How Serious Can a Cat Bite Get? Do You Need Antibiotics?

How Serious Can a Cat Bite

As much as you think you know them, they always surprise you with unexpected behavior.

Besides all the cute things cats do that melt our hearts, there is always that flip side of the coin. Yes, we are talking about painful, unpleasant cat bites.

The good thing to know is, that your cat usually does not have ill intentions.

So, when your best friend bites?

While aggressive behavior can be a sign of underlying health condition, when a cat bites you, it is often not as serious as the result of their behavior. Oftentimes, they are just trying to assert their dominance in the room and get carried away in the process.

Creatures of instinct, they also can feel threatened by a sudden change in the environment and may react impulsively by biting you. This is because they are very sensitive to movement and smell, so they easily misinterpret your sudden moves as a threat. 

Another reason why a cat can bite you is that they are simply being playful. While playful bites are very common for cats and their owners are very aware of that, these bites can get really deep into the skin, and this can cause health problems.

Sometimes, your furry pal is just looking for attention and they know that you’ll always react to a bite.

By biting you, they want to communicate, although you may not like that kind of language.

What You Should Do for a Cat Bite or Scratch? 

The good news is, not all cat bites and scratches are alarming. The first thing to know is that there are surface scratches and bites and deep, more serious wounds that need to be looked by a professional.

However, neither of these two should be ignored, and particularly the second group. No matter if the wound goes just into the first layer of skin or causes noticeable bleeding, go ahead and wash the wound with water.

After the wound is clean, it is time for it to be sanitized at home with medical alcohol or similar antiseptic liquid.

For surface scratches, the first-aid procedure ends here and you can go on about your day.

However, if you feel their teeth and claws have really penetrated the skin, that is an issue that needs to be attended to by a medical professional.

When such accidents happen, you probably nag to yourself, thinking do I really need to see a doctor? 

You may not like the answer, but it’s yes. While the great majority of cat bites and scratches are harmless, even when they are surface-level marks on the skin, they still can cause unpleasant itching and need to be deified.

When it comes to deeper wounds, if not checked and treated properly, they can cause infection.

Depending on whether it was a healthy or an unhealthy cat that bit you, the level of infection can go from surface skin infection to something much more serious, like blood infection.

An infected wound will cause a series of unpleasant sensations, from burning and swelling to pain.

If it was your cat, you know they are healthy and they were regularly vaccinated, your chances of getting a more serious infection is fortunately taken to a minimum, but the wound still needs to be checked.

If the bite came from an unknown cat you petted at the street per se, the risk of the wound getting infected is greater.

You may wonder, why do cat bites get infected so easily? 

Cats scratch everything they get their claws on and their claws are an ideal surface for bacteria breeding. Additionally, their saliva is also full of bacteria, some of which can cause you trouble.

When cat teeth or claws puncture the skin, these bacteria get transferred to different layers of your skin, ultimately reaching the blood, and depending on where the site is and how deep into the skin it goes, this can cause you minor or major health problems. 

cat bite

What Treatment Might I need From a Doctor or Hospital? 

Some of the first signs the wound is infected are going to be visible and present themselves in a form of swollen spot, fluid ooze, tenderness around the wound or red streaks.

You may also experience fever, sweats, swollen lymph nodes, and intense itchiness. While everyone is susceptible to such infection, kids and end people with weakened immunity are the number one targets for getting the worst from cat bites.

Depending on the age group and symptoms you are experiencing, you will receive a proper treatment, which almost always includes antibiotics.  And why do cat bite injuries need to be treated with antibiotics?

As scary as it sounds, even seemingly harmless cat bite can turn into a serious health problem, such as cellulitis, septic arthritis, joint infection or septicemia, which is blood poisoning.

More serious wounds may require the removal of contaminated tissues and ultimately, but in rare cases, untreated infections can be lethal and cause death.

With proper medical treatment, any even nearly dramatic outcome can be avoided, so reacting to the first unpleasant sensations can save you a lot of trouble.

If you get to a hospital when you notice the first signs, the medical will prescribe you antibiotics, as these block bacteria from doing what they are otherwise ought to do, and that endangers your health. 

Your doctor will know what to do and most likely they will give you cat antibiotics, which are the most potent when taken the same day the cat bit you. If needed, they will open the wound deeper and clean it with a special antiseptic flush.

The earlier you get to the doctors, the smaller the possibility of getting more serious infections so no matter how much you love these furry creatures, never take their bites, especially deep ones, lightly.