Cat bite abscesses
Has your cat been in a fight with another cat? A cat’s claws and teeth are covered in bacteria, if they bite or scratch each other it’s very likely that an infection will develop. This very often leads to an abscess forming under the skin.
The most common areas for a cat to be bitten include:
- Top of the head
- Face and neck.
Cat bite abscesses cause pain, sometimes a high temperature and often make a cat feel very unwell. They usually respond quickly to veterinary treatment but can put a cat at risk of catching certain diseases.
Cat bites and scratches can also cause serious infections in people. Always seek medical advice from your doctor if you have been bitten or scratched by a cat.
Neutering is the best way to prevent fights and cat bite abscesses.
It usually takes two to four days for an abscess to develop after a fight. Signs of an infection often come before the abscess shows, these include:
Symptoms of an abscess include:
- Swelling, redness and heat in the area
- Wounds (usually two small punctures, or a large wound if the abscess has opened up)
- Floppy tail – if the tail has been bitten
- Limping – your cat may even not want to put the leg down at all
- Pain (being quiet, aggressive, licking at one particular area a lot, growling, twitching, or not letting you near them).
When to contact your vet
Contact your vet if your cat shows any of the signs above or if you are worried that they may have been fighting.
You know your cat best. If they don’t have the symptoms listed above but you are still concerned it’s always best to contact your vet.
Is your cat neutered?
Speak to your vet about neutering your cat – it is the best way to prevent fights and cat bite abscesses.
Your cat will need to be seen by your vet who will assess the abscess and treat it in the veterinary hospital if necessary. They may also prescribe some medication for you to give to your cat at home:
Anti-inflammatory pain relief
- Anti-inflammatory pain relief is excellent at reducing pain and inflammation.
- Antibiotics aren’t always necessary. Your vet will advise.
Cleaning the wound
- Your vet may ask you to keep your cat’s wound clean at home by bathing it. The vet might give you a special antiseptic or ask you to use salt water. Usually, twice daily is sufficient.
- To make salt water, add 1 teaspoon of salt to a pint of boiled, cooled water.
If cat bite abscesses are treated by a vet and kept clean they usually heal within a week or two without causing any ongoing problems. Contact your vet if the abscess isn’t improving or you are worried. Left without treatment, cat bite abscesses have the potential to cause ongoing issues.
Although it is rare, cat bites can spread diseases such as:
- Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
- Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV).
It is very important to keep your cat up to date with vaccinations.
Published: July 2018
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Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only.
Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst