I was told that picking up a kitten by the nape of its neck can be damaging to the kittens neck muscles and spine.
The kitten weighs about 4 pounds. My father sometimes picks the kitten up by the nape of its neck with one hand, otherwise completely unsupported, to move it from one location to the other. I told him this could be harmful and he believes otherwise. What is the correct answer to this?
on Dec 22nd 2011
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It is my understanding that yes, it can be harmful to transport a cat by the scruff once they are past the age that their mother would carry them in that manner. When kittens are very small, their instinct is to go limp when their mother transports them from place to place by the scruff. As they get older and heavier and their mother can no longer move them this way, their instinct is to resist. In addition to the risk of hurting them physically, there is the risk of hurting them emotionally. Lifting a kitten by the nape of the neck is also a way for the mother cat to discipline her kittens. Your kitten may feel as if he is being scolded when he is not.
I believe that many cats are most comfortable, physically and emotionally, when held securely and cradled with both hands or arms. Ask your father to try that. If the cat doesn't want to be held and needs to be moved from a particular place, ask him to try coaxing the kitten with a toy or a treat instead of handling him by the scruff.