Cat Bites and Cat Scratches: Treatment, Risk, Danger

Cat bites and cat scratches are not as harmless as they first appear. They can lead to life-threatening diseases. Learn all about the dangers, treatment, and prevention of cat bites and cat scratches here.

For most cat owners, cat scratches here and there are normal and not particularly bad. However, cat bites and cat scratches are not to be taken lightly, although two small red dots or a fine red line is usually all that is visible on the skin after a cat bite or cat scratch.

This is What Makes Cat Bites So Dangerous

After a cat bite or cat scratch, you usually feel a clear pain, which soon subsides. The wound hardly bleeds and quickly closes again.

And therein lies the danger. The cat’s long, pointed teeth are like needles. They pierce the skin and go deep into the soft tissue. On the outside, you can only see a small injury that quickly closes again. But underneath the bacteria continue to work. Blood and pus-forming cannot drain.

Cat Bites Need Treatment

In the case of a cat bite, the wound is often underestimated due to external inconspicuousness. In the case of open injuries, the bacteria are swept out of the wound by the bleeding.

Not so with a cat bite: but once the wound has closed again, the body no longer has a chance to get rid of the bacteria. It is not uncommon for severe infections to develop under the surface, which can also spread throughout the body.

Cat bites are not minor injuries, but require immediate medical treatment because of the risk of infection.

First-aid Measures After Cat Bite and Cat Scratch

If you’ve been scratched or bitten by a cat, here’s what you should do:

  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect each wound immediately.
  • Put on a sterile wound bandage and keep it still. In the case of deeper wounds, consult a doctor as soon as possible.
  • Check the cat’s vaccination status and health status.
  • Check and refresh your vaccinations if necessary.

Observe the wound care and have any changes examined by a doctor immediately.
Inflammation can develop within a few hours, and if not treated in time, it can lead to serious complications. The infected tissue must be excised – under local or general anesthesia, depending on the severity of the infection. That’s why it’s better to go to the doctor once too often than not enough.

24 Hours After the Cat Bite

24 hours after the bite, the area should be observed very carefully again. You should see a doctor immediately in the following cases:

  • if pain occurs again, which usually subsides quickly immediately after the bite
  • if the wound is swollen
  • when the wound festers
  • if severe bruising is evident
  • if a red line moves away from the wound – a clear sign of blood poisoning

Cat Bites and Cat Scratches: Risk Analysis

Up to 50 percent of cat bites become infected, making them the most dangerous type of bite injury after human bites. The risk of infection depends on:

  • depth of the wound
  • affected body part
  • Health status of the cat that inflicted the bite

Risk of Cat Bites

Most of the time, cats bite the hand that comes too close to the cat at an inopportune moment. There, the pointed teeth quickly bore through to the tendons or bones, since these lie directly under the skin.

Tendons and tendon sheaths are poorly supplied with blood, which is why bacteria can multiply before the body’s immune system can intervene. Pathogens can easily migrate along with the tendons to other parts of the body and, if they get into the bloodstream, can lead to blood poisoning in the worst case.

Risk of Cat Scratches

When it comes to scratch injuries, it depends on whether they are superficial or deep. Claws sometimes get stuck and cut very deeply. Then scratch injuries – in animals as well as in humans – are just as dangerous as bites and should be treated in the same way.

It is true that saliva does not usually get into the wound when a cat scratches – but cats, in particular, carry a lot of dirt and bacteria on their claws. Therefore, the risk of tetanus infection is high even with scratches – the pathogen is also found in the soil and even enters the body via superficial wounds.

Diseases Caused By Cat Bites and Cat Scratches

A cat bite can cause many diseases, even if the cat itself does not have a serious illness. Even minor hygiene deficiencies can make a decisive difference. For example, if the cat has heavy plaque or an infection in its mouth, there are significantly more bacteria in its saliva, which are more easily transmitted.

These diseases and damage to health are threatened by a cat bite, for example:

  • blood poisoning (sepsis)
  • Inflammation of the meninges (meningitis)
  • Inflammation of the lining of the heart (endocarditis)
  • Amputation of the affected limbs may be necessary.

A cat bite must always be considered a medical emergency!

If the vaccination protection of the cat or human is not complete, there is a risk of other diseases such as rabies or tetanus:

  • Rabies is a virus that is always fatal. If you have been bitten by an unknown animal, especially abroad, precise vaccination advice from a doctor is urgently needed.
  • Tetanus (lockjaw) is an infection caused by a bacterium. The spores of the bacterium secrete a poison that enters the nerve tract and causes severe cramps and paralysis. Your own vaccination protection against tetanus is therefore extremely important and should be refreshed regularly. If there is no longer any vaccination protection at the time of the bite, a booster is usually carried out immediately.

Cat Scratch Disease: Recognizing Symptoms

Cat scratch disease can occur in rare cases after cat bites or scratches. The infection, caused by a bacterium, primarily affects the lymph nodes and may be accompanied by flu-like symptoms.

The disease usually heals on its own, but complications can occur. People with an immune deficiency are particularly at risk.

Prevent Cat Bites and Cat Scratches

Even if you’re stressed or tense, you shouldn’t rush and wave your hand in front of the cat. Also pay attention to the cat’s body language, i.e. the position of its tail and its facial expressions. With this, she announces her discontent even before a claw attack.

Cats that consistently exhibit aggressive behavior such as scratching or biting should be medically examined as a matter of urgency. Pain or metabolic diseases can lead to this behavior and must be ruled out. If the problem persists even though the cat is physically healthy and sufficiently busy, an animal psychologist may be able to help.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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