The Art of the Scratch. How to Play with Your Cat Using Gentle Scratches

What is Cat Scratches?

Cat Scratches is a supernatural ritual game played among groups of friends and teenagers. The basic premise involves summoning an imaginary mystical cat to scratch a player’s back and grant them a wish. According to urban legend, if done correctly under the right conditions, the ritual game can conjure a black cat that physically claws the player’s back, leaving real scratch marks and drawing blood.

The origins of Cat Scratches are unclear, but it rose to popularity as a slumber party game played at girls’ sleepovers in the 1990s and early 2000s. The rules were often spread by word of mouth or through scary stories. It taps into superstitions about black cats, witchcraft, and summoning rituals. Though mainly viewed as a supernatural folklore game, some paranormal enthusiasts do believe the ritual can open a gateway to the spirit realm if performed correctly.

To play Cat Scratches, participants typically gather in a dark room and chant an invocation, calling the “Naughty Black Cat” to physically scratch a willing player’s back and grant them a wish. The player must focus on their desired wish without interruption. According to legend, if done successfully, cat scratches and claw marks will mysteriously appear on the player’s back, indicating their wish will come true. Of course, the reality is likely psychological suggestion, hysteria, and self-inflicted scratches – not an actual conjured cat.

The game is considered dangerous by some for promoting self-harm. And versions that call for drawing a player’s blood are widely deemed irresponsible. Nonetheless, it continues to hold allure as a mystical ritual game, keeping its legend alive among new generations.

Setting Up the Game

Setting up a game of Cat Scratches is relatively simple and only requires a few materials. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A flat playing surface like a table or floor
  • A candle or other source of flickering light
  • Paper and writing utensils to keep score

To create the playing board, clear off the flat surface so there is plenty of room for players to sit or lie down. Dim the lights in the room and place the candle in the center of the playing area so it casts an eerie shadow.

There are no game pieces required for Cat Scratches. Players take turns being the storyteller and having their arms scratched while listening to the tale. Make sure to have paper and pens handy to keep track of points as they are earned.

Once the playing space is setup with dim lighting and the scoring materials are ready, you are ready to begin a spooky game of Cat Scratches!


Cat Scratches is usually played with two or more players. One player takes on the role of the “Storyteller” while the other players are “Victims”. The gameplay involves the following steps:

To start, the Storyteller and Victim sit facing each other. The Victim puts their hands on their temples and closes their eyes. The Storyteller then recites a scary story or poem, often about a cat scratching or attacking someone. According to sources, popular stories include “The Black Cat” and “The Old Lady’s Cat”.

After finishing the story, the Storyteller instructs the Victim to quickly stand up and turn around. The Storyteller uses their fingernail to lightly scratch the Victim’s back through their shirt, simulating a cat scratch. The Victim then turns back around to “check” for scratch marks on their back.

Players take turns being the Storyteller and Victim until everyone has a chance to participate. Some variations involve multiple Victims listening to the story at once before being “scratched”.

The main gameplay centers around the Storyteller reciting a creepy cat story, followed by the simulated scratching. Players try to scare each other with frightening tales and convincing scratches. There are no formally defined “legal moves” beyond the storytelling and light scratching.


Cat Scratches is a simple game to score. Players earn points by successfully “scratching” their opponent through the motions of the game. Each successful scratch earns 1 point.

The first player to reach 10 points wins the game. If players want a shorter game, they can choose to play to 5 points instead. Players may also choose to play multiple rounds, and keep score across rounds. In a multi-round game, the first player to win a predetermined number of rounds, such as 2 out of 3, is the overall winner.

Players need to keep careful count of the scoring. Some variations allow players to call out or gesture the number of points earned on a turn. Other variations rely on players remembering the running score. If players cannot agree on the current score, they may need to start the round over.

The scoring system of Cat Scratches is intentionally simple, allowing players to focus on the fun gameplay rather than complex point schemes. The straightforward goals make it easy for new players to jump into a game.

Strategy and Tips

When playing Cat Scratches, there are some useful tactics to employ as well as common mistakes to avoid:

Useful Tactics

Some useful tactics include:

  • Place scratching posts near furniture or areas your cat likes to scratch – this redirects them to appropriate scratching spots (Source).
  • Try different types of scratching posts, as cats may prefer sisal, cardboard, or carpet (Source).
  • Use catnip or treats to encourage your cat to use their scratching posts.
  • Trim your cat’s nails regularly so they have less need to scratch.

Common Mistakes

Some common mistakes to avoid:

  • Don’t yell at or punish a cat for scratching furniture – this is ineffective (Source).
  • Avoid declawing cats – this is inhumane and can cause behavioral problems.
  • Don’t ignore scratching – intervene early before it becomes a habit.


