The information in this post is not a substitute for medical care. If you have been bitten by a cat, see your doctor or visit an urgent care facility. We cannot answer questions about whether your bite needs medical attention in the comments section. 

It can happen even with the most loving, docile cat: an overexcited cat nips her guardian while playing, or accidentally bites her guardian’s finger while accepting a treat. In more extreme cases, redirected aggression can cause a cat to lash out at her guardian and cause severe damage. And of course, most of us will pet stray cats we meet along the way, but not all seemingly friendly cats remain friendly after being approached by strangers. Regardless of how a cat bite happens, it is not something to take lightly.

Why cat bites can be dangerous

Cat bites only account for 10-15% of animal bites reported by emergency rooms, but they pose a much greater risk of infection. Cat bites create narrow, deep puncture wounds. Unlike other animal bites, which can tear flesh and even break bones, these deeper wounds are much harder to clean. Additionally, cats’ mouths carry a large number of bacteria which can cause serious infections in bite wounds. One of the more common is a highly pathogenic bacterium, Pasteurella multocida.

What to do immediately after a cat bite

Immediately wash the wound under running water. If the wound is bleeding, don’t stop blood flow; in fact, try to encourage bleeding by gently pressing the area around the wound. Bleeding may help flush out any bacteria that may have gotten into the wound. Don’t use harsh disinfectants or chemicals to clean the wound, as they may harm tissue and slow down healing. Arnica, a homeopathic remedy, can help prevent bruising, and Ledum can help prevent infection.

Seek medical attention

While some cat bites may heal without causing infection, it is recommended that you seek medical attention for all cat bites. A serious infection can develop 24-48 hours after being bitten. According to a Mayo Clinic review of records for 193 cat bite victims, 36 were immediately admitted to the hospital, where they stayed an average of three days. Another 154 were treated with oral antibiotics as outpatients, although 21 of them eventually had to be hospitalized. Complications included nerve involvement, abscesses and loss of joint mobility.

Signs of an infected cat bite

If you decide to delay medical care, watch closely for signs of infection. If you notice any redness, swelling, discharge from the wound, increasing pain, or difficulty moving the hand, seek emergency care.

Treatment of cat bites

Most cat bites are treated with antibiotics, with penicillin being the most commonly used drug.

Cat bites to the  hand can be especially dangerous, since tendon sheaths and joints are close to the surface in the hand and cat bites penetrate deeply. In severe cases, surgery may be required to clean out the infected areas. Cat bites can also lead to bone infection, and in extreme cases, septic shock, which is a life-threatening condition.

Your physician may also recommend a tetanus shot. If the cat who bit you was not current on his rabies vaccination, or was a stray with unknown vaccination status, you may need to undergo prophylactic treatment for rabies.

Cat bites are reportable

In most jurisdictions, physicians are required to report animal bites to the local health department. In almost all states, a cat that has bitten a human or another domestic animal must undergo a mandatory 10-day quarantine period. Some states allow this quarantine to be done in the cat’s home, others require that it will be carried out in an approved animal control facility. If the cat is healthy after 10 days, there is no risk to the person who was bitten.

How to prevent cat bites

Do not allow kittens and young cats to play with your hands. While the kitten grabbing at your hand and biting your fingers may be adorable, it won’t be so adorable anymore when he has grown into an adult cat. Use interactive toys to play with your cat instead.

Never try to separate cats who are fighting. If your cats get into a serious scuffle, use a blanket or sturdy piece of cardboard to try to separate them. Give them time to calm down before approaching them.

The information shared in this article is not a substitute for medical care. If you have been bitten by a cat, see your doctor or visit an urgent care facility. We cannot answer individual questions about whether your bite needs medical attention in the comments section. 

227 Comments on Don’t Take Cat Bites Lightly

  1. I was bitten by a stray kitten in my yard this past week. I let my two miniature pinschers got out to the yard to do potty. They spotted a stray kitten. Then all of a sudden my two miniature pinschers got a hold of the stray kitten & they wouldn’t let go of it. My husband commanded them to let go of the stray kitten. My female miniature pinscher had the stray kitten’s leg in her mouth but she let the stray kitten go. My male miniature pinscher had the stray kitten’s body in his mouth. Finally he let go the stray kitten & threw it up in the air. The stray kitten hit the concrete ground. I thought that it was either hurt or dead. So I grabbed the stray kitten with my right hand by the neck. I use my left had to hold it better so I can check it for any injuries. All of a sudden the stray kitten bite my left index finger. It just kept on bitting me harder & harder & it wouldn’t let go of my I left index finger. I was in so much pain & screaming from the stray kitten bitting me. Finally my husband came over to me & he had to spry open the stray’so kitten mouth because he just kept on bitting me even more harder. It took my husband about 5 minutes to get the stray kitten’so mouth opened. I cleaned my left index finger with warm water because it was bleeding. I used peroxide water, alcohol, and Neosporin & left my left index finger uncovered. My left index finger was so swollen & it hurted so much that I had to take an ibuprofen for the pain. I waited until the next day to see if my left indext finger swelling would go down but it just got worse. I had pain on my left arm. I made the decision to go to Ready Care to get it check out. The doctor told me that my left index finger looked infected & because my arm was hurting that he was going to prescribed some antibiotic for me to take for 20 days. The swelling went down. I just had a little pain on my left arm. Hopefully in a few days my left arm will stop hurting. I have never gotten bitten by a stray kitten but by my dog. It hurted more than when my dog had bitten me in the past. So from now on I won’t be picking up any stray kitten. I’m just glad that I didn’t wait too long to get medical care. I could had caught a serious infection or would had gotten very sick over the stray kitten bite.

