Cats are a territorial species. Confrontation with other cats usually results in a shouting match, but it can escalate to full contact fighting when the cats are outside. Bite wounds are particularly nasty, since the bacteria in the mouth and on the teeth get through the skin and into the underlying tissue. The skin wound heals over and seals the bacteria inside. This sets up an infection that forms a pus pocket we call an abscess.
Bite wounds can affect any part of the body, but the rump, legs and face are the most common sites. While the abscess is forming, the cat may experience a fever and lethargy. The pocket of infection gets bigger, causing swelling and a lump. As the pressure builds, the area becomes more painful until it finally bursts. Many owners will be unaware of the lump stage, but a draining abscess is hard to miss.
Treatment depends on the stage, but always involves antibiotics. If we get a patient in early, antibiotics alone will usually work. The lump stage needs to be drained and flushed. The burst abscess may need to be cleaned up and sutured, depending on how large the area is. Thankfully, abscesses tend to respond well to treatment and heal with few complications.
Direct contact with neighborhood cats does have other consequences. Feline immunodeficiency viruses, feline leukemia viruses, and rabies can be passed on from an infected cat to your cat. Cats can also exchange fleas and ear mites when in close contact.
Here are some recommendations:
Consider making your cat an indoor pet. This decision is best done at a young age. Once they start going outside, it is hard to change their habits.
Spay or neuter your cat. Breeding cats are very high risk for bite wounds and territorial aggression.
If you know your cat has been in a fight, check them over thoroughly, and keep an eye out for any odd behavior. Keep them indoors where you can watch them.
If you are suspicious of an bite wound, call us for an appointment.
If you cat is going outside, ask us about viral testing , vaccinations, and parasite prevention to protect your cat.