A pretend cat bite and a nice photo by Amy Barker (Flickr)
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A little provocatively, I say that if you have suffered a cat bit then it is your fault! It is simply down to us to be able to read the situation to avoid a cat biting us. And when I say cat bite, I mean more than a playful nibble that might break the skin.
Biting in play is normal. You see it all the time in kittens. The experts say that when kittens are properly socialised they learn how hard to bite during play. If a kitten bites another kitten too hard the "victim" lets the perpetrator known at it - lesson learned.
On that basis if we indulge in ordinary play with our cat then we might get a playful nibble but no more. If we get a bit rough we can provoke a firmer bite and that might break the skin on our hand. That of course would be our fault. Cat bites like this, though, are inconsequential. It has happened to me half a dozen times in about 40 years and each time it has been my fault and I have simply brushed off the matter as normal. I have never taken any steps against infection from a cat bite that broke my skin and never suffered any infection in all that time.
The initial point that I am making is that a normal cat bite by our domestic cat is pretty much of no consequence and it will be out fault. It is our fault because we would have failed to recognise the signs that our cat is becoming more aggressive in reaction to our actions. I would suspect that most domestic cat bites of consequence are suffered by male human beings as males are naturally more forceful and aggressive. We can overstep the mark of acceptability in playing with our cat sometimes, in my honest assessment. Children may also suffer a cat bite as they might not be educated as to how to handle and play with cats.
If a domestic cat is clearly in an aggressive state of mind for whatever reason (it might, for instance, be transferred aggression - a cat being wound up by something else and directing the aggression against us as we approach it) we should be aware of that and keep clear until the cat has calmed down. Commonsense, I know but sometimes forgotten or ignored.
Perhaps the situation that most commonly creates the possibility of suffering a cat bite is when we try and impose our will on a cat that wants to do something else. Cats cannot be forced to do something against their will without them becoming agitated and possibly aggressive in defensive behavior. This may lead to a cat bite. If we have to impose our will on a cat (say to put a cat in a carrier basket) we should take precautions if we know our cat might become agitated. As it is the hands that are most likely to get bitten, wearing gloves makes sense. The forearms are also possible areas that can get bitten.
Some experts might say that if we are bitten badly by a domestic for whatever reason we should go to the hospital to get it cleaned professionally and perhaps receive an antibiotic jab against a bacterial infection. A cat's mouth contains bacteria as do the claws and a bite or scratch can cause cat scratch fever (disease).
Personally, I think this disease is rare, based on my experiences. If I received a nasty cat bite I would clean it in running water. I might put some antiseptic ointment on it if I had the ointment. Then I would wait and see what developed.
If the area around the bite became swollen I would go to outpatients at my local hospital where they would no doubt clean it professionally and administer antibiotics. However, I feel that the chances of that being necessary are small.
As to the wildcats, well, attacks by any wildcat, large or small are very rare. Small wild cats sensibly run from us, not towards us. Large wildcats sometimes attack people if they are injured and forced to be in close proximity to people because we have encroached on their habitat. These are incredibly rare occasions when set against the possibility of an attack.
For instance, even the tiger when it is living close to people in the Sunderbans (a swampy area in south Bangladesh and north east India), does not attack people unless forced to. People are not natural prey for large wildcats. Hunters will disagree this because they like to find an excuse to shoot them, but they are wrong.
Obviously, if a person is attacked by say a cougar in the USA, and survives (which is most likely) a hospital visit is obligatory for a check up etc. There have been very few mountain lion attacks by cougars.
That is it really on the subject of cat bites. Avoid them. It is in our power to do this. The cat will behave instinctively and be provoked into biting us. We should act in accordance with our supposed intelligence and recognise this.