The tips below are based on the premise that the cat is fully socialised. Unsocialised cats behave like wild cats and wild cats are inherently more anxious around other animals and people which leads to a higher likelihood of being scratched. The cat must be socialised first. These tips follow.
How can I avoid being scratched by my cat? This is a typical question and a good question because being scratched is one reason why people declaw cats and don’t like cats. A cat’s claws are probably the most important piece of a cat’s anatomy for people – in a negative way. They are important for cats too but in a very positive way. People are unsure about claws. Some people are frightened of a cat’s claws. There is no need to be. I like cat’s claws. I have been scratched a few times in 30 years and each time it was my fault and not a problem. I am sure the same applies to PoCers — regular contributors to this website.
The answer to the question in the title depends on a knowledge of cat behavior, cat body language, common sense and the ability to observe your cat. That sounds a bit complicated but it is not. Avoiding being cat scratched is mainly about common sense. It depends completely on us.
Playing with a cat and picking up a cat are probably the two danger times when a cat scratch can happen. Play should be enjoyed but limited in vigor and duration while a cat should not be picked up if in pain or agitated for whatever reason. Some cats don’t like being picked up. The cat’s owner should be aware of this and respect it.
A classic problem with play is that a cat plays as if with another cat. Cats have fur to protect them. Sometimes they will hold another cat (or your hand) and pummel with hind legs.
Your cat is your friend or should be a friend. This is perhaps the first barrier. Some cats are in the wrong household. They are anxious and frankly not that friendly with their human “owner”. This is because the owner has failed to create the right environment for a cat. Under these circumstances, this article is meaningless. Some people should not keep a cat. Also some cats are poorly socialised. These cats should be domesticated first.
Cats who are friendly with each other in a household don’t scratch each other. You have to learn to relate to your cat in a way that pleases him or her. That means on his terms, which means understanding cat behavior at a basic level.
First off, do everything that you do with a cat gently and with respect for the cat. Watch your cat. If you want to pick her up, ask yourself if she looks calm and amenable to being picked up. Has something happened to make her agitated?
If everything looks alright and you have picked her up before and she has accepted it, then you can pick her up again.
However, if she has just had a bit of an argument with another cat or you think she might be in pain, leave her alone. Wait. Find an alternative way to deal with her. We don’t have to pick up cats. As for strange cats and stray cats caution is the byword. Respect the cat and don’t impose your desire (to interact etc) on the cat until there is mutual trust.
When we do pick up a cat, we should remember we are picking up a cat not a baby. Leave the cat upright. Don’t handle your cat like you handle your baby. Support your cat when you pick her up and put her down gently. Gentleness, observation as to your cat’s mood and respect for the fact that your cat is a whisker away from the wildcat is the preferred way to proceed.
Parents should be knowledgeable enough to train their children to handle cats in a way that never results in the child being scratched.
If you are “in tune” with your cat you’ll be able to recognise when she is calm or wound up. Interact with her when she is calm.
You should have some “cat routines”. These are interactions with your cat that happen over and over again. The outcome is predictable. Cats like predictability. They want to know what is going to happen next. A cat feels secure and calm under these conditions. A cat won’t normally scratch under these conditions.
Stroking your cat should be done with a certain amount of gentleness. Over stroking can energise a cat’s play response, which can lead to a play bite or inadvertent scratch.
A belly up cat is not asking to have her belly stroked. If you do stroke her belly do it sensitivity initially and test what you can do without stimulating a response that might lead to a play scratch.
Playing with your cat can easily result in a scratch. You either accept it of play less vigorously. Play can turn into something that people don’t like. Cats are strong. They can hurt. This is why we see lots of scratches to hands and lower arms. These are nearly always play scratches. They can be avoided. Playing too aggressively with your cat will train him to believe he can shred your hands.
Waving your hand in front of a cat who is ‘fired up’ or less than ideally socialised may result in a bite or scratch on the hand.
Be aware of your cat’s mood. If a cat has been aggressive to another cat, just leave him alone for a bit until he calms down. Then you can pick him up or stroke him. If you do it too early your cat will still be in aggressive mode and he may hurt you.
There are other examples. The points covered are probably the main ones.
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