Ouch! More Than You Ever Wanted To Know About Cat Bites

Worried about cat bites? Please check out our new article on the topic: Cat Bites - What Every Cat Owner Needs To Know

The information in that article can literally save your life someday. Or move on to read this article by Cynthia B. Whitney, as she shares her own experience as a rescuer dealing with cat bites and dispensing some useful advice too.

The Warning

Cats have teeth. Cats have sharp teeth. A cat will bite when it's upset. A cat will bite hard when it's very upset. Cat bites hurt. Cat bites in your finger joints hurt a lot.

All of these statements are true; I can attest to them personally. I won't bore you with all the details. Suffice it to say that at a recent cat show one of my otherwise purring lovelies got loose. By the time I captured her, she was so disoriented, frightened/terrified that she bit me on both my hands. After four days in the hospital, I can tell you that cat bites can get infected quickly.

This can happen, obviously, even if you do know what to do. Statistics show that 80 percent of all cat bites get infected. The most frequent type of bite is a puncture wound.

If a cat bite bleeds fairly well, your chance of infection will be greatly reduced. The bleeding actually flushes some of the infectious saliva out of the wound. But, with their rather long pointed teeth, a cat bite is more frequently a puncture that doesn't bleed very much, or at all.

If the bite is in a joint, such as a finger knuckle, your injury can prove to be even more serious with the possibility of inflammation and bone infection.

The Remedy

The basic rule is to cleanse the wound immediately. You can do this with soap and hot water. Anti-bacterial soap is even better. Then, sterilize it with Betadine solution. This is surgical soap that kills just about everything. It's for external use only and keeps it away from your eyes. You can get it at any drug store in a liquid. For easy travel, it also comes in an ointment.

When you get home, soak the wound in Epsom salts or peroxide and warm water. The idea is to get it as clean as possible. This will reduce the possibility of infection and inflammation.

If you do rescue work or are around cats of "questionable" behavior frequently, it might be a good idea to carry an emergency bite treatment pack. Many cat show judges do just that. They keep a good triple antibiotic ointment and some form of antibiotic oral drugs on hand.

Zithromax and Augmentin are the most common drugs of choice, according to Norm Auspitz, a CFA Allbreed judge. Since there's plenty of liquid disinfectant at cat shows, getting a wound clean at a show is not a problem.

It has also been suggested that having a cat carrier nearby may save your body parts from a cat bite. If you need to capture a cat, try having an open carrier in a place where the cat can just run into it. Jane Baretta, a veteran cat fancier, said, "Any cat with even one brain cell still working will streak into the carrier because it looks familiar among all the strange surroundings."

It's highly recommended that you seek professional medical treatment for any cat bite. The bite can turn into a nasty, infected mess in less than 12 hours. Treatment includes an IV antibiotic and oral antibiotics.

The most commonly used oral antibiotic is Augmentin, which is an amoxicillin and clavulanate mixture. Most cat bites contain Pasterella multocida bacteria, with some Staph thrown in, and these drugs best treat those bacteria.

A cat bites one in every 170 people in the U.S. each year. This includes children and people who don't even own a cat. So, everyone stands a fairly good chance of experiencing this trauma sometimes. My suggestion is to treat it with respect–the cat too.

Cynthia B. Whitney is a freelance writer based in Oklahoma City. She has been a published writer for many years, writing about animals, especially cats. As a long-time cat breeder, Cynthia enjoys sharing her knowledge about feline behavior, health, ownership, and humor.

Cynthia B. Whitney is a professional member of the Cat Writers' Association, former editor of Cymric Capers, The Write Stuff, and the NCFED, The National Coalition of Federal Employees with Disabilities newsletter (as their National Director of Public Affairs.) Cynthia is currently Assistant Editor of the OK PetGazette, and serves as their Executive Marketing Director. Click here to visit Cynthia's Website. You can also email Cynthia here: [email protected]

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