Cat Bites Always Cause Problems7 min read
CAT BITES ARE A YEAR ROUND ISSUE
Cat bites cross species. Cats bite other cats. Cats bite people. Cats bite dogs. You get the picture. The repercussions of these bite wounds cause considerable pain to the recipient. Cat to cat altercations bring about the majority of biting situations. The cycle starts in late winter when male cats are staking out their territory looking for a female that will be entering heat (estrous) for the first time that year. All female cats need about 12 or so hours of sunlight to go into heat. That means mid February to early March, depending on where you live. Males will fight for the females and this leads to biting.
Why do cats bite? Cats will bite when threatened or scared. They are capable of biting when stressed. Cats do not tolerate disorder in their lives. Everything has to be just “right”. They are complete, total creatures of habit. If you change the position of furniture or the litter box a cat’s day is ruined. A cat can spiral out of control. This can lead to aggression and or bite wounds. To get into the head of a cat you have to know how cats think and the ins and outs of cat body language.
Cat bites always get infected. The cat canine tooth is long and tapered. It penetrates the flesh of its victim introducing bacteria deep into the wound. The bacteria multiply which then leads to abscesses. Cat bites can also transmit diseases. Although the most uncommon, Rabies is the worst of the worst. FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) is the most common disease transmitted by bite wounds from cat to cat. This explains why many male feral cats carry the virus. While fighting for females they transmit the disease to each other. Cats also can transmit Cat Scratch Fever to people. This is a disease in humans caused by Bartonella henslae; a bacteria that causes peripheral lymph node enlargement. In this sense cat bites are a true public health issue.
When is a cat bite wound NOT a bite wound? This may sound like a nutty question but it is not. AUGUST TIP: Other clinical issues can mimic bite wounds. Cutelebral infections (“warbles”) appear in abundance during the month of August and September. The Cutelebra sp fly usually affects rodents but cats tend to get in the way of the natural life cycle. The larvae are almost ALWAYS found somewhere under the skin around the head or neck of the cat. I have seen grubs growing in a cat’s nostril. The majority of infections look like a bite wound along the neck. The big difference is that the wound hole is larger than a cat canine tooth. If you look closely at it for a minute you will see a larvae come “up for air”. Left to its own devise Cutelebral infections can and will lead to disorders of the central nervous system in the cat. Never, ever try to remove the grub yourself. Let your veterinarian treat it by enlarging the hole and removing the larvae INTACT AND IN ONE PIECE. Rupturing the contents of the larvae while attempting to remove it can lead to a severe allergic or analphylactic reaction that could be fatal.
WHAT IS THE MOST COMMON OUTCOME
Bite wounds can occur anywhere on an animal’s body. Over the years I have treated them from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail. As a general rule it is pretty easy to figure out who the aggressor is. A cat with a bite wound on the hindquarters was trying to flee but lost. Cats with wounds around the face and neck areas are usually the aggressor that stood his ground but lost. The most common outcome of cat bites is the formation of abscesses. This is an extremely painful proposition.
Abscesses can be lethal if not treated. Along with upper respiratory infections they are one of the most common reasons why a cat’s body temperature will spike into the stratosphere. Normal cat body temperature is 102.0 F. It is not uncommon for cats to be presented with a 106.0 F. temperature and up!! This is extremely dangerous as they can approach heat stroke status plus severely dehydrate. The actual abscess is loaded with pus cells and bacteria. The pus cells (neutrophils) make a high fever even worse. Bacteria present in most abscesses produce toxins that can damage kidneys and or other essential organs.
You might ask what happens to male feral cats that do not have owners? Many times they die of sepsisThis is the concurrent presence of bacteria and toxins in the blood.. The lucky ones have abscesses that come to a head and burst. This allows all the nasty stuff inside to drain out. They will often heal on their own as long as their immune system is not ravaged by the FIV virus.
All cat bites should be immediately treated. Do not take a chance for an abscess to form. Simple antibiotics and daily cleaning of the wound with hydrogen peroxide will clear it up in a week or so. Always keep the wound clean. It will also prevent the bite wound from sealing over. In these situations the actual bite wound hole serves as a natural drain! This premature sealing can lead to another abscess. Abscesses that do form are treated surgically. The wound is lanced, drains are placed and appropriate supportive care is offered. Your veterinarian may also culture the abscess material to find the most effective antibiotic that works. Clavamox® with or without Baytril® is always a great choice.
PREVENTING CAT BITES CAN BE DIFFICULT
Cats are very emotional animals. They are totally unlike dogs when it comes to free time. Dogs let it all hang out without a worry in the world. Cats can be just staring at the wall and they are always thinking….and thinking. That is the nature of the beast. One fact is obvious. Cat bites can occur to indoor animals but the majority are outdoor animals. Keep your pet indoors. Yes, I have treated dogs or cats that were bitten by a cat in the same house but those situations are not common. Animals that live with a “moody” cat generally learn to walk on egg shells around the biting animal.
Make sure that all your pets are neutered. Neutering male cats is the best way to keep testosterone from boiling over into aggression but also keeps an animal closer to home. This decrease in roaming (usually spent looking for females) decreases the chance of contact with other male cats.
Most solutions trying to get to the root of cat bites are: keeping pets indoors, neutering all of them but particularly the males, understanding how cats think and the ins and out of cat body language. There are a few situations that may benefit from behavioral modification. This can be difficult because a domestic cat may be concurrently living with other dogs or cats. This is totally unnatural for cats. They are used to hunting ALONE and often do not want to be around other cats or dogs. This unnatural environment can make behavioral modification harder. Some animals may respond to medical therapy. Valium® (and its derivatives) and Prozac® have been successfully used to decrease anxiety and or aggressive feline behavior. Your veterinarian will want to run a complete physical and or blood work before placing any animal on one these pharmaceutical agents.