How to avoid getting scratched by a cat

Cat-scratch sequence activated.

Due to anatomy and predisposition, cats predictably do certain things at certain times. The predictability makes it possible to handle most of them, even though they have claws and teeth. Note: predictably does not mean 100% of the time.

Scenario. Cat-scratch sequence activated.

Goal: Pick up cat without being scratched.

Cat laying on side, eyes wide with dilated pupils, focused on you, part or all of belly visible, tail may be moving back and forth. Defensive fighting position. Cat’s short-term goal — keep person from touching body. End goal — run away and hide. In this position, cat’s front paws can’t reach further than a few inches. Stay out of range.

Front legs are a cat’s knives. Used to inflict damage. (Back legs are a cat’s hammers. More powerful than front paws. Used for “rabbit-kicking”, not scratching.)

Wrap towel around hand or wear a glove unless you have a tolerance for risk. Very quickly put hand on cat’s rear and spin cat so that cat’s rear end faces you, if you can reach cat’s rear without putting your hand in front of cat. If you can’t, use a wrapped towel (tube shape) to prod cat into position where you can reach rear. (Can use your other hand to distract cat.)

Place your hand on cat’s shoulder blades, press down enough to keep cat from moving. Roll cat onto its belly, while maintaining firm hold. Cat’s stomach should be flat against table/ground, no longer exposed. Cat’s rear legs should be under the cat, so the cat is in a “loaf” position.

If you can’t do this, distract cat with towel and grab scruff with hand. Gently hoist cat up a few inches, then plop cat down so cat is on belly, legs underneath in cat loaf position.

Cat-scratch launch sequence de-activated.

If cat is determined to scratch, I wear the Bite Buster glove.

To buy: BiteBuster Nitrile/Kevlar Bite Gauntlet Extreme Cat Glove, 18-Inch, Small/Medium, Black


Scratch sequence not activated.
Scratch sequence not activated.

Hisses, scratches and bites. Cat grooming escalating to bites.

Scenarios for cat grooming escalating to cat bites.

1. Cat groomer enters home –> cat runs away, hides, hisses and swats at owner when owner reaches for cat. Tries to bite groomer before groomer starts grooming. Hiding, hissing, swatting, biting not caused by grooming, because that behavior started before grooming. Among possible causes are illness, lack of social experience, rough treatment in the past, disturbance in the home, or presence of other pet who is threatening to the cat.

2. Cat groomer enters home, starts to groom cat –> cat remains quiet for 15 – 30 minutes. Meows, hisses, then swats or attempts to bite after 15-30 minutes. Cause of behavior may be unrelated to groomer or related to groomer.  Possible non-groomer causes of behavior: another pet walked into room, children or strangers walked into room, vacuuming or other loud noises, illness, soreness, feeding time. Possible groomer causes of behavior: groomer pulling on skin, groomer pressing on arthritic area, pinching the scruff with overly tight grip, making sudden movements or loud noises. * Cats often won’t express pain when nicked or when the clipper blade is hot, so these are not likely causes for bite.

Methods for avoiding escalation to bites: Don’t rush. Rushing –> tugging, pulling, pinching –> discomfort –> bites.  If cat is agitated before grooming begins, can wear gloves, apply snap-on e-collar, wrap cat in towel.

Cats and Hip Dysplasia

Brushing, combing and washing the hip area —> discomfort/pain, or fear of discomfort/pain, expressed by moving away, hissing, swatting or biting.

Methods for grooming with minimal discomfort –> brush/comb haunches in very brief spurts of activity, pausing when cat expresses discomfort. Avoid pressing/pulling rear legs and don’t exert pressure on haunches/hips. Use blow-dryer + extremely light-touch brushing to blow out excess fur instead of dematting with a comb. Trim mats with ball-tip scissors (comb inserted between scissors and skin) instead of dematting with a comb. Heat may decrease soreness. Warm room, warm to almost hot water, warm to almost hot blow dryer. Wrap cat in large towel to prevent flailing of legs or twisting of hips. Rub ears and cheeks to soothe anxiety. Work fast.

