Why Do Cat’s Scratches Burn?

Why Do Cat Scratches Burn?

You discovered that your new cat hates taking a bath the hard way. Now your arms are covered in scratches. Your cat may be small but his scratches can pack a wallop. There are four reasons why your pet’s scratches hurt so much:

  1. Your cat’s claws are sharper than they look.
  2. Cat scratches do not cut deep.
  3. Your cat scratched a sensitive area.
  4. Foreign materials are lodged in your cat’s claws.

Why do your cat’s scratches hurt so much?

Getting scratched by your pet is some sort of initiation into the world of owning a cat. Although your furball may look small, his scratches can hurt. But why?

1.Your cat’s claw are sharper than they look

The Internet seems to be obsessed with cat paws and their toe beans. But what is often left out of the conversation is how sharp cat claws are.

Unlike dog claws that get dull as they come in contact with different types of surfaces while walking, cat claws can be retracted.

Furthermore, when your feline scratches his claws on different objects, from his scratching post to his favorite furniture, he is essentially sharpening his claws.

2. Cat scratches do not cut deep

Your cat’s scratch barely cut deep into your arms and yet it burns intensely. 

Surprisingly, the reason behind that intense pain is the lack of blood. When your cat’s scratches are shallow, they can hurt more because the tissue in the affected area is exposed to the air.

In a way, blood acts as a buffer between your tissues and nerve cells and the air around you.

3. Your cat scratched a sensitive area

Simply put, some areas hurt more when scratched. 

In people, the most sensitive areas are the face, arms, and hands where there are several pain receptors. If you are scratched in a different area, the sting may not be as painful.

4. Foreign materials are lodged in your cat’s claws

As your cat wanders around, dirt, debris, and other foreign materials can collect on his paws. 

And when you get scratched by his dirty claws, these foreign materials can transfer to the area of your body that has been scratched.

These foreign materials can intensify the pain of a cat’s scratches.

How to treat cat scratches and bites

It does not matter whether the cat that scratched (or bit) you is your pet or a stray cat. Bites and scratches should be treated properly and immediately. Otherwise, you are leaving yourself vulnerable to bacteria and infections that felines can transmit to people.

These bacteria and infections include Staphylococcus aureus, campylobacter infection, Pasteurella bacteria, and cat scratch disease (CSD) more popularly known as cat scratch fever.

Ideally, you should see a doctor within an eight-hour timeframe.

First aid for cat scratches and bites

The first thing that you need to do is to wash your wounds with soap and water for about five minutes. Avoid scrubbing the area vigorously. Otherwise, the affected area can bruise.

If the wounds are still bleeding, you can apply an antibiotic cream on the area before putting a clean cloth over it. Keep the piece of cloth in place by using a bandage.

Medical treatments for wounds caused by cats

At the clinic, the staff will clean your wounds before applying antibiotic cream.

Typically, this type of wound is left open, allowing patients to clean them quickly and conveniently.

Before leaving the clinic, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics to prevent infections. If your tetanus shots are not updated, the doctor may administer a booster shot.If the lacerations are deep, the doctor may stitch the wounds.

Over the next few days, watch out for vomiting, diarrhea, fever, or stomach cramps..

Why do cats scratch and bite their humans?

Cat scratches (and bites) are not just painful. Both carry considerable health risks. As such, you should train your pet to prevent him from scratching and biting you.

And the first step toward that goal is learning the reasons behind the behavior.

Redirected aggression

Your cat is intently watching another cat walk by outside the window. To your cat, the presence of the other cat is an act of aggression that needs to be met with decisive action. Except that he and the other cat are separated by a window.

Unable to attack the interloper, your cat has no outlet for his pent up aggression but the nearest person or pet. This behavior is called redirected aggression.


Hyperesthesia is a condition where an affective cat can either display aggressive behavior or overgroom himself. The condition usually affects cats one year old and above. Among the most affected breeds are the Abyssinian, Burmese, and Siamese.

The underlying cause of hyperesthesia is still unclear. Some experts believe that it is a neurological condition while others suggest that it can be triggered by stress. 

If you notice that your usually calm cat becomes suddenly aggressive, you should consult your vet to check if he has hyperesthesia.

Other medical problems

Illnesses and disorders can alter a cat’s normal behavior. Often, acts of aggression like scratching and biting are a symptom that a cat may be dealing with an undiagnosed illness.

Among the possible causes of sudden aggression are hyperthyroidism, flea infestation, stress, and injuries. Again, if your usually peaceful cat turns snooty or downright aggressive, a quick visit to the clinic should be in order.

Your cat treats your arms and hands as toys

Unknown to some cat owners, their pets can be trained. Although felines are not naturally people-pleasers, they can be trained to act properly or even do tricks.

One important behavior you should teach your cat is not to bite or scratch you. 

A kitten’s scratches and bites may not be as painful as compared to an adult’s. But over time, your cat’s claws and teeth can grow sharper, causing intense pain. 

Early on, you should train your cat to learn that your arms and hands are not his playthings and he should not bite or scratch these. If you do not stop your pet from biting and scratching you, you are sending him the message that these behaviors are acceptable.

How to train your cat to stop scratching and biting you

Training should start when your pet is still a kitten. At around this time, it is easier to teach your pet acceptable behavior because his mind is still malleable and he has not yet picked up bad habits.

However, it is still possible to teach an older cat to stop biting and scratching you. Here are some helpful tips you can follow.

1. Use a corrective word

Every time your cat attempts to scratch or bite you, you can stop him in his tracks by using a corrective word like “No!” or “Stop!” 

Using corrective words startle cats and divert their attention. However, there are a couple of things that you need to remember. First, you have to be consistent, not just in using the corrective word. Second, and more importantly, you should stop your cat every time he attempts to bite or scratch.

When you stop your cat, make sure that you move your limbs away slowly. If you jerk away your hand or arms, he might think that you are still playing with him.

2. Mimic mother cats

There are several reasons why kittens should not be immediately adopted and allowed to stay with their mothers and littermates.

One such reason is that mother cats can teach their kittens how to behave properly. Taken away from the litter, a kitten does not learn how to control his bites and pawing.

One way mothers teach their young to behave is to grab the offending kitten by the scruff. You can mimic this every time your cat becomes unruly and aggressive. Pick him up by the scruff and put him in a different location.

3. Use toys to redirect his attention

Your cat can grab your hands and bite or scratch these when he becomes bored while you are petting him.

Prevent his overeagerness from turning into full-on aggression by redirecting his attention to his favorite toy.

4. Understand your cat’s body language

It may come as a surprise, but your pet can telegraph some of his aggressive behavior.

For example, cats like getting a pet but only up to a certain point. If you breach that point, they can scratch or bite you. But before that happens, you will see a change in his posture, a precursor to an impending attack.

Take cat scratches and bites seriously

Do not ignore your pet’s scratches and bites as these can lead to infections. More importantly, do not tolerate either of these behaviors from your pet. Correct these as early as possible.

Image: istockphoto.com / sony_moon