Important Tips for Treating Cat Wounds

Mychelle Blake
Contributor Lori Soard
smiling orange cat

If your cat has been in a fight with another cat or animal or injured in some other way, it's important to understand the basic process for treating cat wounds. From identifying the site of the wound to properly and safely cleaning and treating it, you need to keep your kitty's comfort and safety in mind. Some serious wounds will require the care of a veterinarian.

Use Caution With Your Cat

Remember that your cat has been through a trauma, not only to the body but also the mind. This means that the cat you snuggled in bed with last night may want to have nothing to do with you today. You need to use caution when approaching and handling him so as not to alarm him. Your cat will be frightened and distressed, as well as in pain, so talk to him quietly and keep your movements slow and gentle. You want to help him feel comfortable, treat his wound as quickly and as thoroughly as you can while minimizing the risk of getting hurt by your cat lashing out in fear.

Steps to Take to Treat Your Cat's Wound

If you've never dealt with caring for a cat wound before, it can be very intimidating. Take a deep breath and stay as relaxed as you can to keep your cat calm and follow each step in the process from start to finish.

Find the Wounds

If the wound is not too serious, you can usually take care of it at home before you have to take your cat to the vet. Your first step is to examine your cat carefully to find the wounds.

  • Punctures may be found around the mouth, ears or neck, and on the legs or fanny.
  • Look for any signs of blood throughout his coat. Blood may indicate an area where a bite may have occurred which can be harder to see with longer hair cats.
  • Even though you may only find a few bites or punctures, more trauma may have been caused to muscles or other tissues.
  • If the bites are deep, they may require stitches. If this is the case, you should take your cat to the vet as soon as possible so they can be stitched.

Gather Your Supplies

Gather all your first aid supplies before you tackle the cat. The bathroom is usually a good place for this because you can lock the cat in with you in a small area with no escape route. You should have the following:

  • Your cat's favorite treats or something very tempting such as pieces of tuna
  • Scissors
  • Soap
  • Several large towels
  • Gauze
  • You can set up a radio or your smartphone to play calming music in the room. This may help your cat relax a bit more while you attend to his wounds.
  • A small cat carrier can be very useful to have on hand for transporting your cat.

Confine the Cat

Next, you need to take the cat into the bathroom.

  1. Call your cat with a treat in your hand and praise him if he comes to you.
  2. Wrap him in a towel, bundle him into the bathroom, and close the door.
  3. If your cat will not willingly come to you, you will have to approach him cautiously. If he won't let you get close, have that towel handy. You may need your spouse or a friend to help you because the cat will be very upset if this is the case. Wrap the cat carefully but firmly in the towel and take him into the bathroom behind a closed door before you do your examination.
  4. Another option that can be less frightening to the cat is to place a cat carrier out near your cat with the top or door wide open. Put something very tempting inside such as some wet cat food or small pieces of tuna and then back off. If your cat goes into the carrier, you can hurry over while he's eating and close it and then bring it into the bathroom. This method takes longer but it can also keep you from getting hurt trying to grab a frightened and stressed wounded cat.

Examine Your Cat

Try to clip any hair around the puncture or wound, so you can see what kind of damage was done.

woman washing cat's paw
  • If the wound is bleeding lightly and freely, not sluggishly, this is a good sign. It means that the blood is flushing out the wound to some extent.
  • Wash the wound with soap and warm water, and rinse thoroughly.
  • Do not use an antiseptic like antibiotic ointments; this only seals in anything nasty that your flushing may not have reached.
  • Look closely at the bite or wound. If the muscle under the skin seems to move in a different direction than the skin, the bite may need stitches or a drain for deep wounds.
  • Do not use a bandage on the wound because you want it to drain as much as possible. If the bite is still bleeding profusely, cover it with a sterile gauze dressing, or a clean piece of cloth.
  • Put your hand over the gauze and press down firmly and gently, but not hard. Keep pressure on the dressing, and this should help stop the bleeding. If it does not stop, do not remove the gauze; just keep adding more sterile dressings until the bleeding does stop.
  • If the wound is bad enough to need stitches, take your cat to the vet immediately.

Examine the Fight Scene

If your cat received its wound from an animal fight, and the animal that bit your cat was killed, you need to take it to the vet for a rabies exam.

  • Do not pick it up with your bare hands; use gloves or a tool like a shovel and wrap it in a cloth or a trash bag.
  • If the animal in the fight was one that was known to you, such as a neighbor's pet, you can try to speak to the owner to ask for proof of rabies.
  • If your cat has not been vaccinated for rabies, it will probably have to be quarantined, so contact your vet immediately.

Get Your Cat to the Veterinarian

Once you've examined, cleaned, and bandaged the wound, you should bring your cat to the vet, regardless of whether it needs stitches or not.

Cat in an Elizabethan Collar
  • If your cat has not been vaccinated for rabies, it may be seriously at risk, and your vet should be able to advise you on what to do, which can include quarantine.
  • Your vet may also want to prescribe antibiotics for your cat as even scratches that do not require stitches can become infected.
  • You can also ask your veterinarian about pain and anxiety medication for your cat if you both feel the cat is traumatized and needs additional medication to feel better.
  • Finally ask your veterinarian for an Elizabethan collar for your cat to keep him from licking and biting at his wounds until they heal.

Signs of Infection

Keep an eye on your cat and his wounds over the next few days. If you see any signs of infection, contact your veterinarian immediately. These signs include:

  • Red, inflamed skin around the wound
  • Any discharge from the wound such as pus
  • Abscesses, which appear like an open hole in the cat's skin and are often filled with pus
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Poor appetite and vomiting

Cat Scars

Some cat owners will be concerned that the wounds will permanently mar their cat's appearance. It's normal for your cat to have scars from any deep wounds or punctures. These will be visible for a time as your veterinarian will need to shave the area to clean the wounds out to treat them thoroughly. Over time their fur should grow back making any scarring less visible. With longer hair cats, you may not be able to see them at all once the fur has grown back.

Caring for a Wounded Cat

It's definitely a scary situation for a cat owner to find their feline wounded and suffering. Having a first aid kit in your house pre-prepared can be very helpful to keep you calm in the situation and ready to tackle caring for the wound. Always move slowly and gently with a wounded cat and make sure to take them to the vet, even if you feel their scratches are minor, as a fight with another cat or a non-vaccinated wild animal can lead to serious infections if not treated.

Important Tips for Treating Cat Wounds