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"Must you Scruff?" campaign

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Increasingly, MDC are being made aware that scruffing and restraint techniques and equipment may be used 'as standard’ to reduce the likelihood of injury to the operator during the handling of pet cats. MDC  believe the use of such techniques may compromise the welfare of cats unnecessarily.

In reality, gentle handling is more likely to result in greater safety for both handler and patient. 
In collaboration with leading feline vets and behaviourists, we have compiled this list of recommended handling techniques ...
  • Be aware that stress and or pain can cause fear aggression in cats
  • Allocate enough time to carry out the necessary observations or procedures so that you don't become rushed or flustered
  • Have all necessary equipment ready in advance of the cat arriving for treatment
  • Use top opening carriers and allow the cat to come out of its own accord
  • Provide the cat with its own blanket or towel and only remove/wash this if necessary. Use this same blanket whenever the cat is moved. This blanket will contain the cat's own scent profile and may help the cat to feel more secure in an otherwise strange environment
  • Be aware that the cat is in an unfamiliar environment (clinic, hospital, cattery) and be consistently calm and gentle 
  • Talk frequently to the cat but in a quiet tone. Use its name
  • Reach slightly towards the cat to allow it to sniff you and be guided by its reactions and act accordingly
  • Allow the cat to come to you rather than the other way around
  • Give the cat the impression it has some control of the situation or its environment. A height option on the exam table may be useful
  • Prioritise the examination/treatment leaving the worst (e.g. temperature taking) to last
  • Work around the cat allowing it to position itself
  • Stroke the facial pheromone sites (cheeks, chin, forehead and mouth) to distract the cat. In some instances, food may be used as a diversion
  • Avoid staring at the cat. If eye contact is necessary, blink slowly
  • Where applicable, give treats to the cat on completion of the examination/treatment to help build a positive emotion for future visits
  • Gently hold or cradle the cat against your body
  • Control of the forelimbs is key. Place the forefinger between the front legs for a secure (but not tight) grip
  • Prior to canala placement or blood sampling, apply topical (local) anaesthetic on the site at least 30 minutes before. The area can be covered to prevent ingestion
  • For venepuncture, use good quality narrow (23 gauge) needles.  After blood sampling, remove the needle from the syringe before filling the tube to prevent haemolysis 
  • Gently scratch and/or make a gentle noise (soft whistle) to distract the cat as the needle or canula is placed
  • Use a fresh needle or canula for each entry
  • If greater restraint is required, use a towel, blanket or MDC Cat Wrap and 'swaddle' the cat to control the limbs
  • Sometimes, covering the cat's head can help to distract or calm by reducing visual stimuli 
  • If fear aggressive behaviour is developing, use sedation before it escalates
  • Use scissors or silent clippers
  • Unwrap syringes, drip bag etc. from noisy wrappers before the patient arrives
  • Break long procedures into shorter sessions
  • Synthetic pheromones (plug in or spray) may prove useful
  • Move the cat as infrequently as possible and allow it to remain in its preferred accommodation (hospitalisation pen, cattery pod or other) for the duration of its stay. Feline Forts may prove useful
  • Consider warming injections or fluids if appropriate
  • Keep the number of carers to a minimum to help the cat build familiarity 

General handling techniques: 

Gentle restraint techniques: 

Top tips: 

Want to help spread the "Must you Scruff?" message ?

Please email and request some logo'd sticky notes (post-its) and/or information leaflets. Posters may be available depending on demand. These items are designed for those  working in veterinary, rescue, catteries, groomers etc. as a means to introduce healthy discussion on the topic or as a gentle nudge (when discreetly placed) to colleagues who may benefit from reading the information within.
 These materials are not intended for general public viewing.

Academic references pertaining to statements on social  media graphics:

Greco DS. The effect of stress on the evaluation of feline patients. In: August JR, ed. Feline internal medicine. Philadelphia: WB Saunders, 1991: 13–17. Carlstead K, Brown JL, Strawn W. Behavioral and physiological correlates of stress in laboratory cats. Appl Anim Behav Sci 1993; 38: 143–58. Kaname H, Mori Y, Sumida Y, et al. Changes in the leukocyte dis- tribution and surface expression of adhesion molecules induced by hypothalamic stimulation in the cat. Brain Behav Immun 2002; 16: 351–67. Hoyumpa A, Rodan I, Brown M, et al. AAFP–AAHA Feline Life Stage Guidelines. J Feline Med Surg 2010; 12: 43–54.
Further information on humane cat handling and techniques can be found on the ISFM website.
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