A Cat Bite Can Hospitalise You

A person should never receive a cat bite. It’s about cat management and knowing what you can and can’t do. It’s about reading a cat’s demeanor and attitude and being sensitive to body language. We really need to respect the cat as a domesticated animal that is essentially wild cat at heart. Particular caution and awareness needs to be in place when dealing with stray cats that wander into your home. When cats are under pressure and become defensive they can move extremely fast and unexpectedly if you are not reading the warning signs through cat body language. This is not a reason to criticize a cat. It is something we should respect a cat for.

Straying Cat Bites Person
Straying Cat Bites Person
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Perhaps people who love or like cats can become a bit complacent because their cat knows them well. There is very little chance of being bitten by your own cat (other than in play) unless you are stupid, to be honest.

But a stray cat that wanders into your home will be the sort of cat that could hurt you. In the first place, this is because they are confident. They have to be confident to be able to walk into a strange home. They are also liable to be defensively aggressive because as they walk into many homes they are likely to get rough treatment from some people and other animals.

In short a wandering cat that is time sharing between many homes can and will hiss, growl, scratch and bite if she has to. Proportionally, there are probably more wandering cats in the UK than the USA.

In the USA it is estimated that 675,000 cat bite victims seek medical treatment annually. The majority are women. This is almost certainly because there are more women than men who have cat companions.

If you are an elderly lady and you are not sure how to remove a stray cat from your home, you can be bitten. The bite can become infected. In fact we are told that half of all cat bites become infected. An infection from a cat bite is the serious aspect of a cat bite. The bite itself does relatively little harm. See cat bites signs of infection.

But if a woman tries to force a stray cat out of her home and the stray refuses to oblige great care should be taken to encourage the cat to go. It may simply be better to wait. Eventually a stray will move on. However, if the person has a cat of her own that cat might be stressed and/or in conflict with the stray. The stray should be removed. Strays wander into homes because there is cat food available.

It could be argued that there should be no access that allows a stray cat to get into the home but a lot of people like to let their cat out through a cat flap. Microchip operated cat flaps are a good choice but a lot of people don’t know of them or can’t afford them. Or they simply don’t want to go through the all the hassle of installation and microchipping their cat.

Let’s say an elderly and kindly lady tries to remove a large stray tom cat that has come in and settled on a chair in her home. She tries to lift him up to get him out. He bites unexpectedly. The bite does not look that bad and the cat moves on eventually.

The lady ignores the bite. After a few days the wound swells up. She does not want to see a doctor. She waits. She is uncertain and not thinking clearly. This seems to be the danger zone. Letting an infected bite go unattended can lead to a real and perhaps life threatening infection. “Life threatening” because elderly ladies are vulnerable from a health standpoint. Under these conditions the lady is likely to end up in hospital for quite a long time and it might be a life changing event as she may not be able to return to her home because her health has deteriorated in hospital.

To avoid all this trauma, the trick is to respect the stray cat as a top predator. When I have had to remove a stray cat I do it by taking a large cushion from the sofa and placing it about 10 inches to the side of the cat that is away from the open door. I then slowly move the cushion towards the cat, The cat will hiss and move away from the cushion and towards the door. I keep doing this until the cat leaves my home. No one is hurt and there is minimal disruption and stress. The cushion is quite away off the ground to allow my hands to be well out of the way. If needs be, wear gloves. This is just my way. There are countless others but all should respect the cat and protect the person.

This may all sound very odd to some people, particularly people who keep full-time indoor cats, which prevents cats coming in. In England strays entering homes is not uncommon particularly in large urban areas.

See stray cats of Japan. Photos by MAR.

9 thoughts on “A Cat Bite Can Hospitalise You”

  1. Bizarrely, have never ever been bitten by the numerous stray cats and dogs that i pet frequently ,but, was once viciously scratched accidentally by my own house pet tomcat Matata. Matata and his dam Matahari were involved in a vicious cat fight and i went to separate them and in the process got a deep gash, akin to a razor blade on my hand. The wound self-healed after application of “home-medicine”.Matahari received a severe gash on her chest and had to receive treatment from the vet.They normally got into ‘Cat-Fights” after a water bathe and since that fateful day i have never ever bathed my cats.Seems that tomcat matata lose his original sense of his dams scent scent marks after a bathe and hence mistake the other cat for a new-comer in his territory.this has happened on 2 or 3 occasions and hence now i totally avoid giving them a bathe.During my visits to the local fish market have petted many stray cats and never ever been bitten.I personally feel that like my personal experience, most pet owners get attacked or bitten accidentally by their own pets rather than a stray pet or cat.

    • I think you instinctively know how to go about approaching a cat. Also I feel the stray casts in markets in Mumbai are probably very well socialised after hanging around the market for so long. They are relaxed. As for scent I had a similar experience years ago. My girl cat fell into some white emulsion paint. I had to totally wash her in water. This removed her scent and her brother hissed at her until her scent returned. Proves how dependent on smell cats are for recognising other cats. They see with smell.

