The Cat and the Binder Clip

A friend told me about a segment on the Martha Stewart Show where an expert demonstrated different ways to get your pets to take pills. The thing I couldn’t believe was the expert using a binder clip on the scruff of the cat’s neck to immobilize her.

It sounded harsh. It sounded painful.

So I looked up the Martha Stewart Show website and looked for information from that particular episode. The recap had several different methods listed — but not the binder clip.

The comments on the article (and on the episode) were a different story. More than one person was up in arms about how cruel the binder clip seemed. Very few comments stuck up for the process — but there was one comment from a veterinary student. The student said that it was indeed a valid method for calming and restraining cats, and did not hurt them.

Time for some research! Casually referred to as “clipnosis”, placing clips along the back of the neck is officially known as pinch-induced behavioral inhibition (PIBI). Researchers have tried a similar method of immobilization on lots of different animals, including rabbits, guinea pigs, and dogs. It seems to work reasonably well on many domestic animals — not just cats.

PIBI isn’t a universal method for calming and restraining animals. Not all animals are calmed by the application of clips along the scruff of the neck (also known as the dorsum). But much of the time, pinch-induced behavioral inhibition is successful.

Still… I don’t think it’s a trick I’ll be using any time soon. Research may indicate that it is safe and not painful for the pets, but I’d be squeamish because it LOOKS uncomfortable to me. Remember, animals are sensitive to human emotion. My agitation at the method probably wouldn’t help the cat (or any other animal) stay calm even if the “clipnosis” worked.

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