A cat scratch or bite can turn into a serious injury, so the best thing you can do as a responsible cat owner is prevent a scratch from happening! Cats aren’t known for being easy to train, but it isn’t impossible.
The first thing you should try to do is figure out why your cat is scratching people (or other cats). If she is doing it out of fear or pain, that’s a very different story! If she is being forced to do something she doesn’t want to do or something that hurts, you can expect a scratch — that’s normal cat behavior. However, if a scratch or bite isn’t motivated by fear or pain, you have a serious problem on your hands.
Sudden, unprovoked biting or scratching may be a sign of a neurological disease. However, problem biting or scratching is most often due to a misunderstanding or a bad habit.
Your cat may have learned that it was okay to bite or scratch in play when she was a kitten! If you don’t want your grown cat to scratch or bite in play, you can’t ever let your kitten scratch or bite in play. Boredom and/or an excess of energy may lead your cat to explode into a play-biting, play-scratching monster. Make sure she has appropriate toys and opportunities for active, interactive play. Just having the toys out isn’t enough — she needs someone to play with!
Knowing your cat’s body language can help save you from a bite or scratch as a result of a miscommunication. If you recognize your cat’s signals — vocal or body language — you can avoid a bite or scratch. Likewise, don’t try to intervene if your cat is giving a warning to another cat; it may earn you a misdirected bite or swipe.
General cat training tips:
- Start young. If you’ve got a kitten, train her right from the start that biting and scratching is not okay.
- What’s cute in a kitten won’t be cute in an adult. Don’t let her play bite or swat at you when she’s cute and tiny.
- Use those instincts to your advantage. Cats do want to bite and scratch and play. Give her something appropriate to play with — rather than your hand.
- Positive reinforcement. It’s far easier to reward good behavior than catch and punish every negative behavior.
- Be consistent. It isn’t okay to bite or scratch SOMETIMES. It’s never okay.