Dear Doctor: When rough play is too rough


Q. My cat likes to play rough and sometimes scratches me in a tussle. My wife says the scratches are not safe and I should stop encouraging such play. I think she’s overreacting. Can you help us put this matter to rest?

Otis Curtin
Mobile, Alabama

Dear Mr. Curtin,

A. Yes, we can. Stop encouraging play that leads to your getting scratched. If the scratch is deep enough, you may need antibiotics, not to mention a tetanus booster. Cat scratches (and bites) are nothing to take casually. Even with superficial scratches, wash the wound immediately.

Another reason to cool it on the rough play is that you don’t want to be teaching your cat that people’s skin is fair game. In addition, what may look like aggressive play on your cat’s part may actually be his way of telling you to stop because he is not enjoying it. Cats often become aggressive in response to behavior that they perceive as aggressive. Don’t take the risk of misinterpreting his signals for playfulness when they are actually signs of alarm.


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