Anyone who's ever owned (or likely even been around a cat) has been scratched at some point. It isn't always intentional. You might have been holding Fluffy when she suddenly jumped from your arms. Maybe you were playing and got a little too close. Sometimes the scratches are purposeful. You might have misread a cue and gone in for a friendly scratch behind the ears, only to end up with a cranky swat to the hand. Maybe your cat was sick or just in a bad mood and decided to take it out on you.
Cat-Scratch Disease Is Real
A cat scratch can be anything from a barely-there mark on the surface of your skin to a deep gouge requiring medical attention. Why are cat scratches especially dangerous if they break the skin?
How to Prevent Cat Scratches
- Observe the cat's mood. If it seems irritated or angry, don't attempt to pet it.
- Engage in gentle play. If your cat tends to play rough anyway, consider wearing gloves and long sleeves.
- When playing, opt for toys you can use from a distance, such as a laser pointer or a feather toy.
- Keep your cat's claws trimmed (but see below for a special note about declawing).
How to Treat Cat Scratches
- Assess the wound. If it's a mild scratch, washing it with soap and water should suffice. If necessary, a clean, dry gauze pad can be held to the wound until it stops bleeding.
- Apply an over-the-counter antibiotic cream to the wound, over with a dry, clean bandage, and allow to heal. Keep an eye out for unusual swelling, redness, soreness, and other signs of infection.
- Pay close attention to wounds on the hands and feet. They come into contact with more surfaces than other areas of the skin, so wounds here are prone to higher rates of infection.
- Likewise, if the person scratched is very young, elderly, and/or has a weakened immune system, monitor the wound closely to head off infection.
- If a cat scratches your eye, seek immediate medical attention.
Declawing Solves Scratching, Right? Wrong
Some pet owners choose to fix the problem of scratching by having their cats declawed, but this is an outdated, even cruel practice that permanently maims and even endangers cats. When cats are declawed, the last bone of each toe is amputated, the equivalent of a human having each finger amputated at the last knuckle. The procedure can cause nerve damage, bone spurs, lameness, and back pain due to the changes in the cat's gait. If the cat ever escapes outside and has to face a predator, it's put at a serious disadvantage due to being unable to scratch to defend itself.
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