Skip to Content

Why Do Cat Scratches Itch – 8 Reasons

Why Do Cat Scratches Itch – 8 Reasons

You may be asking why do cat scratches itch as soon as you and your cat have a little play that ends up in some kind of war. Most cat scratches are not that deep, and they heal very fast, but why do they scratch that much? Since our bodies don’t recognize it as severe pain, it doesn’t release endorphins, so the brain process that itching as pain.

The itching is not that bad, but the brain will recognize it as significant only if it becomes painful. Usually, the itching will bother you for one to two days; however, if there is a bacterial or fungal infection, it can take more. Others can have worse itchiness because of the allergic reaction.

Now let’s check why cat’s scratches itch so much!

8 Reasons For Itchiness

two scratch on female crossed arms closeup

It is logical that you want to have fun with your cat from time to time, but it happened to you, too, am I right? During playtime, your cat gets carried away and bites you. We’ve all been there. Worse than a cat bite is only a cat scratch that seems to bother you more than any other type of scratch. So why do cat scratches itch?

Most scratches are not that deep, and you’ll end up with itchy skin but nothing else. Healthy people mostly don’t have complications when it comes to cat scratch fever. All of that is a natural reaction, and it will happen no matter what. However, if you are immuno-compromised or you have other health issues, cat scratch disease may be more challenging for you. The scratch can cause a scab which also causes itching sensations.

The body’s natural response to injury is itching, and that’s the main reason cat scratches itch. The nerves in the scratched area become stimulated, and that is the sensation of itching that you feel after a scratch. Also, histamine and the cat scratch and bacteria in the cat’s claws cause itching. 

See Also: 4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Pick Scabs Off Cats

1. Why Do Cat Scratches Itch: Bartonella Henselae (Cat Scratch Disease)

Woman Scratching an itch on white background

Bartonella Henselae, or so-called Cat Scratch Disease, is the most common reason for itchiness after your cat scratches you. CSD can happen if your cat licks your open wound, scratches you, and bites you. It gets into your cat’s blood through flea dirt and flea bites.

When the cat scratches herself to stop itching, the bacteria is trapped under the cat’s nails. It can also occur in the cat’s saliva. When a cat licks her paws during grooming sessions, that’s the time when the bacteria will multiply itself. Cats almost never show any reaction to CSD, which is why they pass it to humans unknowingly.

Bartonella Henselae can cause small lesions or bumps on the place it scratched you. Symptoms of Bartonella Henselae can be fever, swollen lymph nodes, loss of appetite, exhaustion, redness near the scratch, swelling, lesions, sores, and pus around it. As soon as the skin starts to repair itself, the scratch becomes itchy. CSD usually manifests 14 days after the scratch occurs.

40% of cats carry B.henselae at some point in their life, but almost no cat shows any sign of that same illness. However, young cats usually are more susceptible to B. henselae, and they are more likely to scratch you during playtime.

B.Henselae will pass eventually; however, if the itching only gets worse and you get other side effects that are not quite comfortable, you’ll probably get some antibiotics to solve the issue. This disease will go away, but the best course of action is to see a doctor.

2. Why Do Cat Scratches Itch: Cellulitis

If a cat scratch is deep enough to break into the skin, cellulitis might happen. Celulitis is actually a bacterial infection that will, through cuts, enter the system. With the symptom of itching, cellulitis causes the skin to swell and redden, which forms a rash that is really hot when you touch it.

Cellulitis happens due to Pasteurella multocida bacteria. These bacteria manifest in long hours of scratching. If you don’t treat it, it can cause serious problems, life-threatening to be precise. It could also cause MRSA in some cases. If a cat scratch from itching becomes a rash, you’ll need antibiotics to treat it.

3. Why Do Cat Scratches Itch: Allergies

Scratched wound on a man's leg

For those people who are allergic to cats, the scratch will cause problematic itching. The scratch and area around it will redden, scratched skin may break out in hives, and you can expect streaming from the eyes and sneezing.

As cats are the second most common cause of allergies in people, this is totally not new, and it is pretty common.

RELATED: Why Does My Cat Bite My Nose?

4. Why Do Cat Scratches Itch: Tetanus

Another reason your cat scratch might itch is tetanus, a bacterial infection that passes from animals to humans through scratches and animal bites. But fortunately, tetanus is commonly vaccinated against, and it usually lasts for 10 years.

It is also called lockjaw due to its most distinguished side effects. This bacteria attacks the nervous system, mainly around the jaw and neck. Moving becomes difficult, and therefore breathing is hard.

Tetanus causes stiffness throughout the body, and cats’ legs get the most affected by it. If you are a cat owner, you need to protect yourself against tetanus, as bites and scratches are inevitable. The booster is recommended for 5 to 10 years. If you are, however, infected, antibiotics should be prescribed.

