Although cat bite symptoms range from mild to severe, all bites need treatment to avoid illness. Call your physician immediately if you are bitten.
Characteristics of Bite Wounds
All cat bites, from little nips to deep punctures to open gashes, have the potential of causing a possible infection. According to Health Guide Info, the common characteristics associated with most cat bites include:
- Puncture type wound
- A cut or break in the skin with bleeding
- Bruising around the site of a cut or puncture wound
- Inflammation around the area of the bite
- Pain around the bite area
- The skin around the area of the wound feels warm and appears red
- Infection with swelling and pus coming from the wound
Being aware of the signs of infection is the first step toward safeguarding your health.
Treating a Cat Bite
According to FamilyDoctor.org, there are some basic steps people should take to lower the chance of developing an infection from a cat bite. These include:
- Wash your hands thoroughly, or put on rubber gloves before beginning treatment.
- If the bite is bleeding, apply pressure directly onto the area using a clean dry cloth. Continue applying pressure until the bleeding stops.
- If the bite is not bleeding or is only bleeding slightly, wash the area for several minutes using antibacterial soap and water. Use running water if possible.
- Make certain to rinse all of the soap out of the wound.
- Sterilize the area with Betadine, or soak it in solution of peroxide and warm water or Epsom salts.
- Apply an antibiotic ointment or cream to the site, making sure to coat the area completely.
- Cover the bite with a clean dressing.
- Watch the bite area over the next two days for any signs of infection.
Possible Complications of a Cat Bite
Although both dog and cat saliva contains a number of different bacteria, it is more likely that a person will get an infection from a cat bite than a dog bite. With their needle-like incisors, long canines and carnassial teeth, cats' teeth are sharper and longer than their canine counterparts. Their bites generally produce puncture wounds that are narrow, deep and difficult to clean. Mild infections cause feelings of slight discomfort while serious ones cause complications that may become life threatening and even fatal.
Common Cat Bite Infection Symptoms
There are many symptoms that a bite is becoming infected. If you have any concerns at all, you should discuss them with a health care professional.
- Redness: One of the first symptoms that your bite may be getting infected is redness around the bite. This can vary from light pink to a dark, angry-looking crimson red. If you see that the area is getting red, it is important to watch for any spreading of redness outward to the rest of the body. This could indicate a case of blood poisoning.
- Heat: Whether or not the bite begins to redden, you will want to check it often to make sure it is not warmer than the other parts of your body. As your body sends antibodies to fight infection, it causes the temperature around the infected area to heat up even before the area turns red.
- Odor: Some bites may begin to have an unusual odor. It may be difficult to detect at first, but the wound may smell yeasty or strong if left untreated .
- Pus or oozing: Have the wound looked at immediately if you begin to see pus oozing. Sometimes an infected bite can abscess and actually puff up with a growth that looks like a large pimple or boil. This will eventually pop and drain, but a doctor should look at the wound.
- Fever: If an infection is left too long, it can actually make you sick. You may begin to run a fever, and the fever can go quite high as the infection progresses.
Additional symptoms of an infection include swollen lymph glands, headache, and fatigue, according to FamilyDoctor.org.
Symptoms of Cat Scratch Fever
Transmitted by a scratch or bite, cat scratch fever, also known as cat scratch disease, is generally not serious to people with healthy immune systems. However, go to your doctor if you develop symptoms. The most common treatment is a prescription of antibiotics. If you suffer from a compromised immune system due to an existing medical condition, seek medical attention immediately if a cat bites you. Symptoms of cat scratch fever generally occur three to thirty days after the bite with most cases developing in the first one to two weeks. The illness usually lasts two to four months but may last up to a year.
According to MedicineNet.com, symptoms include:
- A blister or small bump develops at the site of the bite
- Lymph nodes in the area become tender and swollen and may drain pus
- Low fever
- Sore throat
- Loss of appetite
Possible Complications of Serious Infections
Without proper treatment of the initial bite area, the bacterium travels throughout the body in the bloodstream in some cases. According to the School of Veterinary Medicine at LSU, the following complications are rare, but possible:
- Streptococcal infection
- Staphylococcal infection
- Capnocytophaga infection
When to Seek Medical Treatment
Always seek immediate medical treatment for a cat bite if any of the following occur:
- The bite is on the neck, face, hands or fingers
- The bite was from an unknown or feral cat
- The bite is very large or deep
- The bleeding will not stop with applied pressure
- You think the area needs stitches
- The person bitten has not received a tetanus shot within the last five years
- The bite area becomes red, swollen and painful, or pus begins draining from the wound
Take Every Bite Seriously
Never make the mistake of ignoring a bite wound. Cats, like all animals, carry bacteria in their mouths that can lead to infections. Make sure you clean the wound properly, cover it to prevent more bacteria from gaining entry, and call your family doctor about having the bite examined. Getting bitten by a cat is a fairly common occurrence, but you still need to protect your health.