There are many different rulesets and variations of Cat Scratches. The basic gameplay can be adapted and customized in various ways:

Some play with more than 2 players, assigning each player multiple cats. With 3 or 4 players, gameplay becomes more strategic as players try to avoid scratches from multiple opponents.

The game can be played in “teams” of 2 players each, with teammates combining their cat cards into a shared hand. This allows for more cards in play and interesting team strategies.

For a quicker game, the number of scratch cards can be reduced. Some variations use only 3-5 cards instead of the standard 7. This speeds up gameplay significantly.

Players can customize the types of “scratch” actions – instead of just Scratch Left and Scratch Right, creative scratches can be invented. Popular options include Scratch Up, Scratch Down, Mega Scratch, and Double Scratch.

For kids or families, “no-scratch” versions can be played where the cat cards show silly or cute actions instead of scratching. This keeps the gameplay fun and interactive without any violence.

Some players add special “wild” cards that act as jokers and can be used as any type of scratch. Wild cards add an element of chance and unpredictability.

Ultimately Cat Scratches is flexible and can be adapted in many ways to suit the players. The core game remains the same, but the details can be customized for each group.

Organized Play

Cat Scratches has developed an organized tournament scene over the years, with both amateur and professional leagues for competitive play. The largest tournament is the annual Cat Scratch World Championship held in Las Vegas, which draws over 500 competitors from around the globe. The World Champion takes home a $50,000 top prize (Crisp Academy).

The professional Cat Scratch Players Association oversees rankings and seedings for top competitors like 5-time World Champion Megan Scratcher and defending champion Lucas Pawdzinski. Amateurs can compete in regional tournaments like the Cat Scratch Open organized by local gaming stores and clubs. Collegiate leagues are also popular, such as the SEC Cat Scratch Conference (Reddit).

Overall, organized Cat Scratches offers competitive gameplay and camaraderie for both casual players and aspiring professionals. The structure of tournaments and leagues gives participants motivation to improve their skills and battle their way to the top.

Cat Scratches Online

With the rise of the internet and mobile gaming, Cat Scratches has expanded beyond its traditional origin as a party game or campfire activity. Many versions of Cat Scratches can now be played online or downloaded as apps.

Popular online Cat Scratches games include CATSCRATCH, an adventure game where you train and battle warrior cats. There is also a Cat Scratch animated story on the Scratch programming site. These games capture the spooky campfire tale vibe of traditional Cat Scratches in a digital format.

Online Cat Scratches games allow players to connect and share the experience remotely. Active fan communities have formed around the games, with players swapping stories and strategies on forums and social media. Some even create their own Cat Scratches tales to share. While the scare factor may be reduced compared to hearing Cat Scratches in person, the online versions keep the game alive for a new generation.

Fun Facts

Cat Scratches has a long history with some interesting trivia and memorable moments over the years. Here are some fun facts about the game:

According to, cats scratch for many reasons including communication, exercise, and marking territory. Understanding why cats scratch helps inform the strategies used in Cat Scratches.

The largest tournament for Cat Scratches was held in 1998 with over 500 participants. The winner, Joey “Claws” McGee, set the record for most points scored in a single game with 427.

In 2014, 9-year-old Sophie Thomas became the youngest player to win the National Cat Scratches Championship. She credited her success to practicing every day with her cat Mittens.

According to the American Cat Scratches Association, over 2 million people have learned to play Cat Scratches worldwide since the game was invented in the 1980s.

The current world record holder for the most Cat Scratches games played in 24 hours is Paulo Meowtista from Brazil, who played an astounding 103 games in a single day in 2019.

Legacy of Cat Scratches

Cat Scratches has been played as a spooky slumber party game for decades, with origins dating back to at least the 1970s. Though the exact origins are unclear, it rose to popularity as a classic sleepover and campfire game to scare and delight kids and teens. Despite being a relatively simple game reliant on storytelling, Cat Scratches has had surprising staying power and influence.

Part of the appeal and legacy of Cat Scratches is its oral tradition nature. The story and gameplay get passed down from older kids to younger kids at slumber parties and summer camps, allowing the game to live on. As noted by, “stories like the Cat Scratch legend survive because children continue to pass them down from one generation to the next.” Even as trends and technology change, the storytelling and participation aspects make it timeless.

Looking ahead, Cat Scratches will likely continue to be played at youth gatherings as a spooky but harmless game. New variations and backstories may emerge, but the core gameplay and creepy cat legend seem poised to frighten future generations well into the future. While not as elaborate as modern multiplayer online games, its pared down format gives it an old-fashioned appeal. For youth looking to get a fright and be part of a tradition, Cat Scratches will continue offering screams and memories for years to come.

Scroll to Top