5. Why Do Cat Scratches Itch: Ringworm

Ringworm is a fungal infection that lives within a cat’s nails and skin. If you have any contact with a cat that has ringworm, you could also get it through scratches. A cat that has ringworm will have constant itching and will constantly scratch, which will lead to a failing leg. You may also be scratched and end up with a fungal infection.

The fungal infection manifests in scabby and dry skin as round markings, because of which the infection got its name. Bear in mind that this infection is not a parasite and doesn’t include worms.

Ringworm can cause serious itching, and if you notice the signs of ringworm, you should get treatment as soon as possible. Since the wound and the scratch is dry, it causes the skin to break, which creates open wounds and scars.

The treatment is usually a topical ointment which helps with killing the fungus and stopping the itching.

6. Why Do Cat Scratches Itch: Infection

The skin condition after cat scratch and bite of veterinary surgeon hand during physical examination in a veterinary clinic

If you, besides a cat scratch, have some other symptoms, you may have an infection. It is a priority that your cat is immunized against dangerous diseases. In order for your cat to not carry any bacteria, sit to bolster the immune system and watch out for flea infestations.

Fleas are the most common cause of skin diseases in cats, and because of that can have bacteria under their claws, across flea droppings, or have their paws touching the mites and flea dirt.

If your cat is an indoor cat and fleas are not possible, then the source of bacteria is the litterbox.

If you get a scratch from your cat, the infection can leave an itching sensation and sometimes can cause a severe infection.

7. Why Do Cat Scratches Itch: Bubonic Plague

The bacteria yersinia pestis causes bubonic plague that cats can catch if they are bitten by fleas, or they have eaten infected mice.

If your cat scratches, it can pass it on to you and cause itching; however, it can be treated with antibiotics if it’s noticed early.

8. Why Do Cat Scratches Itch: Toxoplasmosis

Although small, it’s still possible to get infected with toxoplasmosis just because your cat scratched you. Licking paws will pass the bacteria to the cat’s claws, and it will cause infection through feces.

A dirty litter tray can mean that feline waste that the feline tried to bury gets trapped in the cat’s claws. And if that cat’s claws scratch you and break the skin, it leads to infection. It is rare, but it is possible.

Many cats won’t show any signs that they have toxoplasmosis; however, if it shows, you’ll see symptoms like fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy.

We need to say that if you have children or you’re pregnant, you need to be careful since it can cause serious health issues to fetuses and children.

How Do You Make A Cat Scratch Stop Itching?

Applying the ointment and emollient cream in the treatment and hydration of the skin

What to do if your cat has scratched you and left you with an itching scar:

• Wash the wound and the area around it with soap and water for 2 minutes.

• Put an antibiotic ointment or over-the-counter topical antiseptic covered with a sterile dressing because it will stop the itching you have been bothered with.

• If you bleed, you’ll probably need gauze or a band-aid to stop the bleeding.

• The wound should be checked regularly, and you’ll need to change the dressing every day.

• If the wound has swollen or there is pus around it, know that the infection probably occurs, and you’ll need to take antibiotics to stop the infection

• If your cat scratched you more than just a regular scratch and you see that the wound is deep and the bleeding isn’t stopping, then you’ll need to seek medical care for that.

• If the doctor notices that the wound is too deep, you might need stitches. If this happens, the risk of infection is likely to happen, so the doctor will give you antibiotics very often and be aware that you must not skip the treatment. A deep scratch is likely going to swell, so you’ll need to fight with it.

Wrapping It Up

gray cat playing with owner

Why do cat scratches itch? I hope that this article explains everything you need to know about cat scratches and itching afterward.

Any cat owner, including myself, is familiar with the fact that it is inevitable to avoid cat scratches. It will happen whether you want it or not. Those scratches may occur as a defense mechanism if your cat feels provoked or scared, or they can happen purely by accident; either way, you end up with a scratch that causes itching that bothers you.

However, most cat scratches are not that serious, and all you need to do is clean that area and put in some ointment with gauze or a band-aid, and this should stop the itching caused by the scratch. But, in some cases, cat scratches are too deep and require more medical attention, and sometimes cat scratch fever or cat scratch disease can develop.

To completely heal the wound and make sure that everything is fine without any infections, go to see the doctor, as you’ll likely get antibiotics. If you know that you have an allergy to cats, then you need to seek also medical intervention.

And we have a few pieces of advice in order to avoid cat scratches:

• Don’t use your feet or hands to play with them.

• Get them toys they like.

• If you’re dealing with an angry or scared cat, use gear that’ll protect you from scratches.

• Cat’s nails should be trimmed often so they don’t have long claws that can hurt you.

Related Content

Do Scratching Posts Sharpen Or Dull A Cat’s Nails?

Why Does My Cat Scratch The Sides Of The Litter Box?

Why Does My Cat Bite Me Gently Out Of Nowhere? 12 Motives