Ouch That Hurts! But, Are Cat Bites Dangerous?
2 May, 2016
cat biting a hand

We love our furry feline friends and they are usually so friendly to us.  However, once in a while you meet that crazy cat or maybe you cat is just scared and bites you.  If the bite is superficial and doesn’t penetrate the skin, there is no need to worry.  If you are bleeding, there are some steps you should take to avoid infection.

Are all cat bites harmful?

The punctures or bites from cat usually seal over, trapping bacteria from the cat’s mouth under the skin of the bitten party where they can multiply.  This can also happen with cat scratches when their extremely sharp nails penetrate deep into the skin, essentially injecting bacteria deep into the puncture wound. Depending on the location and depth of the wound, the bacteria can spread in the surrounding tissues.

Cat bites are most likely to involve the hands and face, but are less destructive and life threatening than dog bites. However, cats’ narrow sharp teeth cause deeper puncture wounds than dogs, and tend to carry a higher risk of infection and abscess.

Cat bites can be dangerous if left untreated

Cat bites can be dangerous both to other animals and to humans. All cats carry, in their mouths, a large number of bacteria that are capable of causing tissue infections in bite wounds.  An infected cat bite wound will be red, swollen and painful, and the infection can spread through the surrounding tissues, causing a condition called cellulitis, or through the blood to other areas of the body, causing a condition called blood poisoning.

If you are bit by a cat, immediately wash the wound under running water

If you are bitten by a cat, the bite should immediately be washed under running water. Avoid scrubbing the wounds vigorously, or using strong disinfectants or other chemicals, since this may harm tissue and delay healing. You should clean the wound with a mild salt solution (mixing 1 teaspoon of table salt in 2 cups of water).  You can stop the bleeding by applying direct pressure to the wound using an absorbent dressing or bandage.

Make an appointment with your doctor if the skin is punctured

Your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics in order to reduce the risk of infection developing at the site of the bite or elsewhere in the body. Some wounds may need to be stitched while others will be left open to heal. A tetanus booster is sometimes recommended.

Depending on the severity of the bite and the circumstances surrounding the bite, your doctor may also recommend that you receive a rabies shot, especially if the cat is a stray.

Your doctor’s office should do the following:

  • Apply saline solution from a syringe
  • Cut away any dead tissue and remove any foreign bodies
  • X-ray if there may be a fracture
  • Unless the bite is on the face, closure with sutures is not usually needed
  • Antibiotics are usually advised unless the bite is very superficial and easily cleaned
  • Tetanus booster if you are not up to date

If you do get a cat bite, just try to determine right away the severity, so you know the next steps to take!

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