I will continue my posts on winter tips for feral cats next week, promise. Today I want to write about cat bites. I cannot begin to explain to you just how awful cat bites are. If you have ever been bitten by a cat you know just how painful and dangerous cat bites can be. I was bitten by a very angry and very wet Main Coon cat on Thursday (he didn’t like being groomed). It certainly wasn’t my first cat bite, nor will it be the last bite I get. It is so important to seek medical care immediately if you get a cat bite. Even with proper care and cleaning your bite can become infected. My poor co-worker, who was also bitten by said angry cat, cleaned her wound properly and still wound up spending her day at the doctor’s office because her thumb had swollen to twice its size and was oozing pus. Not fun. I was lucky that my infection was not bad. My finger was swollen, slightly red at the puncture sights and very sore. I called the doctor and ended up on anti-biotics, which is the usual course of action for cat bites. I am up to date on my tetanus shot, having gotten that back in 2009 after a previous cat bite (hey, it’s an occupational hazard of being a cat lady).
Want some non-medical professional advice on what do to for a cat bite from someone who has dealt with a number of them? First thing is always scrub the wound like there is no tomorrow. The puncture itself will be small, which is the danger; more on that later. Scrub the wound with hydrogen peroxide or iodine. Get a brush if at all possible, if not then try to soak the wound in it as much as possible to kill as much bacteria as possible. We didn’t have anything to really scrub with at work, so I soaked a paper towel in hydrogen peroxide and wrapped my fingers in that. When I got home from work I soaked my fingers in a bowl of hot water. This really does help draw out any infection.
Cat bites are so dangerous because their teeth are thin and long like needles. Because of this they bring in the bacteria from the cats mouth as well any bacteria on the skin. (This is also why cat bites are more likely to lead to infection than dog bites, even though dog bites cause more immediate damage). There is one particularly nasty bacteria Pasteurella multocida that causes quite a few infections. With all that bacteria it is no surprise that there is such a high chance for cat bites to become infected. Since wounds are so small it is easy for the skin to knit back together before the infection has drained. If you see any swelling, redness, stiffness, or puss call the doctor immediately. If you see any red streaks, or swelling of lymph nodes or notice a fever go to the ER right away, this could be a sign your infection is spreading to other tissues or you are developing Cat Scratch Fever.
Don’t believe me on how bad cat bites can be? Read what happened to one Gizmodo writer after her cat playfully bit her on the back of the hand. And check out this article on cat bites to humans from VCA Animal Hospitals.
Do you have a cat bite story? Did your furry little one dig his chompers into your hand during play? A scared kitten react while you were socializing him? I would love to swap battle stories, I have lots of my own!