Cat bite abscesses
- Has your cat been fighting? Do they seem a bit 'under the weather'?
- Cat bites often lead to painful infections and abscesses.
- Cat bite abscesses cause a range of symptoms and are typically found on the top of the head, tail, legs, face and neck.
- Book an appointment with your vet if you think your cat has an abscess.
- It's important to try and prevent cat bites, because they put your cat at risk of developing other diseases.
Cat's teeth and claws are covered in nasty bacteria, so if your cat gets bitten or scratched they are very likely to develop an infection or an abscess under the skin (cat bite abscess).
Although it's rare, cat bites can also spread diseases such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) so for this reason, it's very important to have you cat neutered and keep up to date with their vaccinations.
Cat bites and scratches can sometimes cause very serious infections in people. Always seek medical advice from your doctor if you have been bitten or badly scratched by a cat.
It often takes two to four days for an abscess to develop, so before you see a swelling, you may notice other symptoms such as:
- Not eating or eating less than usual
- Low energy (lethargy)
- Fever - they may feel hot to touch (especially their ears and paws).
Symptoms of an abscess include:
- Swelling at the site
- Redness around the site
- Wounds (bite marks, or a large wound if the abscess has burst)
- A floppy tail – common if the tail base has been bitten
- Limping – ranging from mild to severe
- Pain – (being quiet, aggressive, repeatedly licking one area, growling, twitching or not letting you near them)
Treatment will depend on how your cat is in him/herself and the severity of their wound. Treatment may include:
- Lancing the abcess – your vet may decide to lance (open) your cat's abscess and release the pus from inside
- Anti-inflammatory pain relief – to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Antibiotics – antibiotics to kill bacteria, thought they aren't always necessary. Your vet will advise.
- Cleaning the wound – you will need to keep your cat's wound clean. A saltwater bathe, twice daily is usually enough.
Are cat bites and scratches dangerous to people?
Yes, cat bites and scratches can cause serious infections in humans if they break the skin. If you have been bitten or badly scratched, seek advice from your doctor/refer to the NHS website.
Treatment for a cat bite abscess can be an unexpected cost at any point throughout your cat's life. Consider insuring your cat as soon as you get them, before any problems develop. This will ensure you have all the support you need to care for them.
Find out whether you are eligible for free or low cost PDSA veterinary treatment by using our eligibility checker
Published: Jun 2020
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Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only.
Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst