Cat Bite Wounds

By:  Dr. Hilary Slaven

Spring is here, and at the veterinary clinic that means more than wonderfully warm weather.  Here it also means lambs and baby calves and cat bite wounds.

Everyone seems to emerge from the winter cold and quiet and here we are with cats that are mating and fighting with one another.  Hence the cat bites.

WCVS website 354

Happy kitty with no cat bites.

So what is the typical presentation to us at the veterinary clinic?


  1.  The owner sees his/her furry kitty friend engage in a squall with another kitty.
  2. (Or, alternatively, the kitty friend is let outside for the day and shows up in the evening with a limp or just doesn’t feel good).
  3. Kitty doesn’t have any energy.
  4. Kitty doesn’t want to eat or drink.
  5. Kitty may have a swollen leg or may be lame on one leg.  (Often it resembles a broken leg).

Typically, these cats are running fevers, with 104 degrees F and higher pretty common.  They can be dehydrated and extremely painful.

When cats bite, they inject bacteria deep into the muscle tissue with their long canine teeth.  These bacteria fester over the next few days, during which time the skin may even heal over, trapping infection inside the muscle.

These infections require prescription oral antibiotics to heal properly.  Sometimes an x-ray is required to rule out a fractured leg.  Sometimes the skin over the wound dies and falls away, leaving an open wound that is managed with bandaging and fly repellent.  Sometimes pain relief is required, or even hospitalization to rehydrate a very sick cat with IV fluids and start with injectable antibiotics.

Another thing to think about is the transmission of other diseases by cat bites, such as feline leukemia, FIV, and FIP.  This discussion is an important one to have with your veterinarian, especially if your cat is outdoors.

Every case is different, but now you know the basics of what to look for with cat bites!


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