Cat Bite and Scratch Prevention WeekPublished June 1, 2012
Flickr User mochaxlight
Yes, Virginia, depending on the situation, cats can and will bite and scratch.
Last week was National Dog Bite Prevention Week. With no National Cat Bite Prevention week on the horizon, since it’s just as important to prevent injuries cats can cause, I felt this to be a perfect opportunity to share some helpful information about an aspect of feline behavior. I am taking poetic license here by proclaiming May 28- June 1 as National Cat Bite and Scratch Prevention Week.
When feeling frightened or backed into a corner, the friendliest and most docile kitties may suddenly and unexpectedly lash out in self-defense. One of the most important ways to avoid injury and prevent accidental cat bites or scratches is to become fluent in feline body language. While some feline behaviors are exquisitely subtle, the majority of these behaviors are easily interpreted.
Most cats are not maliciously aggressive. When acting aggressively most of the time they are trying to protect themselves. Most of the injuries inflicted by cats are when they are feeling frightened. Cats react to situations that are alarming to them in two basic ways; flight or fight. Flight reaction is a no-brainer, so what are some of the signs that a fight reaction is taking place?
Hissing, growling and swatting, ears flattened- plastered against the head, back arched and tail bushed, (appearing like the stereotypical Halloween cat), and tail lashing. Since cats’ emotions are tied to pupillary responses, one of the more subtle signs of fear or anger is dilated pupils. To prevent injury avoid handling a cat that is exhibiting signs of being afraid. If it is absolutely necessary to intervene, proceed with extreme caution.
What else can you do to prevent being injured by a cat? Felines should never be backed into a corner or chased. Avoid handling cats who are showing signs of aggression toward another object or animal. Redirected aggression is a common feline reaction which often can result in your being mistakenly bitten or scratched. Since feline play is a form of predatory behavior, never use your hands or fingers as a toy.
While many cats enjoy being petted, there are kitties who easily become over-stimulated. Some cats are overly sensitive to being petted on certain parts of their bodies and can react adversely. When petting a cat, be aware of any signs of discomfort, such as laying their ears back and swishing their tails. Stop petting the cat immediately and disengage.
What do you do to avoid being injured by a cat? Share in a comment.