  2. My cat Sapphire was a yellow tabby with blue eyes. He was playing rougher than usual one morning and sunk his teeth into the heel of my hand which is something he had never done before in the 4 years I’d kept him up to that point. This happened in 1997 before I had cable internet. I had no idea that a deep animal bite is a potentially life-threatening puncture wound or how to thoroughly disinfect it. At 6AM I washed it off using hydrogen peroxide, went to work, and forgot about it. About 12 hours later, I felt an unusual sensation when something brushed against my forearm. I rolled up my sleeve and saw a red line on my arm connected to the wound. I was curious to know more about it, but I felt fine and had no idea it was something serious. Fortunately I had access to United Health Care “Nurseline” through my work health insurance and I called immediately. I was told it was a lymphatic streak and advised to seek medical help right away. Soon I was at an ER on a cot with IV antibiotics having the wound surgically cleaned and getting my shots updated. They said the streak is a sign of serious infection which can lead to death from septic shock if left untreated. I never felt sick at all and I was fine the next day.
    Someone I know had a similar experience around the same time but didn’t get treatment as quickly and it created a serious disruption in his life for several years.
    A vet told me how to train a cat not to bite. Sapphire learned quickly and nothing else like that happened in the next 6 years.

  3. Got bitten yesterday on both hands, when catching my poor little dying baby girl to take her to the vet. She didn’t make it. 🙁

    It did not take a day for this to show up–the cellulitis started mere hours after I buried her, and I had to go to the emergency room. They gave me IV antibiotics, a scrip for amoxicillin, and a scrip for hydrocodone (the pain was that bad). I can’t move my right index finger very well. And I have to see a hand surgeon next week. If you are bitten on the hand, take it seriously!!

    But I’m not mad at my little girl. She was sick and scared and couldn’t help it. I put her toys in with her. <3 I miss her.

    • I’m so sorry about your baby, Mabel. What an awful day for you. My heart goes out to you. All my best for a quick recovery from the bite. I suspect that healing your heart will take longer. 🙁

  4. I am understanding just how serious a cat bite is. I got a severe bite on the lower leg 7 days ago. It’s still very swollen and I can’t walk or put any weight on it. Have to keep it elevated or its gets very painful. Just finished first week of antibiotics and dr started me on 7 more days worth. Amazed how long it is taking to heal and I’ve been to the doctor 3 times already.

    • I just have one question. What if your cat saw something freaked out and accidentally bit you and you cleaned it out almost immediately after the bite should you be ok?

      • I’ve got an idea. I’m gonna draw a circle around the wound and if redness starts spreading in or around the area I’ll call a my doctor and I really don’t want an infection again last time I had a bacterial pneumonia and it caused some bone complications like plurasy and I could not even lay down on my back and my body shifted itself to avoid pain will this get that bad again

          • I cleaned mine immediately and very thoroughly and started antibiotics the next day. I still got a bad infection and now 16 days later I am still on antibiotics and still on crutches due to swelling.

    • I rescued a stray kitten, seemed about 20-30 days old and i only had it for 2 days, the cat ate canned food but it bit me today and im worried because my finger swelled up and i got a litte white ball on top with pus, it hurts a lot and im mostly worried because the kitten just passed away today from what appears was fading cat syndrome but it could’ve been anything so im worried about this bite.. Any thoughts?

    • Since I got bit on my lower leg/ankle area and started treatment w/in 24 hrs, I’m curious as to how long the healing process took. Thanks so much!

  5. I think I may be allergic to cat saliva? My first cat bit my lip and I got a bump the next day. (Not aggressive, she was playing and got my lip). A few times it happened and I get a reaction on my lips everytime. A few days ago my other cat bit my lip as well. I got more bumps on my lips. Has that happened to you? They usually go away after a few days but what are they?

    • Cat allergies are primarily caused by the protein Fel d 1, which is found in the cat’s saliva, dander and urine, so it’s possible that you are allergic to your cat’s saliva.

  6. I have 3 kittens and while feeding them 30 minutes ago one of them bit me while trying to break a little fight between 2 of them and the smallest kitten “Oreo” bit and ripped a little bit skin on my finger. It’s not that deep and I have put a rubber band on my finger while trying to push the blood coming out. I just washed it with soap and its not bleeding that much should I be worried tho?

  7. I was giving a stray cat a bath in an attempt to keep him. He had fleas severely so I thought I could kill all the fleas and then take him to a vet on Monday for a complete workup, flea meds, vaccinations, and rabies. He tolerated the bath until about the 20 minute mark (I was really working the flea soap into his skin), and suddenly he bit my left forearm…and he went all the way in! There wasn’t a lot of blood coming out, so I’m assuming he missed my veins (??). He also scratched me in a few other places, deep scratch on shoulder, right forearm, and right elbow. He pretty much kicked my arse.

    I don’t want to go to the ER because the copay is 100 bucks. it’s 9:30 p.m. now, so I was thinking if it didn’t look good by tomorrow morning, I’d go to the walk-in clinic (which is 45 bucks…more money I don’t want to spend unless I really, really have to). This cat has been in a very clean gated community, but of course there are wild animals around, as we are backed up to a reserve.

    I had a tetanus shot about 10 years ago from a stray kitten (yeah, I don’t learn my lessons easily)…is it possible it could still be working? This cat looks pretty healthy, was just dirty and flea ridden. Thoughts?

