Cat Bite Wounds- The Lurking Danger6 min read

 In Cats, Medical



Cat bite wounds are one of the most common medical problems that veterinarians come across in day to day practice. Although they can be seasonal cat bite wounds are a year round medical occurrence.  To understand the problem you have to understand why cats bite in the first place!  Biting is a reaction to many types of stimuli.   Cat body language will teach you about the specific changes in the cat’s posture and ear position that could indicate that a biting situation is imminent.  The cat in the image above does not look too happy.  It is demonstrating the classical look of a cat that could inflict some serious damage.  Take a look at the ears being held back close to the top of the head, slanted eyes and canine teeth exposed.  These are warning signs.

During mating season, which extends from February through October, males will stake their territory and fight over potential mates.   Male cats will fight when they cross paths with competing males.   I always got asked whether the cat sitting on my exam table was the aggressor or the victim.  Bite wounds that are present around the face and forelimbs are often those of the aggressor cat.  Cats with bite wounds over the posterior area or hind-limbs are FLEEING the aggressor.  The latter group of cats are the victims.  Other cats that will bite are in some form of panic or heightened alert.  Even changing the arrangement of furniture in a house or adding a new cat or dog to the home can change feline behavior in a negative way.  Cats are the most habitual of animals.  A new dog or cat in the household is seen as a threat.  This can lead to bite behavior.

Many kittens become biters at an early age due to excessive, rough playing with their human friends. Playing with cats is a lot of fun but alpha male playing can drive a cat into a frenzy leading it to bite.  This type of learned behavior is displaced in other situations.  The cat thinks it is okay to bite so the biting is repeated time after time.

There are biting situations that are totally out of a cat’s control.  When a animal is injured it needs to be taken to an animal hospital.  If a person is not familiar with handling an injured animal the cat can and will bite.  The bite is not out of malice but because it is in pain.  Dogs also respond in a similar fashion.  All veterinarians will be happy to show you how to safely hold or transport an injured animal. Other cats may bite due to an internal medical issue such as seizure activity or encephalitis.  The most common cause of seizuring in cats is that seen in Feline Infectious Peritonitis.   As you can see cat bite wounds can arise from multiple situations.



Cat bite wounds are serious and can lead to many medical complications.
Cat bite wounds are serious and can lead to many medical complications.
Puppy socialization is important when not only dealing with other dogs but also other cats in the household.

I have treated cat fight wounds from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail!  Bites can occur over any surface area of the body.  You have to give credit where credit is due.  Cats are lightning fast and can shred anything into a 1000 pieces in the matter of a few milliseconds.   They not only have very sharp claws but long canine teeth that protrude from each upper and lower corner of their jaws.  In the slideshow above it is easy to see the similarities between a few domestic cats and one of their wild cousins- the tiger!  Long, sharp canine teeth are used for tearing flesh.  This is how wild animals eat!  The big problem with cat bite wounds when compared to dogs is that cat bites penetrate deep into the musculature of the victim.  The majority of dog bite wounds are superficial in nature.  Bacteria are dragged deep down into the wound where they fester and lead to the most common problem- abscessation and lacerations.

Humans also have their problems when bitten by cats.  Cat bites can cause similar problems in people just as they do in cat to cat or cat to dog bites.  Cats are also capable of transmitting Cat Scratch Disease (Fever) to humans via a bite or cat scratch. The causative agent in this case is Bartonella henselae, a bacterial organism. Common signs in people are a general malaise, fever and an enlargement of  lymph nodes near the cat bite.




The most common type of bite wounds are those that involve male tom cats. The simple solution to this problem is to get the cat(s) neutered and keep them indoors.  For some owners this is difficult to do.  If you neuter an outdoor male cat later in life that musky urine odor will remain and stink up the whole house.  Many outdoor animals are also not used to using a litter box.

When raising a kitten do not get engaged in “hyper play”.  Do not tolerate biting from a young animal.  These behavioral issues will pass on into adulthood. It is very risky to have any type of biting animal in the house.  This would border on a public health issue.

Preventing cat to human bite wounds is important. Do not handle any unknown cat that might be hanging around your home.  It might be a neighbor’s cat but it also may be feral with an unknown vaccination history.  Leave it alone.  Learn how to handle an injured animal so you do not get bitten.  Veterinarians teach all staff members about safe animal restraint.  The goal is to not injure the animal while restraining it yet prevent it from biting staff members or even the client! Cat bite wounds always get infected so preventing them in the first place is the way to go.  If you do get bitten immediately contact your health provider.

Rabies is a public health issue and cats are diagnosed with the disease more than twice as frequently as dogs.  Cats are nocturnal animals and are exposed to animals that can carry the rabies virus such as skunks and raccoons.  ALWAYS make sure your cat or dog is current on rabies vaccination. In human history there has not been one person that has survived a case of rabies.

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