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Male Cat Carrying Kitten By Scruff (Is This Normal?)

If you have noticed that a male cat is carrying a kitten by its scruff you may be wondering if this is normal or if it is a cause for concern.

Why would a male cat carry a kitten by its scruff?

A male cat may be carrying a kitten by its scruff to move it away from its mother or if it is in its way causing it irritation. If it’s the former, away from its mother, it could be cause for concern. If it’s the latter, it could be just a one-off and a practical move.

So, now you know why. But, does this hurt the kitten? Do male cats get involved in raising kittens normally? Is it ok for humans to scruff a cat? Keep reading for these answers, and much more…

What is a cat’s scruff?

Male cat carrying kitten by scruff.

A kitten being carried by its scruff.

The cat’s scruff is the loose skin at the back of its neck. Kitten’s mothers often use it to carry their kittens. It is believed to immobilize the kitten momentarily allowing the mother to move it without resistance.

Some cat owners see this and believe they can do this with their kitten, or even worse a grown cat. Which is not ideal and will usually end with the cat in pain or retaliating out of defense.

Does being carried by the scruff hurt a kitten?

When a kitten is carried by its mother by the scruff it is not believed to be painful. Because it releases a natural reflex to relax their body and accept being carried. But, if a human does it to a cat or kitten it may cause pain.

As a cat matures this reaction disappears along with their reliance on their mother. So, when a cat owner tries to grab a cat by the scruff it is often met with a negative reaction.

If your mother tells you off as a kid the chances are you will just accept it, right? But, why? Well, it is expected and part of the process of learning, right?

But, if she tries this when you are 24 and in your own home, the reaction is likely to be quite different. You may argue back or resist the punishment being given.

This is no different from the way a kitten accepts being scruffed by her mother and not as an adult.

What if a male cat carrying the kitten away from its mother?

If the male cat is carrying the kitten by its scruff and moving it away from its mother then it is a potential problem. You need to closely monitor what the cat is doing with the kitten.

Also, even if it seems innocent, is the male cat returning the kitten to its mother? If not, you need to be concerned. Why? Well, the kitten needs to be groomed and fed by its mother.

Can male cats hurt kittens?

Male cats can hurt kittens. Sometimes it’s intentional, other times it could be by mistake. If a cat is playfighting and biting a kitten it could accidentally go too far and hurt it.

Regarding male cats intentionally hurting kittens, this could be out of jealousy or a tactic to get the mother back into her heat cycle. Meaning, that it may fatally hurt the kitten to get it out of its way.

Do male cats play a role in raising kittens?

Male cats do not play a role is raising kittens (would it bite it? click here). Their main role is with mating, and this is a problem if they can’t mate properly. So, they are not responsive to the kitten’s cries or meows like the mother is.

If you ever wondered why tomcats are not around when the female cat is raising the kittens (Could it hurt them? Click here) now you have a good idea. Cats are different from humans, the male has no emotional attachment to their young as human fathers do.

Is it okay to carry a cat by the scruff?

It is not okay to carry a cat by scruff. This is because it can be painful and not expected by them. This behavior is reserved for their mother. And, only as kittens, not as adults.

To carry a cat you should be lifting from underneath its chest and supporting its weight, not using its skin to take the weight.

Some cat owners are not aware of this and assume the scruff is acceptable. But, at least now you know.

At what age are kittens safe from male cats?

Kittens are usually safe to go outside and be safe from 6 months old. Also, most cat owners will neuter them beforehand, at approx 4 months. But, even at this age, a male cat can still be a threat if it has bad intentions.

The reality is that even as an adult a cat can be a victim of an aggressive male cat. You just need to monitor the situation to see how your cat is responding when they return home.

Do Father cats know their kittens?

Father cats do not know their kittens. The reason is the mother cat may have more than one male partner before having the kittens making it impossible for it to know.

This is more apparent or feral cats. However, it is still applicable to domesticated cats too. Think of it this way, if a lady is promiscuous and is out partying and having “fun” and becomes pregnant how can you tell who the father is?

The answer is you need a DNA test, right? As you can understand cats do not have this technology therefore they have no idea. And, to be brutally honest the male cat has no desire to even know. They are on to the next cat as nature intended it.

Is Scruffing a cat cruel?

Scruffing a cat as a human is commonly regarded as cruel for several reasons. Firstly, adult cats shouldn’t be scruffed at all, this is reserved for kittens. Also, humans do not know the correct way to scruff a kitten like a mother cat can.

Mother cats have an instinct to know exactly what pressure is required and how to avoid hurting their kittens. Humans are not born with this instinct.

