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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

'Clipnosis' can be a helpful technique to calm cats when administering subcutaneous fluids

Low-stress handling techniques are of great importance to me in my work. In fact, just a few weeks ago I felt it important to reiterate and clarify my policies on using them in an update to clients. Whether I'm administering medication to a cat, accompanying a canine charge on a walking adventure or something else, they should feel as comfortable as possible about what's going on. 

This isn't a philosophy that is limited to us professionals. Pet owners can easily employ these often simple techniques at home in their day-to-day interactions.

I share life with pets too, of course. In fact as many of you are aware, my brood in recent years have segued from old age, into hospice and for two of them, end-of-life. With the prospect of the more veterinary visits and daily medication being the norm at that point in life, low-stress handling becomes even more important. I assure you that in utilizing this kind of approach, it made navigating through it all much easier for human and pet alike.

The renal dysfunction that my cat, Silver has been living with for some years now has been advancing so changing up his supportive care regimen has become necessary. Subcutaneous fluids (sub-q fluids, as they are commonly referred to) were added as well as some oral medications to mitigate the effects of the chronic kidney disease. The former is simple to do and a novice, with some practice can get pretty comfortable doing them in no time.

Being pretty easygoing about getting his nails trimmed or getting medication in a suspension form, Silver can be good during fluids too. It's understandable, though that after a few weeks of our daily fluid routine, he had become less so and I decided to put an old trick to use in an effort to make things easier and safer for both of us.

An OXO Good Grips clip is a great choice as it offers optimal pressure 


Veterinary professionals often use an approach called scruffing to safely restrain felines on an exam table or the floor during procedures like blood draws and the like. Aside from keeping a cat in place, the gentle pressure applied by holding the scruff of the neck has the benefit of calming them. This is of course very different than the kind of scruffing (essentially picking up a cat by the scruff of the neck) that has been used punitively, which is harmful to cats and shouldn't be done.

A simple and safe technique that borrows from the calming benefits of scruffing, inducing what's called pinch-induced behavioral inhibition (PIBI) can make the process of administering fluids less daunting. PIBI – or clipnosis, as it's called, is easy to employ at home. 

A study conducted by The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine put clipnosis to the test and the results were favorable. Additionally, the research debunked the idea that PIBI is a fear– or pain response.  

Tony Buffington, professor of veterinary clinical sciences at Ohio State and senior author of the study, offered some insight. 

"Cats generally seemed more content, sometimes even purring, and less fearful during veterinary procedures when clips were used instead of restraint by some other means."

To do this at home, you'll need one or two clips (Silver and I love OXO Good Grips clips, they give just the right amount of pressure and don't slip or cut), and a chilled-out kitty: the PIBI response is elicited when a feline is in an already calm state. So, before settling down to do fluids and while your furry friend is feeling happy – catnip can enhance the experience – pull up (or tent) a scruff of skin directly behind the ears in the middle of the kitty's back and put the first clip in place. Some cats do better with a second clip, so if you find that's the case, just slip one on immediately behind the first. When you're finished with fluids, which should only take a few short minutes, simply remove the clips.  

In addition to using clipnosis and catnip to help your cat feel even more settled during fluids, you might consider playing soothing music, an audiobook or a podcast, and using Feliway to promote a more positive experience.

Click here to read more on the study, Pinch-induced behavioral inhibition (‘clipnosis’) in domestic cats.


Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

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