What To Do If Your Cat Scratches You? 7 Tips to Stop the Behavior

by Jayley
what to do if your cat scratches you

As a cat owner, I’ve dealt with countless cat scratches in the past. From rough play to fright, cats can scratch their owners. Cats also have the innate urge to scratch as a way of trimming their nails. However, it can start to be annoying if your kitty uses your skin as a scratching pad. What to do if your cat scratches you? In this post, I’ll share my seven proven tips on how to discourage your pet’s behavior.

Why does my cat scratch me?

what to do if your cat scratches you

A variety of reasons can trigger cat scratching. Rough play is the most common where your kitty becomes too excited that it extends its claws on your skin. This is most common among playful kittens and somehow a phase that every cat owner has to go through. As your cat grows older, their playful scratching should subside. If not, that’s where the problem occurs.

However, if the scratching is accompanied by other signs of aggression like raised hair, baring of teeth, and so on, your kitty might have hyperesthesia. Cats with hyperesthesia may exhibit sudden aggressive bursts when petted.

Such a reaction is due to extreme skin sensitivity. Cats with hyperesthesia will perceive gentle petting as a very painful experience. Vets and experts are baffled as to why cats experience this condition. Nevertheless, consulting with your cat’s vet will help figure out what can be done for your pet.

On a less serious note, cats will scratch strangers and even their owners on a fit of panic and fright. It’s also possible that your cat redirected its aggression toward you upon encountering another animal or stressor nearby.

What to do if your cat scratches you?

If your scratches you, the following are some of the effective ways to discourage the behavior:

✔️Treat the scratches

Before anything else, you must wash the scratch right away. Take note that there’s the so-called Cat Scratch Disease wherein a person experiences fever, headache, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes. Half of cats carry the Bartonella henselae, the bacterium responsible for the condition, but there seems to be no effect to them.

Wash the cat scratches and observe yourself in the coming days for potential symptoms.

✔️Learn to say “no!”

One way to discourage your cat from deliberately scratching you is by saying a firm “No!”. Although cats aren’t as smart as dogs, they can still remember some words.

Using the word “no’ repeatedly when the cat does something you dislike (biting, scratching, etc.) will train your cat to stop. They will associate the word “no” to a corrective command.

Saying a loud and firm “no” will startle your cat and distract them away from their scratching habits.

Avoid pulling your hands in haste, or your cat will think that you’re up for some rough playtime. Just say “no” and remove your hands slowly from your cat’s clutches.

✔️Clip its claws

One of the reasons why your cats give deep scratches is its sharp claws. Make it a habit to trim your cat’s claws every 10 days to prevent their nails from growing too sharp and long. If your cat has a scratching post, trimming can be done less often.

Remember that declawing should never be an option. Declawing is very painful for cats, and it will ruin their paws and gait. Just trim the claws and discipline your cat to discourage the scratching behavior.

✔️Grab ’em by the scruff

You can let your cat know that you’re displeased by mimicking its mother’s habits. Mother cats will often grab their kittens by the scruff to place them on a different spot. The scruff is the back of a cat’s neck. This is a gesture that aims to stop a cat from specific behavior.

By holding your cat by the scruff, it can’t scratch or bite you any further. However, this method should be used sparingly, especially on grown and heavy cats.

✔️Don’t offer your hands

Sometimes, we inadvertently offer our skin to our cats, which will result in painful scratches. If your cat tries to bite or dig its claws in your skin, stop the interaction right away. This will let your cat know that such behavior is unacceptable.

The same goes for your clothes. If your kitty tries to pull your clothes with its claws, say “no!” and gently remove its paws away.

Consistency is the key here, just like in any cat behavior you want to change.

✔️Stop rough play

Scratching happens a lot during playtime. Cats can get overly excited, which will lead to rough play. If your pet starts to become hurtful, you should stop playtime and retrieve all their toys. It also works if you will welp suddenly before walking away. This will let the cat know that you are hurt.

Never punish your cat physically. Remember that animals don’t have the same logic as humans. Hurting your cat will only fuel the aggressive tendency.

✔️Consult the vet

If your cat becomes suddenly aggressive, it helps a lot to consult the vet. A medical condition can cause aggression, which is something a vet will help diagnose and treat. Make sure that your cat’s vaccinations are updated. The vet can also advise you about some training methods to stop the scratching.

In this video, Veterinary Behaviorist E’Lise Christensen teaches us more ways on how to deal with cat scratching and biting:

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Should I be worried about a cat scratch?

A: A scratch from a cat with proper vaccinations shouldn’t be a cause of concern. However, if the scratch doesn’t seem to heal, you should consult a doctor. You should also watch out for symptoms of Cat Scratch Disease like fever, fatigue, body pain, and so on.

Q: Do I need to take antibiotics for a cat scratch?

A: Most cat scratches don’t bring any serious disease. However, if you experience fever and other adverse symptoms a few days after being scratched, you may need to take prescribed antibiotics from your doctor. Never take any antibiotics unless a medical professional prescribed it to you.

Q: What does an infected cat scratch look like?

A: If you sustain Cat Scratch Disease (CSD), the wound will appear swollen, painful, and will even emit pus. This is accompanied by fever, headaches, and exhaustion. You must seek medical attention if you’re suffering any of these.

Q: How can I stop my cat from scratching furniture?

A: The only effective way to stop furniture scratching is by diverting the habit to a dedicated scratching post. If this doesn’t work, tape low-grit sandpaper on the surface your cat scratches. This will help trim their nails without damaging their paws.

Q: Is vaccination needed for cat scratch

A: If you have an updated tetanus shot, you should be fine. Aside from Cat Scratch Disease, another risk of cat scratches is tetanus. You should also disinfect the scratch regularly until it heals. Any signs of infection should prompt you to visit a doctor.


Knowing what to do if your cat scratches will stop you from panicking. Despite causing injuries, you should never punish your cat from scratching you. Training and discipline will go a long way on every cat. You can always call the vet for advice if your efforts don’t seem to prosper.

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