Cat Bites Can Be Dangerous: If Not Appropriately Treated They Can Be Lethal

Cat bites can be dangerous

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The other night I was stretched out on the couch watching TV. Our two kitties, Sir Hubble Pinkerton and Dr. Hush Puppy were snoozing away, snuggled together under the afghan covering me. While I was trying to get more comfortable, my hand accidentally made contact with the sharp end of one of Dr. Hush Puppy’s canine teeth. While the impact itself lasted less than a second, the pain that followed was excruciating. It felt like I had been stabbed with an icepick. The wound kept bleeding almost as forcibly as Niagara Falls.

I generally don’t pay much attention to a cat scratch. I simply clean it, pour a little hydrogen peroxide on it and leave it alone. I have never had a serious cat scratch injury, so I think that just some minor attention is all that is necessary.

But cat bites are quite another story! Although technically Dr. Hush Puppy had not bitten me; since a cat’s mouth is loaded with extremely nasty bacteria that can cause serious – even life threatening injuries, being punctured by a tooth could have been just as dangerous.

Following the accidental puncture, I took ample precautions to make ensure that the wound wouldn’t become infected. Fortunately there were no major complications and it is healing well.

Dr. Karen Becker recently posted an excellent article on Healthy Pets that stresses the dangers inherent in cat bites. While they may not look serious, when bitten by a cat, the results can be devastating.

According to the article, a new study was recently performed at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN concerning cat bites. While dog bites receive plenty of attention; cat bites can be just as perilous. Because their teeth are very sharp, when a cat bites a human the bacteria in the cat’s mouth are quickly “injected” into the person’s body. In fact, 30 percent of cat bite patients in the study required a hospital stay.

193 patients who went to the emergency room or went to a doctor for a cat bite on the hand or wrist between 2009 and 2011 were evaluated by the researchers. The most common sites for cat bites are on the wrist and hand, and these bites often become infected.

The majority of patients were female with an average age of 49. Approximately 33 percent of the patients were hospitalized for infection or other issues related to the cat bite. The average time for these patients to receive medical intervention was 27 hours.

Of the 193 patients who were in the study, 36 were admitted to the hospital immediately. 154 were treated with antibiotics and discharged. 3 patients received no treatment. The majority of the patients who were treated with antibiotics and released recovered uneventfully, but 21 of these patients eventually had to be hospitalized. Eight patients required additional surgery. The hospital stay for these patients averaged about three days.

Twenty-six of those patients who were immediately hospitalized underwent further procedures. Eight patients required more surgery.

Abscesses and loss of joint mobility were among the long- term complications from the bites that had become infected, and patients who were bitten directly on the joints or wrists were likely to have been hospitalized than those who were bitten in soft tissue.

In her article, Dr. Becker added that the authors of the study acknowledged that while the study was relatively small, the authors stressed that although a cat bite may appear to be innocuous, both patients and doctors should take them very seriously; especially if they appear inflamed or swollen around the bite area. It is worth mentioning, however, that the press got hold of this study and exaggerated and misconstrued it as reported by Michael.

Have you ever received a cat bite? What did you do to have it treated? Share your experiences in a comment.


  1. Photo credit: Flickr User
  2. Associated page: Cat and dog bite statistics

19 thoughts on “Cat Bites Can Be Dangerous: If Not Appropriately Treated They Can Be Lethal”

  1. I know this topic quite well. Several years ago my daughter was cat sitting for her cousin. This kitty was born with a deformed back leg and suffered from seizures. Keep in mind my daughter has worked with cats and dogs for many years as a groomer. She had to give the kitty her shot and the cat bit her in the arm. After cleaning the wound and using peroxide she later discovered a red line going up her arm. She went to the ER immediately and was admitted. They hooked her up to antibiotics and left the room. A short time later the lady in the next bed realized something was wrong with her. She rang the nurses bell and when they came in my daughter could not communicate. It turns out she was extremely allergic to the antibiotic they were using. She was hospitalized for 4 days before they sent her home. She turns out to be allergic to antibiotics that end with cellin. I guess there is a whole strain that they normally use, so if she ever has to go back for any other kind of animal she has to tell them which ones they cannot use on her. So I recommend that any cat bite should be looked at by a doctor.

    • This is interesting for me, Amy, because I am also allergic to certain antibiotics and I am allergic to penicillin. When I was young I was given lots of penicillin which made me allergic to it. Now, certain antibiotics make me very ill, far more ill than the illness for which the antibiotic was prescribed. I actually fainted once, many years ago, when I took an antibiotic to which I was allergic. It is the only time I have fainted in my entire life and I was eating dinner and just became unconscious within a second. Fortunately, my medical records make this clear so when I take antibiotics I take the right one. It is vital that I do and the same applies to your daughter.


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