Cats who are allowed outside access or share a home with another cat are at risk of cat bites through fighting. Cats are territorial and do not appreciate visitors coming into their ‘patch’.
Fights can result in being bitten. Cat teeth have a lot of bacteria on them and are the source of infection for cat bites. Often the teeth marks are small and heal over quickly, however the damage is more than skin deep. The bacteria have been placed deep into the tissues and create a pocket of infection known as an abscess.
Abscesses are seen most commonly on the head, neck and tail region. They can be large fluid filled structures or they can have already burst when you find them so will look like an open wound with purulent (white-green) discharge coming from the wound.
However sometimes the signs of an infection are more subtle, a patch of hair loss, puncture wounds or scratch marks are physical signs to look for. You may also notice a lack of energy or appetite and your cat hiding or sleeping for long periods of time.
Veterinary care is advised for cats who have been in fights or have signs of having an abscess. The vet will do a thorough exam including a temperature check to confirm for signs of infection.
If the wounds are large or the abscess has not burst yet, surgery is recommended to lance and drain the abscess. Abscesses are painful and often require take home medication which may include antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and pain killer medication. The soft tissue will take a while to heal and your pet will feel much better with some pain relieving medication on board.
Cats are often discharged from the vet clinic with an E collar or ‘cone of shame’ This is to prevent further infection and break down of the wound by grooming or trauma from the mouth (remember this is where the bacteria that caused the problem in the first place are!!).
It is important to make sure your cat wears a cone at all times during the recovery period to help reduce the chance of infection, wound break down or trauma to the injury site.
E-collars come in many varieties these days so if your pet doesn’t like the plastic versions there are soft material collars available also as an alternative option.
FIV (also known as feline AIDS) is spread through fighting. It is recommended to do a blood test for FIV in your cat 6-8 weeks after a cat bite abscess.
Neutering your pets is a good way to try and reduce territorial aggression. Keeping them indoors or having a microchip cat door is another way or preventing strange cats from fighting with your cat.
The good news is that the prognosis (outlook) for cats who suffer from a cat bite abscess is very good. Wounds normally heal within 2 weeks and your cat will be able to resume normal activity.
If you believe stray cats are contributing to territorial aggression and fighting you can contact the SPCA for advice on how to manage this situation.