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How to Restrain a Cat for Grooming

| Updated September 26, 2017

A towel, restraint bag or friend can be a great help when it's time to groom your fidgety cat. The towel wrapping technique, for example, can be useful for handling cats who are struggling or otherwise aggressive, nervous or on edge.

Wrap Her in a Towel

If your cat struggles or perhaps even scratches or bites when you try to hold her still for grooming, wrap her in a towel. A towel can protect you from her sharp claws, soothe her and stop her from breaking free. Toweling can be helpful for brushing fur and clipping nails.

Stay calm when you wrap your cat in the towel. Otherwise, your frightened cat might eliminate or scream. If you want to make the toweling process easier, place the towel over a flat surface and put your cat on top. Put some food directly on the towel. Some cats are more excited by toys than food. If that's the case with your cat, hang her favorite toy over her while she's on the towel. This will help give her positive feelings about the towel and therefore make the process easier.

Use a Restraint Bag

A restraint bag can be effective for safely confining your feline, particularly if you're aiming to groom her head. These snug-fitting nylon or canvas bags are equipped with zippers and hooks enabling easy access to certain parts of your cat's body. Although restraint bags can be handy for handling unmanageable cats, some are reluctant to go inside. Use caution so you don't injure you or your cat.

Find a Helper

Recruiting a helper can be a great way to hold a struggling cat and minimize aggressive behavior or escape attempts. When you groom your cat, ask a family member or friend to gently hold her from the back of her neck. Your friend can use a single hand to softly apply pressure to the nape. This is effective due to an evolutionary adaption in felines. Mother cats depend on their mouths to take their kittens from one place to another. They hold them by the napes of their necks. Kittens react to this by temporarily acting paralyzed and staying still until they're back on the ground. If you put pressure on the same part of the neck without picking up the cat, she may comply in a similar motionless reaction. Use caution so you don't injure your cat. If she's angry or upset, let her calm down and try again at a later time.

Maintain a Cool Demeanor

When you're trying to restrain a reluctant or apprehensive cat, your demeanor is important. Project a self-assured attitude. Be cool and composed. Talk to her in a relaxing and soft voice. Pet the top of her head or massage her ears. Put a single hand on her chest to stop her from escaping. You can use your free hand to groom her. If you soothe your cat successfully, you might not have to use a towel or bag to restrain her.


  • Acquaint your cat to handling and restraint by practicing when you first get her. This can work well especially if she's still a young kitten.

    • Hold her for brief spans of time. 
    • Gradually increase the length of time. 
    • Do so until holding her for about five minutes is no longer a struggle. 
    • This will teach your cat that holding her is in no way a threat and will enable you to easily handle and groom her in the future.