    • Also, I do have a Z-pak, which is a very strong antibiotic. I could start taking that for infection, so I’m not worried about that. I’m more worried about rabies…and wondering how long a tetanus really lasts (some say 10 years, some say 5…).

    • You will probably need to get post-exposure rabies shots, so it’s imperative that you go see a doctor. The doctor can also answer your question about the tetanus shot and determine whether you need to be on antibiotics. Do not start taking antibiotics without a doctor’s direction.

      • Thank you, Ingrid. And the Z-pak was prescribed to me because I had a fever when I had my last checkup. My doc gave it to me to use in case I were getting sick. I went ahead and picked it up and saved it in case I needed it. 😉

        I have the cat quarantined and will be watching him for about 14 days. He seems okay today. He’s so sweet – he only bit because he was scared; probably never had a bath. I don’t want to take him to the Humane Society because I fear they will euthanize him and cut his head off to do a rabies check. Eeeeek! I’ll just take my chances… Thanks again!

        • Hi. I’m just curious how everything went for you? Did you end up with an infection or anything? How is the kitty? Did you keep him? I had a similar issue with a feral cat I’ve been feeding, he go scared and ending up nipping me.

          • Oh, sorry. Yes, all went well! I healed up pretty quick, too!

            And yes, I quarantined him for 14 days and since he looked fine and dandy, I’m keeping him! He lives in my garage. He loves it! He loves me, too! He sits with me, lets me hold him…sort of lets me kiss his head (lol) and even took his meds for me using the method the vet showed me. He’s a really nice cat…I just honestly think he was scared, hated the water, and had just taken too much of my crap and was fed up. haha Awesome cat…so glad I found him!

  8. I was bitten with my cat yesterday while giving him a bath.Maybe He’s not in his good mood to take it.I don’t know how old exactly this kitten is,but i think he’s less than 3mos.old maybe ‘coz he was just given to us and he still needs to be breastfeed.I should’ve been careful with my left hand while holding his body with my other hand.He suddenly grab a bite into my thumb.It counted a seconds before it bleeds.I poured the cut until the bleeding stops for almost a minute.I rinse it with water then wash it with antibacterial soap.I have a small cut in it and only have a small redness just around my small cut.I’m really curious to know if it’s a serious thing i have to deal with.I really need someone’s advice.But,I haven’t feel anything painful with this bite now.

  9. I was bit by a cat that we feed a stray there are five of them he bit me on my leg its sore and stings and has pine and is trying to get red I peroxide it but doesn’t seem to be helping at night it wants to bleed then doing the day when I work it just shoots pains out of it at times what should I do for it I don’t have no insurance so seeing a Dr is out

    • I was looking for info on cat bites and saw your post. I was bitten on the hand. I’ve been to the ER twice, first for the bite, 2 days later for a reaction from the antibiotics. Please do not mess around with this! I hope you have been to the doctor. If not, look into a free clinic depending on how bad it is, go to the ER. They can not turn you away. When you get the bill give them a few dollars every month.

  10. I was attacked by my resident cat last very badly as a case of redirected aggression. I foster, and was doing a foster introduced to my resident cats (well after foster quarantine). Things went well and I was just about to put the foster away (listen to your intuition!) when I got a call. All heck broke loose. I should have ignored the call and put the foster away. I went to to see what happened and my cat looked like it was being electrocuted. I was attacked repeatedly until I was able to shove him in a room. It was traumatic and terrifying. I took a hot shower because I got sick of flushing the wounds indivually and then disinfected. But my hand and calf quickly swelled through the night, and I saw my primary. Got a booster for tetanus since I was over the 5 year mark and was immediately put on antibiotics. I had to go to a walk in clinic today because there was a lot of pus coming out of my calf. I made the mistake of squeezing it out- I thought it would be good to get all of it out. They said NOT to squeeze. My middle finger is still limited in movement and very painful. I think it will be a touch and go situation for the next several days. I was told only to keep the warm compresses going and to keep on the antibiotics and of course, to watch for any worsening symptoms. What an ordeal. I also was vague about the details due to bites being reportable. It was really my fault that I let the intro go on for too long. But I am surprised at the level of ferocity in the attack. He is as sweet as ever, but I will probably hold off on fostering flew cats for a while.

  11. My cat is a messy eater, and I was picking up a large lump of his canned food because sometimes he takes too big of a mouthful because he likes it so much, and some drops on the floor. He wanted the piece I was about to put back in his bowl, and took it from my fingers. His tooth (most likely his bottom canine tooth) punctured under the tip of my index finger. I immediately flushed it with hydrogen peroxide in the sink and ran it under water to bleed it out, and flushed it with hydrogen peroxide again. It is slightly tender just in the immediate area, and there is no discharge. It happened Sunday morning (Easter), and since nobody was open except the emergency room, I didn’t go. My cat is 15 years old, and an indoor only cat. I have had him since he was a kitten. I’m on mild antibiotics for rosacea, so some are in me at all times. Do I need to go to the doctor Monday (when I get up tomorrow)?

