VCA Animal Hospitals

Wounds – Cat Bite Injuries to Humans

Why do cat bites get infected so easily?

When a cat bites, its sharp canine teeth easily puncture the skin, leaving small, but deep, wounds in the skin.

"These punctures rapidly seal over, trapping bacteria from the cat's mouth under the skin of the victim."

These punctures rapidly seal over, trapping bacteria from the cat's mouth under the skin of the victim, where they can readily multiply. A similar type of injury happens with cat scratches - the extremely sharp, curved 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 causing a condition called cellulitis.

Are cat bites dangerous?

wounds_-_cat_bite_injuries_to_humansCat bites can be dangerous both to other animals and to humans. In their mouths, all cats carry a large number of bacteria that are capable of causing tissue infections in bite wounds. One of the more common is highly pathogenic bacterium known as Pasteurella multocida. 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 septicemia (often called "blood poisoning"). Infected people may suffer from fever and flu-like symptoms and, rarely, may die if proper medical treatment is not sought. Children, the elderly, ill and immunosuppressed individuals are particularly vulnerable to developing severe infections if bitten by a cat.

If your pet is showing these symptoms do not wait for symptoms to get worse. It's better to contact your local VCA Veterinarian. We offer a free first exam* for new clients.

Do I really need to see a doctor?

Yes. It is advisable to see a physician as soon as possible in order to have the injury properly treated. 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 sutured ("stitched") while others will be left open to heal. A tetanus booster may also be recommended.

Depending on the severity of the bite and the circumstances surrounding the bite, your doctor may also recommend that you receive a rabies prophylaxis treatment.

What will happen to the cat in this case?

In many jurisdictions, your physician will be required to file a report to the local department of health. If the cat's rabies vaccine status is known and is current, the cat will usually be placed under a short quarantine, ranging from 10-14 days. If the cat's rabies vaccination has lapsed, the quarantine will last longer.

Related Tags

bacteria, bite, bites, infected, infection, injuries, puncture, punctures, victim, wound, wounds

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At VCA Animal Hospitals, our veterinarians take you and your pet's health seriously. With over 600 hospitals and 1,800 fully qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, we strive to give your pet the very best in medical care. We understand your pet is an extension of you, and appreciate the opportunity to share in providing exceptional pet care and quality of life.

* Free initial health exam for new clients only. Not to be combined with any other offer. Not good toward boarding, grooming, prescription and non-prescription medication, and retail items. Not good toward emergency and/or specialty veterinary services. Coupon good for up to two pets (dogs or cats only) per household. Redeemable only at a general practice VCA Animal Hospital. For pet owners who are aged 18 and older.

If you are a new client, you can get a free first exam* on your first visit.

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