What to do if your cat scratches or bites?

Que faire si votre chat griffe et mord ?

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Cherishing a cat can sometimes be painful when it uses its teeth and claws, whether during petting or play, or even unexpectedly. You may wonder why this happens. Is it normal for a feline to bite and claw? How can you teach your pet to be gentler? Is the intervention of a veterinarian or behaviorist ever essential?

This article reveals the reasons why your cat may bite or scratch, and suggests ways to prevent and remedy these actions. You’ll also find recommendations on when to call in a professional. Note that your cat is not malicious; it simply communicates its needs, feelings and limits. A dose of patience and understanding will help you strengthen your bond and avoid injury.

cat scratches and bites

Understanding the reasons for bites and scratches

Understanding why your cat bites and scratches is the first step to correcting this behavior. We can generally attribute his behavior to three main areas: communication, fear and play.

Communication or natural behavior

Body language is an essential means by which cats express their emotions, needs and limits. They use ear, eye, tail and posture movements, as well as vocalizations.

Biting and scratching may be their way of saying “enough petting”, “don’t touch me there”, “I want to play” or “leave me alone”. It’s more of a warning or request than an act of aggression.

Learning to interpret your cat’s signals, such as dilated pupils, floppy ears, flapping tail or bristling fur, can prevent defensive reactions on his part.

Fear, stress or pain: environmental and medical causes

Your cat may bite or scratch if it’s suffering from fear, stress or pain, whether due to environmental or medical problems.

Changes in his environment, sudden noises, the presence of other animals, illness or injury can all be triggers.

Be alert to any change in behavior, including loss of appetite, energy or excessive hygiene. In the event of unusual aggressive behavior, consult a veterinarian. If stress is the cause, provide your cat with a soothing, enriching environment with hiding places, toys, scratching posts and cat trees.

Play and aggression

Play is vital for cats, facilitating their physical, mental and social development, while teaching them the basics of hunting, communication and self-control.

However, a poorly socialized cat may not know how to moderate his strength and may unintentionally injure you during play. If you play with him using your hands or feet, he may identify them as prey.

To avoid this, use appropriate toys, such as balls, and stop the game if it becomes too rough.

cat scratches and bites

Training tips and advice

If your cat has a tendency to bite or scratch and you’re wondering what to do about it, there are simple ways to educate it without traumatizing it.

We’ll explore three key strategies: reacting appropriately after a bite or scratch, using appropriate toys and distractions, and applying learning tricks to encourage good behavior.

How to react immediately to a bite or scratch?

When your cat bites or scratches you, it’s essential to remain calm. Avoid shouting or hitting your cat, as this may aggravate its aggressive behavior. Instead, calmly but firmly show him that his action is inappropriate by ceasing all interaction. Here are a few recommendations:

These tricks help the cat understand that unwanted behavior puts an end to attention and petting, and encourages him to control his reactions.

Appropriate toys and entertainment

Play allows cats to respond to their natural instincts. To prevent your cat from mistaking you for a target, offer him suitable toys and vary the activities to keep his interest.

Appropriate toys and distractions will help your cat thrive and strengthen your bond, while preventing aggressive behavior.

Learning methods

Effective education is based on positive reinforcement, which means rewarding good behavior and minimizing attention to bad. Here are a few practices:

By applying these learning principles, you’ll help your cat associate positive behaviors with pleasant reactions and avoid undesirable actions, for greater harmony at home.

cat scratches and bites

When to consult a specialist?

You’ve followed our advice on training and reprimanding, but your cat persists in biting and scratching excessively and unpredictably.

A potentially more serious problem may lie behind this behavior, requiring the expertise of a professional. We’ll help you spot the signs of abnormal aggression in your cat, and show you how to get help from a vet or behaviorist.

We’ll also discuss the importance of socialization and behavioral interventions to prevent and treat these disorders.

Identifying the signs of pathological aggression

Aggression in a cat may simply be a means of communication, a response to fear or an element of play.

However, when aggression becomes intense, sudden and without obvious cause, it may be a sign of hormonal, neurological or psychological imbalance.

Your cat may attack its owner, another animal or even an object without warning and without displaying any calming behavior. It may also injure itself.

This type of behavior may indicate illnesses such as hyperthyroidism, epilepsy, rabies, feline leukemia, FIV, or behavioral disorders such as anxiety, depression or schizophrenia.

If you notice any of these behaviors in your cat, it’s essential to consult a veterinarian immediately, as it may be a medical or behavioral emergency.

Help from a vet or behaviorist

Your vet is the professional best placed to assess and treat your cat’s abnormal aggression. He or she can carry out a complete clinical examination and blood tests to identify any underlying disease and suggest appropriate treatment.

He can also recommend an animal behaviorist. This specialist can examine the psychological causes of your cat’s aggression and suggest personalized strategies. He can advise you on your cat’s environment, diet, play activities, sterilization, socialization and behavioral interventions.

A re-education program can be set up, aimed at encouraging positive behaviors, desensitization and counter-conditioning, to make your cat more serene, confident and sociable.

Socialization and behavior therapy

Socialization and behavioral interventions play a major role in the prevention and treatment of pathological aggression in cats.

Socialization involves accustoming cats to different environments, noises, people and other stimuli from an early age, thereby promoting their adaptability, communication skills and self-control, while reducing stress and anxiety. A properly socialized cat is less likely to adopt aggressive behavior in adulthood.

Behavioral therapies, used by owners, veterinarians or behaviorists, rely on positive or negative stimuli to encourage certain behaviors and suppress others. Techniques include play therapy, petting, click therapy and pheromone therapy, with the aim of encouraging desired attitudes in the cat and limiting or suppressing undesirable behaviors.

If you’re faced with a cat that acts aggressively by biting or scratching, it’s essential to understand and manage these behaviors. We’ve looked first at the potential causes of these acts, then at training methods and the right times to call in a professional. Here are the key points to remember:

By applying these recommendations, you’ll foster a more harmonious relationship with your feline companion and avoid injury. Don’t let the problem get worse – take the initiative!