Avoid Getting "nailed" by a Cat

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People who know and love cats understand that part of their allure is the fact that domestication has mellowed them somewhat, but they are still somewhat mercurial.  Learning to read their emotional signals will help you avoid arms full of scratches and scars.  While most people know enough to leave a hissing, growling cat alone, the moodiness particular to cats can sometimes lull us into a false sense of security.  The following steps will help you avoid injury at the paws of these animals, whether they belong to you or someone else.

Teaching your own cat not to scratch you is best begun as early as possible.  While playing with your cat, gently hold his paws in your hand as soon as you sense he is starting to unsheathe his claws.  Do not continue to play until he is calmer and not using his claws.  Do not overstimulate your cat during play; he needs to learn to control his emotions, and you must teach him.  Encouraging him to lose control will net you painful scratches and lose the training that was previously gained.

Keep your cat’s claws clipped.  That way, if there is a lapse in training, there is a better chance that the swipe will not draw blood.  If you do find yourself with a claw from a playful (not angry) cat in your skin, don’t pull away.  Move your arm slowly toward the cat, while pushing the cat’s paw up at the elbow.  This will lift the claw out of your skin without tearing.

When admiring other people’s cats, be cautious.  Ask the owner about the cat’s behavior when others approach, but take the answer with a grain of salt.  I like to say that I believe owners when they tell me that their cat might scratch, but don’t believe them when they tell me the opposite!

If a strange cat seems willing, let him sniff your closed hand before trying to touch him.  Cats do not like strangers to make the first move, and may react negatively.  If all seems fine, gently stroke the top of the head, but stay away from the back, which may provoke the cat to swing around and attack your arm.  Note the body language:  If the animal stiffens, stares at you, flicks his tail and/or rears back slightly, leave the cat alone.  If the owner insists that he really won’t scratch – let her pet him!


*  Declawing is a cruel and painful procedure that is totally avoidable with a little training.
*  Do not react angrily if your cat lapses during training.  Simply stop paying attention to her until she calms down.  If you react violently, your cat will learn to fear you.

*  Always clean out scratches with soap and water as soon as possible to avoid infection.


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