signs your cat may bite or scratch

tips for safely restraining your cat

towel restraint

approaching a sick or injured cat
Cat and Dog
  1. if your pet is hurt or stressed they may bite even if they normally never would .
  2. Avoid using food treats as a way of moving/restraining your pet in case the vet needs to give them a sedation or anaesthetic.
  3. DO NOT try to restrain your pet if you don't feel confident to do so or if you think it may hurt them (e.g. they are already injured or have arthritic joints) or that they may hurt you - call your vet for advice.
  4. If bitten or badly scratched by your pet seek immediate medical attention.
Signs your cat may bite or scratch
Signs your cat may bite or scratch
  • Ears pointed out to the side or flat to their head.
  • Swishing of their tail.
  • Tail held down low.
  • Coat puffed out along their back.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Growling.
  • Licking their lips.
  • Remember - cats purr when they are happy, hungry, nervous, or unwell.

TIPS FOR SAFELY restraining your cat

  • Cats are not small dogs and will not respond to the same restraint techniques and can quickly become aggressive when stressed.
  • Take care - cat bite and scratch wounds are more likely to become infected.
  • Close windows and doors.
  • Stay calm.
  • When holding a cat use the least amount of restraint possible - less is more!
  • If they start showing any of the signs above stop.
  • Don't scruff cats as this can cause undue stress.
  • You can try holding them with one hand gently under their neck and the other holding their body.
  • If this doesn't work you can try the towel technique below for things like trimming nails, cleaning ears and giving tablets.
Towel Restraint

Place a thick towel lengthways on a table. Then place your cat in the centre of the towel, head facing away from you and tail end towards you.

Cat restraint

Wrap one end of the towel snugly around your cat like a scarf, wrapping in their legs but leaving their head out and tuck this end under your cat.

Cat restraint

Now take the other end of the towel and wrap this over and under your cat, wrapping them up like a burrito, ensuring it isn’t too tight.

Cat restraint

At the end of this step only your cat’s head should be poking out of the towel. This technique is useful for giving your cat a tablet or checking their ears.

Cat restraint

You can then ease out one leg at a time for trimming nails or examining a foot/leg.

Cat restraint

This technique will help to stop you getting scratched but you could still get bitten so take care. STOP if your cat is getting too distressed. Ensure the towel isn't too tight and that they can easily breathe and are not over heating.


Some cats prefer to have only their head covered gently with a towel so they have the sense that they are hiding.

You can also use a very thick towel to throw over an injured cat to pick it up in an emergency and put it into a box or carrier to take to your vets, but they may still be able to bite you through the towel so take care (wearing thick gardening gloves can help reduce this risk though).

Cat examination bags and muzzles are not recommended. If you're having to go to these lengths to restrain your cat it is best left to your vet.


  • Approach slowly.
  • Speak calmly.
  • Yawn and blink at them then turn away - this can calm them.
  • Avoid direct eye contact.
  • Covering them in a towel can help calm them.
  • Slide your hands under your cat to support their body and limbs.
  • Place them into a box (with air holes) or carrier to transport to the vets.