This is something I have wondered before about cats and dogs, but when my cat decided to jump over me to get to the other side of the bed in which she accidentally scratched my stomach on the way down (it broke skin) — it got me wondering: Are pets aware of accidental injuries caused by them?

I couldn't find anything online about this, and maybe it's a weird question in general, but I'm curious enough to ask.


Yes, I believe they do. If my cats accidentally scratch me during play and I yell OUCH, they immediately stop the play and try to lick me where I was scratched. So while I don't believe it is intentionally done, play sometimes get out of hand and things happen, and they feel bad.

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    Ill start making a distinct sound. Thank you. – Insane Feb 8 '17 at 4:51

I guess they have no idea :)

They have fur that protects them from accidental injuries when they play. Besides they use their claws instinctively when jump.

If they scratch you too often try to cut their claws or use special claw caps as it's shown in a video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLnvmZCZiKs


Almost certainly not. For one thing, while cats do have feeling in their claws, they almost certainly don't have good enough feeling to really tell if they just broke the skin or not (just like if you were to scratch someone with your nails, you can't really tell for sure), and so I don't think they'd notice if they did not observe the injury.

Secondly, while cats do seem to understand facial expressions and body language, and so they do have empathy in that sense, cats do not appear to have the mental capacity to truly understand another's viewpoint. Therefore, I'm not convinced that a cat would truly understand that it was the cause of injury, or that you were even injured. Mostly the cat probably just understands, "the human seems in pain."


Cats are usually unaware of unintentional injuries that they cause other people. A problem we frequently encounter at the shelter is cats who like to nibble. Sometimes a friendly nibble unintentionally becomes a bite (and a 2-week quarantine). Cats frequently jump to get from point-A to point-B and will land on an intervening human, causing scratches. Also, quite frequently, cats will be sitting on a lap when something spooks them. Claws come out, the cat runs, and scratch ensues.

We have to address the underlying behaviors. Let cats know that nibbling and pouncing are no-nos. And do the best we can to keep them from being spooked.

I have never seen a sign that cats that cause such injuries know that they have done it.


My 14 year old female tuxedo cat MOST DEFINITELY knows exactly what she's doing with her teeth and claws. She likes to play fight and will grab my bare hand with teeth and claws, but never hard enough to break my skin. At this point I'll put on some leather gardening gauntlets (the ones designed to protect against rose thorns) after which she'll bite MUCH harder and her claws will tear the surface of the leather. She knows exactly when she's biting/clawing naked skin and when I'm wearing those leather gauntlets. Clever kitty.

  • Hi, it's an interesting and illustrative observation, thanks for sharing. Could you please add one or two additional sentences to make your answer more general? It would be great, currently your answer only refers to experience related to only one cat, could you maybe include some thoughts about cats in general, or your experiences with other felines if you have ones? Thanks and welcome to Pets. – lila Jul 14 '20 at 18:18

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