Cats often show pleasure and affection by licking their loved one's hand. However, when this happens, you may wonder how safe it is to have cat saliva on your skin. Like human saliva, cat saliva is composed of several elements, some of which are innocuous and others that could be harmful, especially to those who are allergic. In some cases, the saliva of a cat is dangerous, so seek medical attention if a cat bites you.
Proteins that cause allergies
People who are allergic to cats are sometimes under the mistaken belief that allergies originate in the cat's fur. It is, in fact, a reaction to a protein found in feline saliva and oil glands in the skin. The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, notes that most allergies stem from this protein, which is passed on to the cat's fur when the cat cleans herself. This protein gets transferred from the saliva to the dander and fur, particularly around the cat's face and neck.
Bacteria in the saliva
Cats, especially those who spend large amounts of time outdoors, have bacteria in their saliva. Humans also have bacteria in their mouths, but cats can pass on particular forms of bacteria — including one that causes "cat scratch disease," an infection that generally does not cause serious symptoms in healthy adults. To be on the safe side, always wash thoroughly after being bitten or scratched by a cat (saliva transfers to the cat's paws when it cleans itself.)
Enzymes that prevent infection
Dr. Cynthia McManis, of Just Cats Veterinary Services, reports that cat saliva may contain enzymes thought to work as natural antibiotics, which may explain why cats lick their wounds. These enzymes prevent infection and promote healing. However, since cat saliva also has plenty of harmful bacterial, be sure to monitor any wounds for signs of infection that may need veterinary treatment.
Furthermore, they act as a barrier against odors that may attract predators, assist in cooling the body in warm weather, distribute oils throughout the coat to keep it supple and healthy, and stimulate blood flow.
Environmental traces in saliva
Because cats lick their fur so often, traces of household cleaning products often show up in their saliva after accidental exposure to the fur. If your cat begins to drool excessively or foam at the mouth, this may be the explanation. In this case, take your cat to see the veterinarian to determine the root cause of the problem, and make sure to use animal-friendly cleaning products in your home.
Use extreme caution
Those who have been bitten by a cat know that it is one of the most serious events that can happen. The curvature of the cat's tooth causes the bite to incise and puncture the skin in such a way that makes healing difficult. The saliva of a cat is dangerous in bite wounds as the harmful bacteria in a cat's mouth gets deep into your tissue. Puncture wounds from bites can be very difficult to clean and disinfect and often, the result is the wound heals over, leaving an abscess below.