How to Treat a Cat Bite

By Maureen Malone

Although cat bite wounds can be small and may not bleed excessively, they are prone to developing serious infections. If you are bitten by a cat seek medical attention to receive the appropriate vaccinations and treatments to prevent complications.

Wound First Aid

If the cat bite results in a minor scratch and not a puncture, wash the wound with soap and water and apply an antibiotic ointment and bandage. If the wound is bleeding, apply pressure with a clean, dry cloth to stop the flow of blood. Puncture wounds need to be thoroughly cleaned and irrigated by your doctor.

Signs of Infection

If you see signs of infection from a cat bite, contact your doctor immediately as this is an emergency situation. Signs of infection include swelling, redness, oozing puss and fever. Infections can lead to cellulitis, an infection of the skin and underlying tissues, or enter the bloodstream, causing septicemia, or blood poisoning. This condition can result in death if not promptly treated.

Contact Your Doctor

Consult a doctor, even if the cat bite seems minor or doesn't bleed. Your doctor will thoroughly clean the puncture wound to prevent infection and remove any damaged tissue. He will also check for any potential tendon, nerve or bone damage that may have been caused by the bite.

In most cases, doctors do not suture the wound as that can increase the chance of infection. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to treat or prevent infection. In the case of a severe bite or infection, you may be referred to a specialist or checked in to the hospital to receive intravenous antibiotics.

Rabies and Tetanus

If possible, take your immunization records and the vaccination records of the cat that bit you when you visit your doctor. If your last tetanus shot was more than five years ago, you will need a booster shot.

In most cases, you will not need rabies shots if you know the cat was vaccinated against rabies or if the cat appears in good health. However, if the cat tests positive for rabies, your doctor will administer two shots as soon as possible after the bite. You then receive three follow-up rabies shots over the next 14 days.