How to Stop a Cat From Licking a Wound

As a loving cat owner, you do everything you can to help your cat recover from illnesses and injuries. If your cat ever has a wound, doing what's best for your cat may mean keeping your cat from licking the spot of the injury. This can be a bit of a challenge, but with a little creativity you can keep your cat from interfering with her wound's healing so she gets better sooner.

Cute tabby cat licks fur
With a little creativity you can keep your cat from interfering with her wound’s healing so she gets better sooner.
credit: Ukususha/iStock/GettyImages

Why cats lick wounds

Cats lick wounds for a number of reasons. A cat spay incision site that has been shaved and then stitched up can get itchy as your cat's hair starts to grow back in. And if your cat has just received a fresh wound, Senior Cat Wellness says he may lick it to remove dirt and clean the wound. Cats instinctively know that they need to lick away any blood so that they don't leave a trail behind that other predators could track.

While a cat who lightly licks a fresh wound can just be cleaning up, a cat that repeatedly licks a wound can be jeopardizing his ability to heal. Because cats' mouths contain bacteria, a cat who excessively licks a wound can increase the risk of that wound becoming infected. Cats can also become a little obsessed with licking their wounds and may actually slow its ability to heal. In these cases, you may need to step in and prevent your cat from licking his wound.

Getting the right care

If your cat has a fresh wound, VCA Hospitals says a vet exam may be needed to be sure that the injury can be properly cared for. Small scrapes may just need to be cleaned up and held together with a little skin glue, but deep cuts may require a more thorough cleaning and some sutures to keep them closed. Puncture wounds can cause extensive damage under the skin, so your vet will need to thoroughly clean, flush out, and treat these types of wounds.

Your vet can help to assess the exact treatment that a wound needs, and may decide to suture and bandage a wound to help it to heal. During the appointment, the vet may also administer pain or antibiotic medications to help keep your cat comfortable and healthy.

Cat lick deterrent

If your cat is licking her wound, VCA Hospitals recommends that bandaging the wound can help to get her to stop. Your cat may simply decide to leave a bandage alone, but you'll need to make sure that the bandage remains dry and clean. Plan to change the bandage daily, and refer to your vet for additional details about bandage care for your cat's specific wound.

In some cases, cats won't be deterred by bandages. Your cat may decide to lick or chew on the bandage, especially if their incision or wound is itching beneath it. You can purchase bandage sprays and lick deterrents to apply to the bandage. These sprays taste bad and can help to get a cat to stop chewing on their bandage.

Using an e-collar

If you notice your cat licking his wound, you can try to distract him with treats or toys, but this will only work for so long and you need to be present to catch your cat in the act. Because it's hard to constantly monitor your cat, VCA Hospitals suggests that you may need to use an e-collar to physically prevent him from licking his wound.

Many cats don't like e-collars, and your cat may try to remove the collar at first. However, your cat will probably settle down with a little time. For an e-collar to be effective, it needs to fit your cat well and be long enough so that your cat can't access his wound. It also needs to be tight enough around your cat's neck so that he can't remove it.

The e-collar will stop your cat from licking his wound, but you can remove it during times when you're available to supervise your cat. Most wounds heal quickly, so you may only need to keep your cat from licking his wound for a few days or a week or two before he's all healed up.