Scruffing a Turtle Neck
Kittens are scruffed by their mothers. It’s the process where the mother cat can pick up the kitten by the back of the neck to carry it. All cats do it from small domestic house cats to lions and tigers and bobcats and civets. Usually people can also carry a small cat this way or hold a large cat this way to immobilize them. But of course, with a large cat, you have to support the rest of their body as well to not hurt them while they are hanging in the air with gravity pulling on all their internal organs. This is quite handy when you need to do something like give them medicine or cut their claws or brush out knots in their fur, clean their ears, etc. etc. You get the picture. The scruffing works because the cat should have had this done to him/her when he/she was a kitten and mom needed to be dominant and hold order. It semi-immobilizes them for a bit and usually makes them a bit calmer which can be real useful if you have a cat that’s about to get into a fight.
Our problem with our cat, Godiva, is that she was an early abandoned and abused kitten and we got her from the rescue service that held adoptions at the neighborhood pet shop. So we can’t honestly say how much scruffing she ever had by her mother but at some point, she came to associate scuffing with bad things and probably things that hurt her so she learned a coping technique to avoid being scruffed.
If you have read anything on my cats and Godiva in particular, you might recall that she is very good at imitating other animals. She does a good squid imitation: where a squid releases ink to disappear from predators in a cloud of ink, Godiva releases fur in the hopes of disappearing in a cloud of fur. She also does a very good otter imitation where she lays on her back with her paws tucked up on her chest and stomach. She will hold a catnip banana on her chest and can lie for hours in this position. She also almost has an owl imitation down pat and can almost turn her head around 180 degrees. She’s working on that one as it isn’t perfected yet. And there are several others she does.
Godiva’s coping mechanism for “scruff avoidance” is to imitate a turtle. She doesn’t have a shell to withdraw her head but she tucks her head down and shortens her neck. It appears that she is pulling her head closer into her body. Suddenly there is a lot less fur and neck around to scruff. She’s gotten a turtle neck and should you be able to grab her anyway and try to scruff her, she’s very good at squirming and turning her head in her turtle neck position so that it breaks the scruff and she is again free. We have tried over the years to get her scruffed for the vet or for her nail trimming or for whatever and we haven’t ever succeeded in getting a good scruff on her that immobilizes her long enough to do anything. Turtle neck and twisting every time. We have no idea what happened to her as a kitten but even after 9 years of loving attention, she still turns turtle when we try a scruff. To trim her nails, I have to sneak up on her when she’s asleep. Usually I can get one paw trimmed before she’s awake and away.