It happens that cats, especially young ones, bite the caretaker’s hands while playing, or linger on his feet. Usually these are slight “sneaks”. However, if your cat sticks her teeth deeper and bites you into the blood, don’t underestimate it!
A cat is a small predator, but with sharp teeth. Proportionally long, sharp as pins, fangs may not be able to inflict large surface wounds, such as, for example, the teeth of a dog, but with a strong enough clamp, the jaws can penetrate quite deeply. If an infection occurs, medical help will be necessary.
What could be the consequences of a cat bite?
Does a cat bite always qualify for a preventive doctor’s appointment? Not necessarily – a lot depends on how hard the pressure was and how deep the wound was formed, whether it is painful and where it was formed. A cat biting during play usually doesn’t bite hard enough to need more than just disinfecting the wound. The situation with a bite resulting from aggression is different – not necessarily directly to the human being. It can be transferred aggression, aggression resulting from strong pain or illness, defensive aggression. In the case of a severe bite, the wound may be small in surface area, but at the same time deep.
Cat saliva has antibacterial properties (so licking the wounds of a cat can help avoid purulent infections), but there are plenty of bacteria in the cat’s mouth that can get into the wound after a bite. Remember that bacteria on your skin, such as streptococci or staphylococci, can also penetrate the wound. Shallow wounds can be disinfected.
Deep wounds can be much more problematic because they are difficult to clean. Disinfecting the wound surface will not always kill all pathogenic bacteria – it is possible that some of them may get inside the tissues. The most sensitive are joints and tendons – a bite in their vicinity may result in painful ailments and the need for longer treatment. The infection with Pasteurella multocida in the mouths of both dogs and cats is particularly dangerous. If the bacterium penetrates deep into the tissues, especially if the wrist or hand is bitten, hospitalisation may be necessary in the absence of a quick medical intervention.
What to do if a cat bites us?
If the cat catches your hand with its teeth, don’t try to jerk it. The cat can only tighten the grip to deepen the wound. You can either relax your cat’s hand to the max and let her release the grip and then take her hand out of her mouth, or on the contrary, insert her hand even deeper so that she can no longer hold it with her fangs.
The first step after a bite, no matter how big the wound, should be to disinfect it. Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water. Then disinfect it. You can do this with oxidized water or a disinfectant such as Octenisept. Allow the wound to bleed out for a few minutes – this way your body will get rid of pathogens on its own. Then apply the ointment with an antibiotic – it is available without a prescription in every pharmacy (e.g. Tribiotic, Maxibiotic). Then apply a sterile bandage. If the wound is deep, go to your GP or to the emergency room.
A cat bite can also lead to zoonotic infections. Thanks to prophylactic programs, the risk of contracting rabies, even from an unknown cat, is very low (the last case of rabies in Poland was reported in 2002).
However, if you are bitten by an unknown cat, it should be placed in veterinary quarantine (it lasts 15 days). You should go to a doctor who will decide whether a prophylactic series of anti-rabies injections will be necessary after the inspection. In this case, it is better to blow cold before the first symptoms of the disease occur (after about 10 days from the bite), the injections will prevent the development of rabies by producing antibodies that will eliminate the virus, which is not yet active. After the symptoms have occurred, the disease is no longer curable. Nowadays, painful diaphragm injections are no longer used, but painless and safe shoulder and shoulder injections are used.
Cat’s claw disease (bartonellosis), which is a mild zoonotic disease, is more likely to become infected. It is a bacterial disease that develops within 1-8 weeks of being bitten. In the vast majority of cases the disease is limited to skin symptoms. Where a cat bites (or scratches), a lump is observed, which over time transforms into a bubble, sometimes into an ulcer. After a maximum of 8 weeks (and usually 10 days) this change disappears spontaneously.
In some patients, the lymph nodes (usually one-sided) become enlarged and disappear after a few weeks. In rare acute cases, fever, headache, back pain, abdominal pain, sore throat and general fatigue occur. Sometimes the liver and spleen are enlarged. In this case, antibiotic therapy is necessary.
The appearance of swelling after a cat bite
Observe the cat bite wound for the next few days. Any disturbing symptoms, such as swelling, pulsating pain, limited mobility, or fever, should be a signal to go to the doctor as soon as possible. This is a sign that the infection is developing. In this case, the doctor usually recommends antibiotic therapy. Do not hesitate – painful swelling, which does not go away, but even increases, may already be a reason for hospital treatment. It may be necessary to surgically cleanse the wound – especially if the area of joints, tendons, wrists and hands have been bitten. Here, the wound does not have to be even deep to reach the tendon or bone, because they are quite shallow on the skin.
How do I avoid a bite?
Cat bite can be a form of play, especially among energetic and “unbridled” kittens. In this case, the cat will usually control the force of the bite so as not to cause real harm – just like playing with siblings. However, some cats are not entirely aware of how much they can bite as part of the game – they are usually taken from their mother too early (before the age of 12). These kittens have not been with their siblings long enough to learn the right play patterns and to develop social skills properly. The biting kitten should be taught to bite calmly and consistently and should be shown that this is not an acceptable form of play.
If you want to separate the fighting cats, be careful. Don’t try to grab them, pull them away from you. The animal can reflexively direct the aggression to you. A better solution is to try to distract cats from the fight (clapping in their hands, throwing a pillow next to the animals – not in the animals!). You can also throw a blanket at one cat, breaking the eye contact of your rivals and protecting one cat from the other.
Don’t impose too much physical contact on your cat – if she’s tired of stroking, let her go, don’t stroke any further. If the cat’s “limit” is exceeded, it may bite you. The first bite may be light, warning. Don’t put your cat’s patience to the test anymore. You should also learn to read body language to your cat. The energetic waving of the tail to the sides, the stacked ears, the narrowed pupils, the throat whirring, the hissing – all signals that say “don’t touch me”. If, in turn, one leg is raised as a warning, or the cat is lying down, preparing all legs for defense – this is a defensive attitude. Something scared or upset the cat who doesn’t want to attack unless she thinks she’s being attacked. Don’t come any closer and let him calm down.
Remember that sudden, disturbing signs of cat aggression can indicate a disease or behavioural disorder. In addition to taking care of your own wound, you should therefore direct your cat’s steps towards a veterinary clinic. All diseases accompanied by severe pain and diseases such as: ailments, ailments, etc. can cause increased aggression in the animal:
- brain tumors,
- Hepatic encephalopathy,
- diseases with high fever.
If the aggression is the result of behavioural disorders, contact a good behaviouralist who will advise you on the type of treatment. Remember that most cat bites are our responsibility – to impose contact when the cat does not want it, to misread body language, to try to solve a conflict between cats or to catch an untamed street cat without protection.