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A Guide To Cat Bite Abscesses

Aimee Labbate
  • Aimee Labbate

  • RCVS: 700039


Are cat bite abscesses common?

Cat bite abscesses are very common and happen when bacteria are introduced through the skin when cats fight. Cats have lots of bacteria present within their mouths, and this can cause infection and eventually an abscess when one cat bites another. They are most common on the head, legs, neck and tail. An abscess is essentially a collection of pus that is surrounded by thick scar tissue.  When an abscess becomes large enough it typically bursts open, and the fur around it becomes wet with pus and blood. Quite often a cat bite abscess is not noticed until it bursts, which can be quite alarming!

What are the symptoms of a cat bite abscess?

An abscess typically takes 2-4 days to develop, so the initial symptoms of an infection developing normally include:

  • A high temperature
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy (your cat may just want to sleep all day)

When the abscess forms, the symptoms are typically:

  • Swelling and redness of the skin
  • A wound (this can be obvious when an abscess has burst – the fur around the area will be wet)
  • Pain in the affected area (they may hiss or growl when you try to stroke them, for instance)
    • Lameness if the bite is on one of the legs
    • A limp tail that just hangs down if the cat was bitten on the tail

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How is a cat bite abscess diagnosed?

The vet will normally be able to diagnose a cat bite abscess based on the clinical history and physical examination.

How is are cat bite abscesses treated?

The treatment will depend on the severity of the abscess, whether it has burst open and how unwell your cat is in themselves. The treatment typically involves the following steps:

  • Lancing the abscess to open it up if it has not yet burst.
  • Bathing the area with an antiseptic solution (the vet will normally ask you to continue to do this at home, to try and keep the abscess open and draining if more pus is forming, rather than scabbing over). Hibiscrub works well and is available to buy in our shop – just dilute it 1:10 with warm water and bathe the area gently. Warm salt water also works well.
  • Antibiotics will be prescribed.
  • Anti-inflammatories will also be used to reduce pain and inflammation.

How can I prevent my cat from getting a cat bite abscess?

Cats are more likely to fight if they are entire, so neutering is the best way to prevent cat fights.

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