      • August 1st, 2014 I was bit on my right hand by my cat at 130 in the morning, I startled him when I went to pet him. Almost immediately I couldn’t move my hand and it swelled up quickly. At 730 in the morning I decided to go to the ER to see if he broke a bone-(I knew nothing about how severe and serious cat bites are). I thought he broke a little bone in the hand; painful but I could handle that. I had a work meeting at 1030 and was hoping to be out of the ER quickly. Within 30 minutes of being there, without telling me, they had set up a hand surgeon and arranged a hospital room reservation and ambulance to take me for immediate surgery. By 10am I couldn’t move my fingers, my physical reaction was streaming tears the pain was so severe. I was on antibiotics and demerol immediately. The center for disease control was advised, i had an infectious disease doctor, hand surgeon and MD involved. The first surgery was around 3. They cleaned out 2 tendon sheath’s that were punctured on my middle and ring finger. She left the incision open and didn’t stitch it up so that the wound could drain. The next day I spent on heavy antibiotics and pain meds. The third day i was informed that i was going in for another surgery to re-clean the tendons. At that point, she informed me that they would not stitch me up and that the healing process would be about 3 months. I asked if at all possible to please close the wound, I’m right handed and this was a major obstacle. She said she will see how it looked and make the determination during surgery. Luckily i came out of that surgery and she did stitch it closed “loosely”. I had a pic line for a 6 week antibiotic pump (luckily this was removed before discharge and i was able to take oral antibiotics for 6 weeks). The bacteria apparently is very aggressive and doubles about every 4 hours. The entire ordeal left me in hospital for 5 days, two surgeries, months of PT, and a major scar on my right hand. I actually wanted my cat removed from my house at least for a little while. Now, however, he is still part of the family, I make sure to pay close attention to his mood and keep my distance. I share this so people are encouraged to seek dr attention on their bites. While I feel I reacted within 8 hours of being bit. It was clear per the surgeon, i could have lost my hand. The bacteria is very dangerous. That’s why they are such great rat and mice patrols. Good luck to anyone who happens to get the clamp down by their sweet kitty.

        • Oh my goodness, CC, this is one of the worst stories I’ve ever heard with regards to a cat bite – but it goes to show just how dangerous these bites can be. You also address an aspect that is often ignored with severe bites like yours: the relationship between cat and human is affected as well.

  12. Hey I got bit by my male cat day before yesterday. He was having a fight with a stray cat and I tried to stop him by grabbing him he turned around and bit me thrice.. Well 2 bite marks don’t hurt or anything . but the one I got between my index finger and thumb has swelled up. There is no discharge . it was very deep though and I have difficulty moving my thumb and index finger but the swelling has decreased as compared to yesterday. I’m taking antibiotics. I do feel a bit of pain on my arm though.. Maybe its because my tissue got damaged? My cat is vaccinated.

    • I’m assuming you’ve been to a doctor since you’re taking antibiotics? Call your doctor and report your symptoms, he/she can advise you properly.

  13. Hi. I had a rabies vaccine 2 weeks ago after I was scratched by my cat, then now I was scratched again because I accidentally stepped on him. Do I still need to see a physician? or do I need to repeat the vaccine? Or will I be okay?

    • If you went through the entire series of post-exposure rabies treatment, you should not need to be vaccinated again, Cheska, but check with a physician to be sure. If you didn’t get all of the vaccines in the series (usually a series of four, given over a period of one month) you may not be protected.

  14. After being bit by my kitten yesterday, I read this article and I called my doctor, who told me to go to the ER for a tetanus shot and a round of antibiotics. The ER doctor said 80% of cat bites become infected.

    BUT IF YOU LOVE YOUR CAT DO NOT TELL THEM IT WAS YOUR CAT!!!! My kitten is 3 months old, he was only playing. But the ER with no notice immediately called animal control. (I am in Texas). Animal Control called my ER room and insisted on immediately taking my kitten for a 10 day quarantine. They would not let me quarantine him in my home, my kitten has never been outside or around any other animals.
    They refused any other option. They put your pet in a tiny cage for 10 days with no contact (in case it has rabies). I can’t even imagine how damaging this is to many pets psyche.

    Animal control is law enforcement, you are given no option, they will come to your home and literally take the animal.

    This law is absurd, inhumane and will only cause people to not be honest or seek treatment.

    I sure wish I had known this before going to the ER.

    • My heart goes out to you – I can’t even imagine how distressing this is for you. Animal bites are reportable, but jurisdictions vary in how they interpret and apply quarantine laws. In many cases, they only require in home quarantine. I’m so very sorry this was not an option for you and your kitten.

  15. I was bitten this morning by a panicked stray that visits my backyard often. It was definitely a hard and painful bite, but I washed my hand thoroughly and let is sit under the water for a while. I put some triple antibiotic stuff on the wounds (there are about 5 puncture wounds, plus a few minor scratches) and bandaged them and went to work.

    One puncture in particular is between my first and middle finger and it has become very sore (a little like the feeling of a bruise, but with no bruising discoloration) and the finger is a little stiff.

    Should I tell my boss I need to go to the doctor? I know infection is not something to play around with, but physical trauma to a body part usually results in residual soreness and/or bruising, so I’m unsure if I’m overreacting (or underreacting, as the case may be). My hand is not red, there is maybe a little swelling from the trauma, but no other signs of infection.

  16. I have cats who like to play a little rough at times and really really hate the vets! – my hands are covered in scratches which end up staying as scars….
    I now use the Dr Max Powers Scar Serum twice a day for just short of a week, I have noticed the smaller scars on my hands have started to fade (they aren’t noticeable to others, but as I know where they are I can still just see them). Its certainly a product that I am going to keep using.