Do mother cats scruff kittens for punishment?

Mother cats (queens) do not scruff their kittens for punishment. This is done as a practical way to carry their kittens. It is often assumed it is punishment but that is not the case.

If you think about it logically what other way could a cat carry its kitten? None that I can think of, they do not stand upright or have the command of hands like us humans.

So, their mouth is the next best thing. The reason why some may assume it’s punishment is that they may see a mother moving an unruly kitten (could it ever kill it? Click here). This is merely a coincidence because it needs to be moved and this is the quickest way for them to do it.

Do Male cats form a relationship with female cats?

Male cats do not form a relationship with female cats. They simply mate with them and move on with their day. They do not build an emotional bond as humans do.

It is quite difficult for some humans to understand the behavior of animals compared to us. For example, the term “you dogged me” is often used negatively, suggesting the male disrespected the female like a dog mating and leaving.

In an animal’s book, this behavior is normal. This is why humans are very different, in this manner.

Is it normal behavior for a male cat to care for a kitten?

Tabby cat licking a black kitten's head.

Tabby cat licking a black kitten’s head.

Yes, adult male cats sometimes go into ‘stepfather’ mode, taking charge of teaching a young kitten the ways of being a cat. Watch for grooming behaviors to know that this is what is happening. Quite often, the older cat will hold the squirming kitten down and begin licking them, much to the kitten’s chagrin.

Don’t worry if you see this – your cat isn’t hurting the kitten, despite how much it might cry and try to get away. This is all part of the bonding process and you’ll soon see the pair become inseparable, at least until the kitten gets a little older and more independent.

Why is my cat biting and dragging my kitten?

Most likely the adult cat is establishing dominance, though you will want to check the kitten to make sure that the bites are not breaking the skin. If they are not, this ‘manhandling’ may just be a dominant thing and something that cats normally do to show which cat is ‘boss’.

If the kitten isn’t being harmed, then this is okay, and this behavior shouldn’t last very long. If, however, you see any scratches or punctures from the bites then you will need to separate them and reintroduce them to each other slowly, with supervision each time that they are together.

Give the adult cat extra attention when the two are together, in the form of treats, petting, and play, and this will help your adult cat to adjust a little more quickly to the new fuzzy family member.

Will my cat kill my kitten by biting its neck?

This kind of thing is possible, although not very common. Watch the adult cat for signs of actual aggression, which include laying back their ears, screeching, or their tail wagging quickly and sharply back and forth.

If you see these, then separate the adult and the kitten immediately, but if you don’t then simply check the kitten in the areas that were bitten.

Likely you will see that the skin hasn’t been broken, as the adult is simply showing the young kitten how easily they could win in a fight so that the kitten accepts them as dominant.

If the adult is simply carrying around the kitten by the scruff of their neck, however, then you needn’t worry at all. Kittens have a loose tuft of skin there and this is how their mom or dad would normally pick up and move the kitten.

How do cats know how to carry kittens?

This is completely instinctual and doesn’t worry – it’s not painful for the kitten. Kittens are equipped with loose skin on their necks and when an older cat picks them up this way, the kitten will stay still and allow the adult to deposit them where they would like.

Well, most kittens will, as some object greatly to be moved around in this fashion. That said, it isn’t hurting them, it just looks a little weird.

Why do cats freeze when grabbed by the neck?

Kittens freeze when picked up by the scruffs of their neck and this is completely normal, although you shouldn’t pick them up this way. For kittens, it’s instinctual to relax their bodies when mom picks them up like this so that they don’t harm themselves wiggling around.

There is a bit of a ‘shock’ factor to it, though only when humans pick them up this way, and so you should avoid using the scruff of their necks to pick them up as you can certainly lift the cat safely in other ways.

For adult cats, biting at the neck is mating behavior, and can cause adults to freeze up, just like kittens, albeit for very different reasons.

Why do cats carry their kittens around?

Cats carry their kittens for several reasons. Sometimes they want to move them somewhere to show them something or perhaps to bat around a toy with them to sharpen their budding instincts. When kittens are very young, if mom is moving them about then you might be stressing her out inadvertently.

When the area around her nest is noisy or her kittens are being handled too much, then it’s not uncommon for mom to simply move them and hope that the kittens will stay hidden and left alone. If you see a mom relocating her kittens, it’s best to give them a little space.

If you want to watch over them, then simply build mom a nest and put it somewhere quiet.

The easiest way to do this is to cut out the bottom portion of a box, leaving the walls high enough to stop kittens from wandering, and then line the bottom with plastic and top it off with old newspaper pages for easy cleaning.

Lindsey Browlingdon