Cat Skin Wounds and How to Treat Them

Kelly Roper
Fighting felines

If you have an outdoor cat or multiple indoor cats, then chances are you're at least a little familiar with cat skin wounds. In fact, most feline skin wounds are inflicted on a cat by a member of its own species. Take a closer look at why this happens and how you can help your pet.

Cat Fights

Cats are really very physical creatures. If something bothers them they may hiss or yowl, but they're just as likely to lash out physically. Quite often they do this with their paws, leaving their unlucky victims with claw rakes. Other times cats will let their teeth do the talking, inflicting a quick but nasty bite on their unhappy targets.

When cats fight, they are usually left with at least a few cat skin wounds. Sometimes the injuries are very apparent and cause for a good deal of concern, but sometimes the injuries don't appear to be very serious - at least at first.

Cat Skin Wounds and Infections

When dealing with cat skin wounds, bleeding is often the least concern. It's secondary infections from bacteria deposited at the time of injury that tend to wreak the most havoc. Consider the cat's only weapons, his sharp claws and teeth.

Claw Wounds

A cat generally digs around in his litter box to bury his leavings, and this can lead to a collection of bacteria in his claws. When those claws rip through flesh, they can leave behind bacteria to grow and multiply.

Bite Wounds

A cat's teeth are capable of doing even more damage than his claws, mainly because of the cat's typical style of biting. A cat bites cleanly and quickly, puncturing the skin and immediately releasing. He doesn't dig in and shake his head the way a dog or an alligator would. The bites are perfect little punctures that quickly swell and close over, trapping bacteria inside of the wound.

At first glance, it appears as though the wounds are healing quickly, but once the bacteria begins to "cook," the wound becomes red and swollen as the pus builds up pressure beneath the skin. Unless the wound is properly treated, the infection from the bite can reach the bloodstream with deadly consequences.

Infectious Complications

There are a number of infections/complications that cats can contract from skins wounds.

These include, but are not limited to:

  • Transference of Feline Leukemia from an infected cat: There is no cure for this disease and cats can only be protected through prior vaccination.
  • Transference of Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV): FIV complicates the healing process because it weakens the cat's ability to fight off any infection at the wound site.
  • Streptococcus infection: Strep doesn't require much oxygen to survive, so the enclosed environment of a puncture wound allows the bacteria to thrive and multiply.

Signs of Infection

Signs of infected bites and scratch marks include:

  • Redness
  • Heat
  • Tissue swelling
  • Fever
  • Localized hair loss
  • Lethargy
  • Putrid smell coming from the wound
  • Pus drainage

Treatment

How vets choose to treat a cat's skin wounds can vary slightly according to when the wound is discovered and how the infection has progressed. Some vets will clean the wounds and administer a precautionary round of antibiotics to head off the onset of an infection when it's known that the cat in question was involved in a fight. Now let's look at the manner of treatment when wounds have gone undetected and been allowed to fester.

Abscesses

Abscesses are pockets of infection that form inside of closed wounds in areas of loose flesh that have the capability to expand and accommodate the production of pus.To treat an abscess, the vet will first open the wound to allow a major portion of the pus to drain. The wound may be left open for further drainage via a drainage tube to prevent it from closing again and continuing to fester.

The vet will also usually administer antibiotics by injection because it quickly delivers the medicine to the bloodstream. Most cats are typically not willing to take medications by mouth, so injection is also an easier way to deliver the medicine.

A follow up visit is usually required to make sure the infection is fading and to remove the drainage tube in order to allow the wound to finally heal.

Cellulitis

When a wound occurs in an area where the skin is able to stretch, the infection is forced to spread throughout the surrounding tissue. In cases like this, there is no way to drain the wound, so the vet is completely dependent on antibiotics to arrest the infection.

Prognosis

In most cases, a cat will heal within a week of treatment unless other diseases such as FIV and Feline Leukemia have been transferred, or if the infection has been transferred through the bloodstream to the internal organs.

Preventing Cat Wounds

Prevention is nearly always easier than treatment. Take the following steps to protect your cat from being wounded.

  • Never allow your cat to roam outside unsupervised.
  • Keep incompatible pets separated.
Cat Skin Wounds and How to Treat Them