruff when I am losing control of a cat, or if a cat needs to be groomed because leaving the coat in the state it is in will contribute to medical issues. Simply put, the only reason I avoid scuffing is that my business model calls for it. My clients seek a gentle, more holistic approach to cat grooming. I do encourage my clients to watch and take pictures of the groom. When you have a cat scruffed, the pictures are less than flattering.

Some groomers are concerned with possible medical risks that come with scruffing. While rare, Horner’s Syndrome has been attributed to scruffing. A cat with “normal” looking eyes at check-in will develop a drooping outer eyelid, and the third eyelid often becomes red and/or raised. The pupil constricts and the eye usually looks sunken. Horner’s Syndrome is caused by damage or inflammation to the nerve and usually will self-resolve in time.

If you choose to scruff a cat while grooming, always be careful to support the cat’s body weight on a table or another object like your lap or floor. Be aware, some cats seem to be immune to scruffing or have a large neck with no extra skin to scruff.


One alternative to scruffing that I like to use is a towel. Here are some different towel holds to help you with difficult cats:

Fig 1) The first hold I love is to roll the long edge of a towel and place that edge under the cat’s chin. In this hold, the cat will bite the rolled edge of the towel instead of the groomer.

Fig 2) Want a safe way to hold those kitties for a sani or back nail trim? Leave the towel wrap as in the first hold and open the bottom to get to the inside of the back legs. Only open one side at a time so you always have three legs secure in the towel. It will protect you from the kickers.

Fig 3) To get inside the front legs, the same approach is used. Just open one front leg at a time. Remember, by keeping the other three legs wrapped you are protected from the claws.

Fig 4) Flip the cat over and you can open the towel up and have access to the back.

Towels are a very useful safety tool when it comes to cat grooming. Whether scruffing is something you practice in your business or not, a towel can always be used to enhance your handling techniques. ✂

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