Maine Coons are more likely than other breeds to have hip dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia –> discomfort when bending rear legs –> may increase likelihood of urinating outside litter box.

My cat bites me when I pick him up. Can you trim his claws?

Not okay. Not cute.
Not okay. Not cute.

First off, this is a SERIOUS behavior & family relationship issue.  Nowadays, pets are part of the family. They used to be employees who did a job.  They were in charge of mouse-eradication. They lived in barns, getting on the nerves of birds and rabbits, even killing a few of them every so often.

Now they’re permanent children. You know what happens when children sit around without anything to do? They get themselves into trouble. They set ants on fire and pull the ears of the family dog. We all need something to do, even your cat.

Whether cats are workers or children, biting people isn’t SUPPOSED to be part of the deal. You can say, “Cats are like that,” or “She’s a rescue cat,” or “She’s nervous”, but it doesn’t change a thing. Your cat shouldn’t be biting you. You shouldn’t be thinking that’s normal or okay. Sympathy for an animal can make us accept behavior that isn’t in the cat’s best interests.

The above is my opinion. Below are some suggestions if you agree with my opinion.  The goal is to stimulate your cat. Get your cat stimulated, then tire your cat out with exercise. Another goal is to give your cat something to bite BESIDES you.

1. Buy your cat some stuff. Toys, toys, toys. Try all different types of toys. Try a little catnip. Try all different types of scratching posts. Try different types of treats, but break the treat into pieces so it’s really a treat, not a meal. If you can’t buy too much, make toys. A shoelace or a bottle cap or a box can be a ton of fun.

2. PLAY with your cat. Those wand toys work great for playing. You have to wiggle it in a certain way, hide the feather behind furniture, then whip it out. Don’t just dangle the wand. That’s not going to be any fun for your cat. Make the wand move like it’s a tiny mouse, darting in and out of sight.

Two types of wand toys my cat enjoys:

Cat Dancer 301 Cat Charmer Interactive Cat Toy

Go Cat Cat Catcher Teaser Wand with Mouse Cat Toy
3. Touch your cat for short periods. Don’t overdo it. If your cat starts to look twitchy, let your cat go. When cats feel like they need to bite in order to be freed from a cuddle, that sets up a destructive pattern of biting as part of cuddling.

4. Keep the house peaceful. I’ve been to homes where the humans yell. They’re not angry. They’re just yellers. Even when they’re happy, they’re loud. If you have a loud home, give the cat a place to get some peace and quiet. A tree house or their own comfy bed can be a refuge. If their nerves are on edge, they’re more likely to relieve the pressure by biting.

5. Touch their paws every so often. Touch their tail. Give them a nice, short massage. Give them a nibble of a treat when you do it. Make the touching a quick, fun experience for them.

6. Stay calm and positive. Think happy thoughts. If you get all riled up, they’ll get riled up too.

7. Don’t use your fingers or toes as a toy. If you do, you’re asking to be bitten.

Aim for a bite-free home. THAT is normal and okay. THAT is how cats become permanent, loved, contented family members.

Your cat’s a biter. Will I trim the claws?

I’m a groomer, not a lion tamer. If your cat bites you, most likely they’ll bite me too. That means I need to wear protective gear and hold your cat like I mean business. Grooming a biting cat isn’t a pretty sight. There’s nothing cute about scruffing an animal while it tries to puncture an arm. If you ask me to cut your cat’s claws, and your cat has a history of biting, know that my priority is making sure I don’t get bitten. Cat bites lead to hospitalization more often than dog bites. I’ve had some people ask me to groom their cat and when the cat attacks me before I’ve even started grooming, they feel sorry for the cat. That’s just crazy. Would you feel sorry for a dog who bit you?

What I wear to trim claws. No, not really.
What I wear to trim claws. No, not really.

The type of claw trimmer I use is small, suitable for cats.

To buy the claw trimmer: Four Paws Magic Coat Cat Claw Clipper