Why Do Cat Scratches Itch and Swell?

Cat loves to scratch. A kitten especially, loves to scratch walls, posts, and furniture it finds in your home. But why does it love to do that?

Scratching is second nature to a kitten. It is its way of getting rid of old matters in its claws and it is also its way of marking its territory. This habit is also a form of play for a kitten. However, this habit is never meant to harm you.

When you have a cat as a pet, it is inevitable that you will experience scratches every now and then.

cat scratching a wall

Sometimes these abrasions are superficial and some others are deep cuts. Nonetheless, whatever the degree of the lesion is, it would eventually itch and swell.

cat's scratch on human hand and cat in the background

Swelling and Itching

Cuts usually itch and swell. This is a way for the body to combat any possible infection that may be caused by the wound. Nevertheless, that itching and swelling may indicate a more serious reason.

To better understand the physiological reaction of your body, when you are wounded, your body produces endorphins to combat the pain caused by the gash. Sometimes when the wound is shallow, it is then that you experience more pain.

The reason for this is that when it is shallow, there is a possibility that your wound did not have any infection at all so your body did not produce endorphins to combat any possible infection.


This is often due to an infection caused by a bacterium Bartonella henselae which is found in a cat’s flea. This flea’s organism found its way thru the cat’s claws when the cat scratches itself which in turn spreads the bacteria thru accidental or intentional scratching.

You may say, “That can’t be! My cat is very clean and I bathe it regularly”. According to studies even if you bathe and clean your cat daily, around 40% of them still carry the bacteria.

Aside from the swelling of the scratch, there is also an accompanying swelling of your lymph nodes in the area nearest the gash. This will typically be supplemented with car scratch fever.


Your bodily response may also be triggered by an allergic reaction to the scrape and this is why cat scratches itch. Combined with this itch is the appearance of red spots on the skin area where the abrasion is located.

An allergic reaction is your body’s way of indicating that there is something happening to that area of your body. It can also mean a presence of a foreign element, usually bacteria in your body.



Cat-Scratch Disease may sound very serious, but it is not. Yet you are still encouraged to see a doctor if you notice the symptoms mentioned earlier. And you guessed it right; the culprit of this disease is your fur ball’s fleas.

When a cat scratches itself, its claws collect flea mucks. So if during your play time with your cat, it accidentally scratches you, the muck will be embedded in your scratch wound.

It’s a good thing if your cut is shallow or superficial, infection is remote. But when it goes beyond your epidermis, then the possibility of CSD is high.

CSD can be further intensified by your cat’s licking your wound or a playful bite especially if cat bite swelling occurs. Either way, it is better to treat your wound immediately.

There are many indicators if you have contracted CSD but the main indicators that you have to watch out for are the following: Your lesions begin to swell and itch and together with these symptoms, are fever and severe headache.

wound from cat bite and scratch

What to do when your cat scratches you?


Rinse your wound immediately over clean, running water and use a mild soap. It is advisable to use cold water so as not to worsen the bleeding. It will also help in stopping the swelling and aid in the relief of itching. This will also prevent the spread of cat scratch infection.

Superficial vs. Deep Wound

After washing, you assess if the wound is superficial or deep. If it’s a superficial wound after washing, dry it with a clean cloth and leave it uncovered to let the scratch dry faster.

If the laceration is deep, dry the wound then apply an antiseptic solution. You may apply an antibiotic cream to prevent bacteria from further infecting the abrasion.


For deep scratches, you need to cover the scuff with clean gauze. Apply pressure dressing if the bleeding is a bit persistent. This way, you stop the bleeding and prevent further breeding of the bacteria in your cut.


It is also important to know the cat that clawed you. If the cat is yours or owned by someone you know, then just get the details of its latest visits to the vet. At least you have a degree of certainty of the cat’s background and its vaccination history.

If the cat is a stray, then you have to take all the precautionary measures of caring for your wound and it is wise that you seek immediate medical attention. Those scratch whether superficial or deep wound can infect you with rabies or tetanus. Rabies and tetanus are often fatal if left untreated.

Cat Scratch Prevention

Gentle Play

When playing with your cat, it is wise not to rough it up with your pet. The cat gets easily excited and instinctively draws out its claws. We are aware how sharp these claws are.

Better yet, we use play extensions and not expose your hand to clawing. A ball of yarn tied to a stick or clawing toys that are extended are recommended.

Cat Claw Trimming

It is ideal to trim your cat’s nails regularly. This way, you minimize scraping incidents of your tabby. In addition, your feline’s paws are actually relaxing when it tramps on your body without the fear sharp talons embedding on your skin.

Claw trimming is different from declawing. Declawing is not advisable and illegal in some countries. So declawing is out of the question.

Scratching Posts

A scratching post is a substitute for gentle play that’s why it is advisable to provide scratching posts in your moggy’s playpen. These posts are beneficial in 3 ways.

First, these posts serve as a way of cleaning cat’s claws. The post will reduce flea organisms embedded in your cat’s nails. Second, your cat will be prevented from scratching your furniture. Third, reaching for the post will be a form of exercise for your furry friend.

Ban Those Fleas!

Preventing fleas will not stop your cat from scratching you but it will lessen the risk of you getting CSD.  So banning those fleas is a must!

When you control the spread of fleas in your cat, the risk of contracting a disease is reduced. Fleas also cause harm to your cat.

Often it is the source of sickness among cats. So to prevent the spread of disease, flea prevention is the first step.

Caring for a pet cat is both a reward and a risk. Reward because it is a source of joy and emotional support to care for your cat. It provides you loyalty and love in return for your TLC.

It is a risk because of the possible diseases it may bring you. Some of these diseases are at times fatal to you and your cat.

The bottom line is, responsible pet ownership is always a must and with this, you can be assured of an itch and swell-free cat-human relationship.


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