“Cats have flexible spines and can pivot their back feet and scratch you.” From CatWatch newsletter.
Scruff across the shoulders, instead of the neck. The neck protects the esophagus and trachea, so I don’t mess with it.
Support the cat, either by keeping the cat on the table, quickly wrapping the cat in a towel, or holding the cat tight up against my body. Nothing dangles. A cat is not an astronaut. They feel the weight of gravity just like we do, even if it doesn’t always look that way.