Categories: Cat Aggression

Cat Bites Signs of Infection

Before I talk about cat bites signs of infection I would like to put cat bites into perspective. A cat that is adequately socialised (raised to behave reasonably in relation to other animals and people) and is decently treated will not normally bite you aggressively.

Also a cat might bite gently as a form of “kiss”. In the wild a tigress will “kiss” the male by biting him gently and then rubbing against him during mating (Sunquists). Or rarely, a cat might transfer aggression onto their owner because they have been wound up by something outside or even inside. A classic situation would be when a cat is chased by a fox let’s say and the cat can’t retaliate against the fox and so he expresses his aggression against his human companion.

My cat occasionally bites me gently as a friendly gesture. She might also bite and lick me in succession. These are all signs of friendship and not to be confused with unprovoked aggressive behaviour.

Sometimes people do get bitten hard by a cat and that will often, I believe, be the fault of the person or the problem can be traced back to human behaviour somewhere along the line so please don’t retaliate. It may be the result of a playful child being unaware of how to handle and treat a cat or usually a kitten – a recipe for possible problems. Admittedly, there are occasions when a cat will bite for no apparent reason but the hidden reason might be transferred aggression to name one example.

Bacterial infection

Marking the area of inflammation from a cat bite

You can tell quickly if a cat bite has become infected because of the usual inflamed (red) skin around the bite. See photo above. You have to take antibiotics immediately to kill the bacteria otherwise it gets worse and can be serious. Don’t delay.

Cat scratch fever

It is believed that the cat carries an organism called Rochalimaea henselae or less often a bacteria called Afipa felis. The organism lives in the mouth of an infected cat and causes no symptoms of illness to the cat. The organism is transferred to the cats claws and paws during grooming. Accordingly, the organisms can be transferred to people from a bite or a scratch. It has never happened to me and I am sure that it is very rare. It is called Cat Scratch Disease.

The cat is only able to transmit the disease to people during a window of 2 –3 weeks. Let’s say it will be unusual if you have been infected by Rochalimaea henselae.

The cat bites signs of infection (symptoms) are:

Event – cat bite signs of infectionTimetable – % of cases – occurrence
Raised red sore at the site of the bite or scratch3 – 10 days after the bite or scratch. There may be redness up the limb
Tender lymph nodes in the armpit (or neck and groin)This may last for 2 – 5 months
Low level of fatigue, headache etc.Less than 5% have this symptom
Other organs involved such as spleen, joints, eyes for exampleRare
Life threateningVery rare and applying to people with suppressed immune systems

Important note: Cat scratch disease is rare and it is positively not a reason to declaw a cat. There are almost no reasons to declaw. Please see Declawing Cats.

Preventative common sense measures can be taken with children (teach how to handle a cat) and with people with defective immune systems. Young cats are more likely to scratch and bite it seems due to youthful vigour and lack of conditioning/socialisation.

More reading:

From cat bites signs of infection to Cat Health Problems

Source: Book 1 of PoC Medical References and Methods

Picture: Attribution 2.0 Generic creative commons license

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Cat Bites Signs of Infection

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Nov 11, 2009Hi Gail
by: Michael Thanks for the comment. Cats are smarter than we think and we think we are smarter than we are. Have you heard that The Berkeley City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to ban the veterinary practice of declawing cats within city limits…Another one down..people want declawing stopped when they really think about it. It should spread nationwide but will it?

Nov 11, 2009Cat Bites
by: Gail (Boston, MA USA) Thank you, Michael, for your post about cat bites. My beautiful tortie, Sadie, occasionally bites as a sign of affection, but over the years she has learned to bite gently. When she initially was a bit too rough, I would gently tap her on the head once and softly say “gentle” then I would imitate the gentle bite and softly repeat “gentle.” It didn’t take long for her to get it and, but for one occasion, has never bitten hard again.The one occasion she did deviate from gentle biting was once many years ago. She kept biting hard on what I thought was just little cut on my hand. She would also paw at it aggressively and it was painful. Since her behavior was out of character, I went to the doctor to get it checked. It turned out to be a minor skin cancer that was immediately removed and has never come back. Sadie has also never exhibited that behavior since. Who says cats aren’t smart?

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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