As a cat owner, I’m no stranger to scratches here and there. But one thing I’m
always a bit confused about is how non-cat owners assume that since cats have claws at the end of their
paws, that no one is safe from the never-ending attack that is the kitty’s fury. I try and explain that
cat’s aren’t entirely as dangerous as they make them sound, but they insist that they’d never want to have
a cat around their babies, despite owning a dog or two. Well, why not explain a little bit about the truth
behind how little damage cats can actually do to humans, and what they really can.
For those without felines in your life, you’re probably most worried about getting
scratched. Cats will scratch if provoked, that’s a fact, but in most cases, you needn’t worry about the
sharp claws at the end of their fingers. There are plenty of things you can do to avoid the problem of
scratching altogether, such as trimming the claws to make them shorter and dull, or affixing plastic caps
on the end to take away any true scratching power altogether.
Still, a lot of people just assume that those scratches are the worst thing ever. The fact
of the matter is, a cat scratch is about as superficial as it can be. Yes, they can hurt like a son of a
gun, but the average cat’s claws cannot penetrate skin very deep at all, so any scratches you receive may
look bad but are all show (they still smart though). Even the notion that the claws have a lot of
bacteria is fairly inaccurate as again much of it is superficial, so any scratches you endure can be
treated with simple Neosporin.
There’s another myth that cats will suffocate newborns by sleeping on their face, in
essence “sucking their life away.” This is pretty strong nonsense as most cats wouldn’t be caught dead
near a screaming, flailing infant. The last place they’d want to sleep is on a face, though it’s just
common sense to restrict the direct interaction between the kitty and the baby just so they can both get
used to each other.
However, while scratching is mostly for show and suffocating people is a myth, there is
one very serious thing a cat can do: Bite. A cat’s bite can puncture deep and while their claws don’t
have a lot of bacteria, their teeth do. Getting a severe bite from your once-loving friend is shocking
enough, but to make matters worse you will absolutely need to be treated at a hospital with antibiotics
and a tetanus shot. This was a lesson I learned when being trained at a volunteer cat shelter. They went
through the rundown and said that if you get scratched to just go wash the cut with soap and warm water,
but if you were bit then you had to immediately go to the hospital to avoid infection and then have an
accident form filled out afterward.
The ultimate truth to consider is that even when provoked beyond reason, a cat cannot
stand up to a human. Dogs, however, can do all sorts of things including mauling and slobbering, but
felines? Well they can still send you to the hospital if they feel like it. Be kind to your kitties and
give them love, not abuse. Otherwise you may find yourself on the wrong end of a painful bite.
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