  17. My kitty tore my hands and wrists up when I gave her a bath last Friday. Most of them aren’t too deep, just little scratches from her teeth (although they do still hurt haha), but there’s this bite on my wrist that really went deep. There are four little marks, one for each of her teeth, but really only two are deep punctures. I did my best to clean them but the area around the two deepest marks is red and swollen, and there’s some discharge from them. Should I be worried or should I just keep an eye on them? She’s up to date on shots.

  18. My cat Chester bit me on the chin this morning. As I woke up, he was sitting on my chest and when I attempted to move him, he reached out and nipped me. Not really a puncture wound, more of a shallow scrape. I was more surprised than anything else – I think he was too. Having read about how cat bites can get easily infected a few months ago, I let it bleed a bit and then washed it thoroughly with an antimicrobial soap called Zylast (great stuff – it was developed to kill things like ebola and has a 6-hour residual effect). Anyway, the washing made it bleed even more, which I figure is a good thing since if blood is coming out, nasty things can’t go in. I then put pressure on the wound until it stopped bleeding and then covered it with Zylast lotion (I don’t work for Zylast, but the products they make are fantastic and I like to get the word out) and then covered it with a bandage. I just changed the bandage (6 hours later) and you can now hardly tell there was any damage. I’ll keep an eye on it, but I think I got lucky (I called my doctor and she said she wouldn’t have recommended doing anything different than I did). When I was younger, I used to interact with strange cats on the street but I don’t anymore. They can be unpredictable and having to go to the Emergency Room (or spend a few days in the hospital) just because you wanted to give a kitty some ear rubs is a major bummer. Remember, one if the things that makes cats interesting is that they’ve never become fully domesticated. There’s still a little tiger left in even the most sedate housecat. I was ok treating myself, but if you get an actual puncture wound from a bite, I would err on the side of caution and go see a doctor.

  19. I been bitten by a cat last feb. 11 2016 and i been vaccinated pcec and hrig this last feb. 18 2016. This morning i go to the hospital to take my 2nd shot of pcec and i go back this friday to take 3rd shot of pcec. but the cat is still alive 11 day after i bitten.

    • For readers who may not be familiar with the terms you use, PCEC stands for Purified Chick Embryo Cell, and HRIG stands for Human Rabies Immunoglobulin. Both are used in the post-exposure treatment protocol if someone has been bitten by a cat who is not current on his/her rabies vaccine.

  20. My cat tends to bite whenever she doesn’t like something. Though is a real sweet heart other times. We never think too much of it when she does, since she is fully vaccinated. We just wash it off and continue on with our days. Have never had a problem with any of her bites.

    Last night she bit the inside of my hand while I was trying to clean the fur on her back end. I finished cleaning her and washed it off as usual. Only starting around noon today my hand and forearm have started to ache.

    It can’t possible be related can it? I mean she bit about where the hand meets the wrist under the pinky finger, and its sore on the thumb side all the way up to my elbow. There is also no redness or swelling that I can see. Coincidence right?

  21. My furry female bit me while i was bathing her. She wouldn’t let go until my husband got her off me! She has fleas and is declawed on her front paws only. I can’t clip her back claws because her feet are very fluffy. I’m on blood-thinners, so i bruise easily. I’ll see my GP tomorrow! Polysporin for now!

      • In most jurisdictions, animal bites are reportable. If the animal that bit the person is an owned pet, animal control will verify that the pet is current on its rabies vaccination. Requirements will vary in different jurisdictions. In most cases, if a pet is current on its vaccines, he/she will need to be quarantined in the pet’s home, and may require a rabies booster vaccine.

  22. Yes, i have been badly bitten by my mums cat, she was a bit of a nightmare, it jumped up after I stroked her and was hanging from my hand with its claws and teeth.

    I just washed it nothing more. I love cats.

  23. My cat bit me few days ago, and there was 1 wound that was bleeding and hurt. Of course later it swelled and got red. The very first day, I went to see the doc later that night, and he gave me both oral and gel antibiotics. The second day the pain and swelling got worse. But the 3rd day (today) the pain is mostly kind of gone, but the red and swelling remains the same.

    Should I be worried about the red and swelling? I’ve never had any experience in this area, so I wouldn’t know about how the treatment goes, time-wise. I will post update regarding the condition of the bite wound.

      • I forgot to add a little detail, that is he bit my left foot. And up until today I haven’t felt any fever, so I may be going out on a limb and say that my infection isn’t that bad.

        Thanks for your response and article, Ingrid! I found it very helpful, especially to those who are new to this matter.

        That being said, I will contact my physician. Thanks again.

  24. Hi I was feeding the other rescued kitten and the other rescued kitten bite me
    1 I let my wond bleed in order to spell some blood out
    2 I wash my hands
    3 I cure my finger with the first aid
    The wound did not go deep in my bones but only in my skin should I need to go to the doctor

  25. 2 days ago my kitten (rescued) bit my thumb and I got it seen to by a nurse at the g.p’s, but now my index finger has swelled up from the first knuckle (on fist) to the second knuckle (in line with top of thumb). It has also bruised along the whole length of the finger.

    • Call your GP’s office immediately, Heather. If they’re closed for the weekend, visit an urgent care or ER. It sounds like the infection has spread from the site of the bite.

  26. Hi Ingrid,

    Yesterday my room mate’s pet cat bit me on the wrist of my right arm, but I did not not see any swellings or wounds or breaking of the skin. I’m not 100% sure if it bit me or not, but I could feel its teeth in contact with my wrist. Just occasional on and off pain around that area. Do you still recommend me to go to the physician?