  2. I have a friend who was feeding a feral colony and tried to pick one up. The bite cost her $875. She admit she knew better. Laura and I have been bitten only a few times. The trick is the wash the injury like crazy and make it bleed a little more by applying light pressure. This tends to wash out the germs. Then apply medication and wrap if necessary and keep an eye on it.

    I almost lost my arm to a dog attack in 1981. 4 days in the hospital on massive iv’s of antibiotics. I’d been refinishing furniture and my dog thought I smelled differently and attacked my arm. It was torn more than halfway off and I never regained much feeling from my elbow to my hands.

    We use a towel while wearing oven mitts if we have to handle a wild cat. Add as many layers as possible.

    • Wow, that injury sounds horrible. It can all happen in a split second. People should be reading the mind of a feral and stray cat all the time if they are near the cat and if they want to interact with the cat. I love cats, all cats, and you can never blame a cat for biting or scratching. It is normal behavior. But you have to have a lot of respect for them.

  3. Hi Michael,

    I agree that bites happen because few understand cat body language and cat demeanor. I don’t think that many people know how to approach, respect, or manage a stray that has wandered onto the property or into the house.

    It happens often enough though. I think a lot of people will appreciate this article because they will find themselves in this situation and won’t know what to do until they read it.

    You said, “But a stray cat that wanders into your home will be the sort of cat that could hurt you. In the first place, this is because they are confident. They have to be confident to be able to walk into a strange home.” I like that last bit. It’s a helpful thing to understand about stray cats.

    I didn’t know that they had microchip activated cat flaps. That’s a great idea since stray cats, small dogs, racoons, etc can wander in otherwise. You’d have to test the battery on the flap from time to time to better ensure that your own cat doesn’t get locked out in the middle of a cold or rainy night.

    Love the sofa cushion idea at the end. I suppose you could also try a broom or entice them outside with a little tuna.

    =^..^= Hairless Cat Girl =^..^=

    • Thanks Liz. Marc has some nice techniques too! We all have our own little cat ways. As I said in response to Marc’s comment I often employ cat sounds like the hiss to dominate an aggressive stray who is upsetting my cat. But at all times I have a deep respect for them. I like them but we have to behave like a stronger and smarter cat to manage them in the best interests of everyone. The last thing anyone wants is a nasty fight between your cat and a stray cat.

  4. I had strays come in my home in Canada. If they bothered my cat then I asked them to leave – literally – and then just stood there and waited until they did so. Other times my cat was not so bothered by them so I welcomed them in my home for a few days of warmth, food and a good rest until they moved on. I had a couple of neighbourhood lady cats who came by. 2 tomcats, one a sweet boy who was no trouble at all andf another really big boy who made my cat agitated. I felt sorry for him because he was a local stray who survived the minus 10 or 15 degree winters and once in mid winter I saw he had a huge head wound and I cannot fathom how he survived but he did. I felt bad asking him to leave but he did. He was just so big and he liked my little tiny girlcat and she was very aggressive towards him and I didn’t want any scraps between them because he was so much bigger than her. Poor guy. I asked him to leave and I apologized when he was back outside – each time telling him I wish I could let him stay because I knew he had a hard life. My little girl was threatened by him aso I could not even leave him food in my yard because she would have been most unhappy about it.

    In my opinion – and I am similar to cats in that loudness really bothers me – the best way is to speak your mind. If they wont leave then shout. No cat will stay if you yell at them to leave but it will never come to that. If the cat is really agressive about staying you must simply stand tall, look them in the eye and make it very clear with your voice and just wait without stepping back to rethink etc …until they leave. I have done this with other animals. I know it sounds odd but I believe if you speak honestly about how you feel they will understand you mean it and leave. IF you shout and then back off and come up with another plan they will see a muddled up human and wait to see what you will do next. I’ve gotten 5 big racoons out by shouting. If you shout no animal can handle it. Just dont back down and say what you mean. Usually what I mean is ” you must leave right now now now because I can;t let you be hear and I am sorry but I am just gonna stand here until you leave so you must leave now” – since you mean what you are saying and you are not acting out different ‘attempts’ to get rid of them then they will get it and leave. I swear by it. Otherwise grab a stick if you dont feel safe. I remember in India dogs would be very threatening until you start to bend down to pick up a rock and then they run away quicker than your hand reaches the ground. Its just the way you must defend yourself there. Until I knew that I had some pretty harrowing experiences with bands of dogs being aggressive.

    • Good stuff. Thanks Marc. Very useful. I hope people read this page because there are some good tips here! I tend to make a rod for my own back by feeding stray cats because they ask for food. I accept them and actually like stray cats but if we have our own cat we have to think of them as you say. They come first. I like your loud voice technique. I often employ cat sounds like a hiss and other strong sounds and making myself as large as possible with arms outstretched. They get that. But sometimes this is not enough for strong willed strays.


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