When it comes to animal bites, smaller isn’t necessarily better. Although roughly 80-90 percent of animal bites are dog-related, smaller cat bites can pose more of a risk to victims. Of all cat bites to humans, almost one-half of them lead to infection. First, consider the bite. A cat’s teeth are extremely sharp and pointed. They can pierce down deeper into the skin, providing a clear path for bacteria into the bloodstream. Cats also have a higher amount of bacteria in their mouths—including species that are very dangerous to humans. The combination of sharp teeth and harmful bacteria increases the rate of infections from cat bites.
There are usually warning signs when a cat is about to bite. Look for signs of irritability—ears held close to the side of the head, squinting, fluffing of the tail, hissing, and the appearance that the cat has been backed into a corner. Cat bites to humans are often avoidable, simply by giving the animal extra space.
Infections from cat bites occur in large percent of cases. The puncture wounds are so small they are likely to seal up quickly, making cat bites to humans more dangerous than those from other animals. Pointy cat teeth not only make bites more painful, but can inject bacteria directly into the bloodstream. Add to that the fact that most cat bites occur on the hand—an area that is mostly bones, ligaments and tendons—where there isn’t adequate blood flow to fight infection.
Treatment for cat bites varies depending on the bite itself. If you are bitten by a cat, get it checked out right away. Cat bites to humans are deceiving and can look like they’ll heal without any issues, when in fact, harmful bacteria is lurking beneath the skin. Begin by washing the area with warm, soapy water. Rinse it well for several minutes and follow-up with an antiseptic cleanser. Cover the wound with an ointment that contains antibiotics and then wrap it securely in gauze. Keep the wound dry and away from water until you can be seen by a medical provider.
Most of the time, cat bites to humans, infection from a cat bite and cat bite treatment can all be avoided through prevention. Watch cats for signs of distress and give them plenty of space. Although dangerous, cat bites are more predictable than other animal bites. When you know what might be coming, you can react in advance preventing problems down the road.