  27. all good advice and discussion. I have been bitten. Once needed antibiotics and other times pushed plenty of blood through the wound and ran cold water to encourage blood flow. Always feel sorry for cats in the shelter isolated due to someone getting a bite. Often the human does not pay attention to the signals from the cat to stop petting, handling etc. Declawed cats are much more likely to be bitters in my experience. It is all they have for self defense. Too bad the bites are not inflicted on the humans who declawed them!!
    Thanks for your help.

    • Was bitten by a stray cat at my grandparents house yesterday, pretty good nip: top canine in “ball” of thumb, lower canine in same spot, top of hand…extreme pain. Bleeding, bruised, swelling. Luckily he didn’t get all 4 in!! Luckily, or not so (?), stepped on a rusty nail a month ago, so have a recent tetanus shot, and a full run of antibiotics that I didn’t take for it…called urgent care, was told to wash, ointment, bandage (had already) and take the antibiotics…swelling has already reduced, no redness at all (no striations up arm)…still extremely painful. 🙁 This cat has never bitten before and was totally unexpected at this point. **Lesson learned: Don’t mistake a meowing, rubbing, friendly cat…they can turn on a dime!!! **Note: I own 2 cats

  28. My first (!) serious cat bite was about 1980. Our Siamese cat had escaped the house and was starting a fight with another cat. I interfered, tried to pick him up, was bitten on my right hand. Cleaned it under running water, my husband-to-be drove me to Emergency where they cleaned it and gave me a shot. I couldn’t drive to work for a couple of days, it was so painful.
    The second time, I was petting a neighbor’s cat, and when I was done I turned away but he lunged at my leg and bit me. I washed it but did not go to Emergency. Instead, the next day I went to a homeopathic dr. who gave me some remedies. Well, it was too late to do that, it was already getting infected and I ended up getting antibiotics, which made me so sick that I had to take the ambulance to Emergency. They kept me in the hospital a couple of days, I think it was. I had cellulitis, and when I got home I could only crawl out of my bed, it was so painful to walk. I had to hire people to come help me with meals etc. I soaked the ankle in warm water, and went to my doctor’s office to have her drain the wound every day for about a week.
    The third (and I hope LAST) time, my own cat bit me when I inadvertently hurt her when I picked her up when she was acting unwell and lethargic–it turned out SHE had an abscess from a cat bite, and I accidently pressed on it. Ordinarily she is a gentle cat! I went to the NP who was taking over my MD’s practice,got antibiotics. They didn’t work; my hand did not get better. Worse, in fact. Fortunately the MD came into the office that day, I showed it to her as we passed in the hallway, and she said they were the wrong antibiotics! And told me that unless I wanted a “retreat” time in the hospital, I’d better have a retreat at home and spend the weekend with my arm elevated, with warm compresses, and take the right antibiotics. Which I did. She was the same MD who had treated me for the previous bite, so she knew my history. This time, the infection resolved without further treatment.
    I hope I never get another cat bite again!!

  29. Last December my 17 years old beautiful cat, Ursula, bit me on the left arm, above the elbow. The next day I woke up with a very swollen red arm, and it was very painful. I went to the dermatologist, who prescribed antibiotics and sent me home. But a couple of hours later, the swollen had tripled and couldn’t move my arm. I went to the ER and was hospitalized for 3 days, getting IV antibiotics every 8 hours, in addition of a tetanus shot. I have had cats all my life, and had been bitten countless times, but this was the first time it got infected, and was really bad, hahaha!!!
    Now I’m more careful, but I still spoil Ursula, she can do whatever she wants with me, she has for 17 years and I won’t make her stop now!

  30. I’ve been bitten a few times over the years, but the worst was about 13-14 years ago. My hubby was an otr trucker and one of our cats, Trip, took it upon himself to be my protector and would keep watch out the bedroom window while I slept. He woke me up one early morning yowling at a stray in the back yard. I sat up to calm him and when I reached for him he lashed out and got me on the forearm. He actually bit twice because I had 8 punctures. I had a hard time getting him to let go of me. I got out of bed and washed it the best I could and tried to go back to sleep. I did go to work the next morning but it was so painful, I ended up leaving early and going to urgent care. By the time I got there (about 12 hours after the bite) I had a fever. They sent me home with strong antibiotics and I healed up well. But I know now not to wait so long.

    Our most recent rescue, Beemer, came to us very food aggressive. He is better now, but it took me a while to learn not to grab anything away from him. He got me pretty good on the hand one day when I tried to take a leaf of lettuce away from him. Luckily, that one didn’t get infected.

  31. i get bit all the time by my cats ( at least 2-3 times a week) they love to play bite i always clean it thoroughly and it gets a little red then goes away( same goes for scratches) i always keep an eye out when i do get bit ( my cats are all vaccinated ) nothing has ever gotten dangerous

  32. I was bitten by my cat a couple years ago. The bite was a hard bite on my calf, deep punctures. Within 24 hours I was in the hospital with dangerously low blood pressure and fever. The doctor found out it was pasteurella and because my immune system is compromised by rheumatoid arthritis, I was hit very hard with infection.
    Fortunately I am fine now and my cat is still with me, but I have come to realize I am not going to make Ike a cuddly kitty. I let him tell me when he wants to be petted. This article is very informative and I hope everyone takes it seriously. Cats rule!

