Why do cats scratch some owners more than others?

I’d like to focus on one aspect of cat caregiving and a vital one. There is no doubt that a small percentage of cat owners are scratched by their cat not infrequently while other cat owners are hardly ever scratched. We don’t have percentages as there is no data on this.

Stress and irritability can lead to more cat scratches
Stress and irritability can lead to more cat scratches. Image: MikeB
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

Socialised and healthy

My statement is made on the premise that the reference to cats is to those that are healthy and not in discomfort or pain. I’m referring to normal, well-adjusted cats who’ve been thoroughly socialised.

Ambience and routine

Domestic cats live in an environment that is entirely created by humans. Secondly, all domestic cats have the fundamental character (personality) of a wildcat. This character is shown often but they fit in with human life because they are socialised to humans. This means they are used to interacting with humans. They are not frightened of humans as is the case with unsocialized cats aka feral cats.

Cats like calm, routines and predictable scenarios in order for them to subdue their wild cat instincts.

Stressed and irritable caregiver

However, if the caregiver is stressed and as a consequence irritable and short-tempered, they will be predisposed to venting their irritability towards their cat or anyone else in the family. It just comes out from time to time.

The general atmosphere or ambience in the home might indicate stress. The mood is a little dark or even black.

When a scratch might happen

The cat responds instinctively in line with their wild cat character. They sense the mood. They become less relaxed and even a little anxious when interacting their owner.

Their owner wants to pet their cat and catches them off-guard or in a way which the cat finds unsatisfactory at that time. The cat strikes out. Grabs the owner’s hand in their forepaws and bites it.

The cat is just a bit twitchy which brings their wild cat defensiveness to the surface. Depending on the individual cat this defensive behavior is sometimes not far from the surface.

After the cat takes a swipe at their stressed owner or bites them, the owner becomes more stressed and irritated. They want to strike back. They might shout at their cat or throw something at them.

The cat’s anxiety is exacerbated. A downwards spiral takes hold and the cat becomes more difficult. The owner is scratched more than is the case in a home where the owner is calm and creates a calm ambience. The relationship between cat and person may be breaking down.

Routine, calmness, quiet, stability, no changes, no shouting, predictability and pleasant petting that the cat likes all combine to prevent cats scratching and biting their owner.


This is where children can go wrong if they are not trained to interact with cats or they are unsupervised. Cats can be nervous of the unpredictability of children’s movements and of the noises they make. This feline nervousness can translate to scratching the child in defense of a perceived threat which can lead to the relinquishment of the cat to a shelter and possible death (euthanasia).

Divorce and domestic violence

All the things that cats like in terms of environment and their owner’s behaviour can be thrown out of the window during domestic violence and divorce. Violence against cats and domestic violence go hand-in-hand as we all know. There may well be more scratched humans under these circumstances. And sometimes in retaliation cats are killed.

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports 71% of abused entering a safe shelter had a pet abused or killed

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