Cat bites are responsible for the majority of infected wounds seen in cats seeking veterinary attention. These are usually sustained during fights between these very territorial animals. The most territorial of these are the entire Tom cats who also roam to expand the area of their territory. If you have an entire Tom who is known to fight then castration or neutering should help to reduce the incidence of fighting.
Fighting can still occur in neutered males and females who defend their territory. These territories are often smaller than those of the entire Toms. The presence of entire Toms in the neighbourhood is often a factor in the frequency of fights seen.
As well as neutering there are other steps you can take to try and prevent your cat fighting. Most fights seem to occur between cats during the night so confining your cat to the house at night can keep them out of trouble.
When a cat bites, the sharp teeth leave small puncture marks in the skin. These heal over very quickly and trap bacteria under the skin. These bacteria then multiply and after a few days with no apparent signs you may notice swelling and pain at the site. These swellings can be extremely uncomfortable for your cat and the presence of infection means your cat is often running a fever.
You may not notice the bite wound itself as the very small puncture marks are often covered in fur and are only noticed when the fur is shaved. These are some of the signs you may notice in a cat with a fight wound abscess:
- inappetance (not eating)
If you suspect your cat has been bitten or your cat is showing any of the signs listed above, then you should seek veterinary attention immediately. The vet will drain the abscess which contains foul smelling pus. The wound will be flushed and then left open so the infected material can continue to drain. It may be necessary to sedate or anaesthetise your cat to perform this procedure.
For severe infections antibiotics will be given either by injection by the vet or in syrup or tablet form for you to administer at home. It is important that these antibiotics are given as per your vets instructions. If you are unable to give the medication then contact your vet as soon as possible.
It is advisable to bathe the wound at least twice daily. Salt water is very good for this job, made with a teaspoon of salt in boiled and cooled water. Never use disinfectants without consulting your vet as some of these can be toxic in cats.
With appropriate treatments the wound should show signs of healing within a few days. If the wound doesn’t appear to be improving then seek your vet’s advice.
One of the major concerns in a cat who fights frequently is the transmission of disease. Certain viruses such as FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) can be transmitted via bites from infected cats. FeLV (Feline Leukaemia Virus) is also found in large amounts in the saliva of infected cats so it may be possible that this could also be transmitted through bites. Your vet can perform a blood test to diagnose these infections.
Untreated abscesses can often burst, heal over and then recur. A non-healing wound could suggest an underlying illness. For example FIV and FeLV suppress the immune system and may prevent the wound healing naturally. A persistent draining wound may have some foreign material trapped in there, for example a claw or a tooth.
Abscesses which occur repeatedly at the same site may be unresolved infections. Any infection which remains after a wound has apparently healed can cause another abscess. On the other hand recurring abscesses can be an indication as to your cat’s methods of fighting. A cat that may run away may always get bitten on the tail or around the tail base, whereas the aggressive attacking cat may always get bitten around the head or the forelimbs.