    • May i know how many years because i was bit 8 years ago but i already give birth 3 times after and doctors did not find me related infection

  33. I also feed the ferals in my neighborhood! Before I found help with TVNR for them, one of the males bit between my wrist and elbow, closer to the wrist. I knew he was not vaccinated, being a stray and he bit me while I was putting the food bowl down…I guess he was hungry and I wasn’t moving fast enough! When he bit me, I did not try to put away because I know it would have resulted in tearing and he knew he made a mistake as soon as he did it because he looked right into my eyes and let go, then went to eating the food! I immediately washed the wound with warm water and wrapped it in gauze and tape and went right to the ER. By the time I got there, the gauze and tape were soaking with blood! They washed it, soaked it, gave me tetanus and penicillin shot, as wel as the first rabies shot, wrapped it and sent me home with instructions to come back in 3 days for another rabies shot and to have them check the wound. When I went back, I felt fine, but was running a mild fever I did not even realize I had! The doctor said, “I hate cat bites!” I said, “Why?” He said because in 90% of cat bites land up having to be admitted for IV antibiotic treatment! I apparently needed to be admitted for that treatment because of the pasturella infection. I spent about 48 hours in the hospital after the ER and then had to go back two or three more times for the rabies shots because the hospital said that doctor’s offices do not carry rabies vaccines. I had to give a description of the cat, who still came for food for about a month. After that, he disappeared, so I imagine that they trapped him and put him down because he bit me and was aggressive, although he showed no signs of any illness whatsoever in that month! I’m actually sorry that the whole thing happened! I was new to feral cats and didn’t know not to put the food down if they are right there! You live and learn! I am still feeding 8 ferals now, plus one adopted me and came in and one I am fostering. The two inside cats are lovable, love petting, rub me, give me kisses, but still don’t like to be picked up! I have been petting, talking to, etc. the kittens since the were about 6 weeks old, but the adults still scatter if I move too fast! That’s a total of 10! I have not been bitten since, but I learned more about ferals from Feral Friends and had all 10 TVNR’d so they are not aggressive anymore! I just learned to be more careful! I’m just sorry that Sunshine probably lost his life because of a mistake! I take comfort in the fact that the kittens are most likely his because the have his markings and now there will be no more kittens in this colony, they are fed, their health monitored and seen by a vet yearly or more if needed, they have shelter from the elements and two are now inside kitties! As soon as the one can be held for a bit, she can get her very own forever home!

  34. Several years ago I was attacked by a cat sitting on my back patio fence. It was a long-haired, pretty cat with a collar and appeared well cared for. What followed I could not of dreamed. I held out my hand so it could sniff me, and once within about 4-5 inches, it lunged for my arm. I felt the entire weight of the cat pull my arm down as it sunk its teeth in my wrist and swing its body around so it was head down with its hind claws up toward my shoulder. I was totally shocked and confused. With my free arm I grabbed it around the nape. The whole attack was less than a minute, but I knew it was not good and I ran shaking and crying to the bathroom, washed both arms that were covered in scratches and poured peroxide over the bite.
    Within a couple of hours my arm began to swell and I called the doctor and an appointment was scheduled for the next day–after all, it was “just” a cat. Well, by the next morning I couldn’t make a fist and my arm was significantly swollen and was scary painful. My appointment wasn’t for several more hours so I called and said that I needed advice: “Should I go to the ER?”
    They saw me immediately. They cleaned the puncture wounds and I got a huge shot in my butt. The doctor drew around the infected area that now ran from my wrist to my elbow and said if the redness spread outside the lines within the next 12 hours to call him and get myself to the hospital.
    Luckily it didn’t spread outside the lines. Animal control placed a trap per city regulation, but the cat was never seen again. I have faint scars on both arms and two distinct scars where the cat sunk its teeth in my wrist.
    Who knew? I am grateful it was not my young daughter that went out there, or one of my other cats. It was a lesson learned. Even though I’m a true cat lover, I also know what those little 15 lb bodies are capable of.

    • I can’t believe your doctor didn’t tell you to go to the ER right away, Deborah. What a distressing experience – I’m glad you’re okay.

      • In retrospect that should have been everyone’s first response, mine included, but I probably didn’t adequately express the seriousness of the injury and was also guilty of thinking, “it’s just a cat bite”. Back before the Internet, there was no instant access to information and I defaulted to clean, medicate, wrap and move on. I know the doctor was surprised once he saw the damage and he told me that the delay could have led to a hospital stay and an orthopedic surgeon had I waited much longer. If the same thing had happened to my child I wouldn’t have thought twice and we’d have been at the ER in minutes. But because it was me, I neglected to use the same common sense. Lesson learned. : )

  35. The only serious cat bite I have ever received was from my own cat Mickey. I was trying to unhook his claw from the mesh in his carrier (we were at the vet) and three times he put his mouth over my hand without biting to warn me. Three times I did not stop. He bit me pretty hard. I ended up going to the doctor the next day for antiobiotics.

    That being said, I work with feral cats a lot and have been bitten & bitten hard quite a few times. Never once did it turn into an infection. Hmmmm????? I wonder what that means

    • That’s what happens when you don’t listen to your cat, Michelle! 😉 I’m glad you were okay.

      Not every bite gets infected. It depends on how deep the wound is, whether you were able to flush out any bacteria right after being bitten, and also, the state of your own immune system at the time of the bite.

  36. An important takeaway from this article is to take your injury seriously…and insist that medical staff take it seriously, too!

    I attempted to pick up a stray one night because I mistook it for my neighbor’s cat. It bit my right wrist and scratched my mouth, actually tearing the tissue so that I still have a light scar on my upper lip.

    The ER staff didn’t believe me that I had been bitten by a cat. They thought that my “story” was a cover-up for a domestic violence incident. They just gave my wounds a cursory wash.

