kittens (2)

Handling Kittens

A few weeks ago a friend saw me lift Naruto, one of our kittens, by the scruff (the skin on the back of his neck). Naruto is a little older than 5 months and weighs 3kg. She told me it was ok to handle cats that way when they’re young but it will hurt them if they were older. It does seem a bit harsh to lift an animal that way, but I used to do it for the late “boss” and he was a ~10kg adult. So I did some research and found a few interesting answers

From a Yahoo Answers post

It’s been shown that the reason they like having their scruff grabbed is because it causes a large release of endorphins to the system so that when mom picks them up they stay quiet and don’t complain. In the wild this is crucial if mom is say, trying to hide them from a predator and needs them to be quiet.

Picking up an adult cat like this still releases the endorphins but unfortunately it also strangles them since their body weight is now being supported only by their neck skin. You can however give the cat the same happy feelings by grabbing the scruff without lifting the cat. While holding your cat whenever he starts to get antsy try gently grabbing the scruff and lifting up on it very slightly as if you’re going to pick him up. This should give him those happy happy feelings and you a quieter cat.

I did not find the “research” that answer is based on. But different references from veterinary sites present a similar reasoning. Now that doesn’t sound that bad, as long as you’re holding the cat with the other hand as well. Instinctively, any warmhearted person would do that…

However, this article on says otherwise:

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…
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.

Right, so the “experts” disagree? shocking, right! In any case, picking up an adult cat by the scruff is not an easy task anyway, and it’s much better to put your hand below their body and lift when they are calm. It’s also best to lift and handle and even carry the kittens around early on so it would be easier to handle them when they are older. Our Nero and Naruto are used to being handled. I regularly clean their ears and open their mouths to check their teeth. Being used to that allowed me to save Nero’s life once, when he almost chocked on a hard piece of bread that lodged in the back of his mouth and he wasn’t able to remove it. He allowed me to open his mouth and pick it with my fingers.

Still not all cats are the same. I couldn’t lift Gigi by the scruff if I wanted to, but she will gladly allow me to lift her as long as she sees me doing it and is looking at me the whole time. Bagheera the heavy black kitten (almost 4kg at 5.5 months) is still being elusive when we try to pick him up. But Pia is getting better results this last week. She speaks to him softly and insists on putting him in her lap and petting him for at least 5 minutes before letting him go. He is enjoying it, but is not letting go of his fear yet.

We’re still struggling with the little Psyco. She’s from the same litter, but is still under 2kg. She’s a tortoiseshell and her build is small like her mother. But unlike her mother and brothers she won’t let us touch her, and screams when she feels we’re closing the doors to keep her inside. She’s less fearful with me the last week or so as I feed her separately from the rest of them. She even jumps away from the food bowl that I put for the rest of them as soon as she sees me and goes to where I’m used to feed her alone. Now who said cats are not smart?! I tried to hold her for a few seconds yesterday, and she let me do that. But she was so scared that she pooped on the spot. Today she came and nudged me slightly when I was feeding her brothers. I gave her a little food and she allowed me to pet her without running away. We’re getting there 🙂

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They Grow Up So Fast

Our kittens are almost 5 months and 1 week old today. I never thought they would still be with us after all this time. But they are and we’re truly enjoying every day with them. There’s always something new, a discovery, a new trait one of them develops, something they learn or we teach them. Of course there are also the nights when Naruto decides he wants to climb the mosquito screen door and howl at the moon waiting for one of us to “rescue” him at 4:30AM, while all he wants is to come in and snuggle between us. Here’s how they look today.

Today, Pia brought in Nero and Naruto with her. They are easy to handle as they will obey almost any command you give them. She noticed though they were getting heavy. Lifting Naruto with one hand was getting harder. She weighed him at 3KG last night, he’s probably heavier today!

She puts them both down and Nero was happy to snuggle next to her. It is nap time after all. But Naruto sees me sitting at my desk nearby and jumps up in my lap where he promptly turns on his back and goes to sleep. It takes him a few tosses and turns to find the right spot. Then he’s snoring happily in my lap. He is getting bigger.

They both stay put until Gigi (the mother) sounds the alarm outside. They rush to meet her, and both slide toward her to breastfeed as she licks them clean. Bagheera, their somewhat larger sibling tries to take a turn, and Nero yields his place. He’s full anyway. They had just eaten before Pia brought them in, but who could say no to fresh free milk and a tongue bath?!

That’s Gigi in the middle, between Naruto and the 2 Duponds (Nero and Bagheera). Those pics are from a couple of weeks ago!

Bagheera is already taller than his mother. But Gigi is larger at the shoulders and her neck is thicker. She’s my little pit-bull. Strictly speaking, pound-per-pound I’m sure she’s the toughest animal I’ve ever seen.

We have been taking photos of the little devils for since they were born. I’ll try to compile a few pics below (thanks Paypouy!)

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