The Scruff Substitute

2 | Posted:

Dr. Sally J. Foote, DVM, LSHC-Silver

This type of restraint is called the “cowl technique.”  A pillowcase, flannel baby blanket, or thin hand towel is rolled into a tube and wrapped quickly around the neck like a doughnut to hold the head.  The point of restraint is like scruffing but does not create the association of pain with hands or handling.  This is a great way to transition away from scruffing and clients love this for home care.


1. Set your cat up eating a reward on a soft surface.

A cotton kitchen towel, that has been sprayed with Feliway works well.2. Fold the towel along the length in equal quarters.  

3. Hold the ends together to the side of your cat.

4. In one smooth move, hold your hands at the cat’s eye level

and bring one hand across the head to the other side, keeping your hands up.

5. Holding your hands up, bring the towel under the chin and around the neck

keeping the edges behind the base of the ear.

  (Close up of correct position.)

6. Twist the ends to hold the towel together comfortably around the neck.

A chip clip can be placed on the towel to hold it if you need both hands free.

Important: DO NOT CLIP THE CAT!!!


7. Hold the twist, as you would the scruff, with your arm alongside the cat’s body to prevent rolling.

Cats will often eat a tasty reward in this position, thus liking the cowl for treatment.


8. When you have finished, allow the cat to rest a minute with rewards.

Doing this will leave the lasting memory of low stress.

You can view a video of using a cowl as a scruff substitute on the drsallyjfoote YouTube channel.  

Learn more about Low Stress® feline handling by watching our Low Stress Handling® University webinars.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

2 responses to “The Scruff Substitute

  1. Would you mind explaining under what circumstances one would use this technique? I can see that it would be low stress in comparison to picking up the cat by her scuff but the only time I ever had to do that was when my cat walked out of the window on the ledge and couldn’t get back. The only way I could reach her and get her was to reach out and pick her by the scuff but obviously this technique wouldn’t be an option under that scenario.
    Thank you in advance for your time if you reply

  2. This technique is geared toward veterinary professionals. We often have to handle cats that will not allow us to pick them up, or hold around their shoulders for restraint. This is lower stress in one way because there’s one degree of separation between the hands of stranger and their neck. Hope this was helpful!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *