How to Stop a Cat From Licking a Wound

By Catherine Holden Robinson

In the wild, cats can't walk into a veterinary clinic in search of wound care, so they rely upon self-healing. Their gently barbed tongues remove debris, and the protease inhibitor in their saliva may speed in wound healing. However, a cat's mouth also contains bacteria, which can cause infection; intense licking may reopen a wound. For proper healing, prevent your cat from licking at her wound.

Assess the wound. If the bleeding is excessive or the wound is deep and appears to need sutures, your cat will need to see her veterinarian. If the wound is minor, you may be able to treat it at home. Seek veterinary counsel before you take matters into your own hands.

Rinse the wound well to remove any debris. You may need to use the buddy system for this. A second set of hands to hold your cat gently by the scruff of the neck will keep your cat from flailing and possibly causing herself more injury. If you don't have assistance, consider creating a papoose for your cat by wrapping her in the towel You can use the end of the towel to gently dab at the wound after you rinse it.

Cover the wound. This is the easiest way to keep your cat from licking at the wound. Cut a small piece of the sterile pad and set it aside. Apply antibiotic ointment around the wound. Place the gauze pad on the wound.

Wrap the wound using the veterinary self-adhesive tape. Make sure the wrap isn't too tight to avoid cutting off the circulation.

Apply a taste deterrent bitter to the bandage. It is not natural for your cat to have a bandage on. Her cat instincts will compel her to bite at the bandage.

Consider an Elizabethan collar if your cat won't stop biting at the bandage, or is successful removing it. Your veterinarian can properly fit your cat for this collar.

Change the bandage daily, or more often if it becomes soiled by dirt or debris, especially kitty litter. Reapply the bitters each time you change the bandage, making sure to apply the bitters to the self-adhesive tape, not your cat's wound.

Watch for any changes in your cat's wound including:

  • Drainage or pus coming from the wound.
  • Signs of an abscess.
  • Fever
  • Lethargy

These can be signs of infection, and an infection or abscess, which may appear as a raised and swollen mass, or a hole in the skin. If the abscess has broken, should be treated by a veterinarian. If your cat has an infection, she may require an antibiotic.