    A week later I flew home from California to Boston for a high school reunion, and when my stepmother saw me she said, “I don’t like the looks of that wound, I’m taking you to the ER right now.” After a thorough cleaning, and intravenous antibiotics, I ended up ultimately receiving the hand surgery mentioned in the article. I missed my reunion because of a cat bite sustained 3000 miles away!

    If I were bitten again – and it is reasonable to think I might be, since I handle cats a lot – I would be very bossy with medical staff about cleaning the wound properly and giving me antibiotics.

    • Doesn’t sound like the brightest ER staff if they couldn’t identify a bite wound, Gina! I’m glad you were okay, even if you had to miss your reunion.

  37. I have been bitten twice. Once by my own cat when he was attacking my other cat (it was just instinct to put my foot between them – OUCH!) Since I was home, I was able to wash it immediately and put hydrogen peroxide on it and later soaked it in baking soda a few times (per my sister-in-law). It healed fine.
    The 2nd time was when I was cat sitting an old and frail cat while giving him an appetite stimulant pill. I rinsed it in the sink, and looked to see if they had any hydrogen peroxide in the bathroom cabinet, but didn’t find any. I had more cat sitting rounds to do, so kept an eye on it. It started to get red all around it, so I went to the hospital. They gave me IV antibiotics 3 times twice a day, then pills. Because it was when I was cat sitting, when asked about the cat, I told the nurse it was my own cat, as I wasn’t sure what it would mean if I told them it was a cat I was pet sitting for.
    I worked with someone who got bit by a friend’s cat and had to have antibiotics by IV for days.

  38. Good info, Ingrid. Do you have a way for me to avoid getting love bites from Charlie? Sometimes when I pet his back while he’s lyig down and loving it, suddenly he will turn his head and bite my hand, gently but enough to draw blood. I tell him no biting and get up and leave him. No idea why he has started doing that after 7 years in my household. But I’m more careful petting him, I hold his head with one hand and stroke his back with the other. That seems to work but my confidence in him took a big hit. Any ideas? Anyone?

  39. Great post Ingrid. I never knew that cat bites could be so bad till recently when I have had friends that had to go to a DR from being bit. Thank you for the post.

  40. I appreciate you posting this. I have a mean kitty, who I have had since he was a kitten. He has social deficits. He has scratched and bit me over the years. One specific time he bit quite deep and I did end up developing a bad infection. When I went to get it treated they doctor had to list it as a cat bite. They didn’t pursue it legally because the cat is mine. Over the years he has mellowed out. I have worked with him and he listens to me so he doesn’t bite me or anyone else. I know that if I got rid of him years ago, like people told me too, that he would have been put down and I didn’t want that to happen. I had a responsibility to him. He has all kinds of physical and behavior problems that I have dealt with since he was one years old. I am not the type of person that gives up easily and just discards a hard to manage animal. I will stick with them. It has been a joke that I have misfit animals, which I do. However, I will not give up on them, which I know others probably would. I believe that is one of my purposes on this earth. I have another kitty that recently started showing his love by biting me in the chin. He never bites that hard and it makes me feel good to know he loves me. He is my lover. He doesn’t like to fight or anything. He is very docile. If I could, I would love to be an animal whisperer.

    • i had a mean kitty 30 years ago. he was always biting and scratching but i wouldn’t trade him for the world. i now have a 4 year old female who isn’t exactly the cuddliest girl in the world and she bit be pretty good last night but like you, i feel they would be put down if i got rid of them. I just deal with it and realize “they” are the boss ! 🙂

  41. Very important article, Ingrid. Several years ago my cat, Pippen, unexpectedly scratched and bit me in the upper arm. The next day the arm looked like a baseball bat. My doctor wanted me to go to the hospital, but I asked her to give the usual antibiotics and Tetanus shot and, thankfully, that worked.

  42. After a lifetime of having and rescuing cats, I have a few (very few, actually) experiences with cat bites, all memorable. My first serious cat bite was in the late 1960s, from my own young Himalayan who was experiencing her first heat (I had planned to breed her when she was a little older). — evidently the hormones did not agree with her and when I picked her up she turned and sank her teeth into the fleshy part of my hand between the thumb and forefinger. I flushed it with water and drenched it with peroxide and thought nothing more about it. I went to work daily as a medical transcriptionist in a hospital pathology lab. After a couple of days it became hard to type because my hand throbbed but I kept working. The pathologist happened by my desk and noticed my arm which had developed a wide red streak running up from the wound towards my armpit. When I told him I was bitten by my cat, he asked if I was allergic to penicillin. I said no, so he wrote me a prescription and sent me straight to the hospital pharmacy to fill it. The pills worked quickly and that was the end of that infection. (I got the cat spayed and her sweet personality returned.)

    My second memorable cat bite was in the late 1970s, from a rescued mama cat who felt threatened by the cats OUTSIDE of the room she was in and turned her misplaced aggression to the calf of my leg as I was leaving the room. That was a deep bite. I washed it and flushed it, and would have gone to my doctor but she was out of town on vacation for the week. Within a few days, the pain told me that this too was infecting, so I went to a “doc in the box” clinic and again got a prescription for penicillin which worked very well.

    I do not recall any more memorable bites. The reason for that is that whenever I have gotten even a SMALL bite or even a scratch from a tooth, I start taking amoxicillin immediately and take it for five days. I have never had another infection from a cat bite in 40 years, and when bites or nips don’t infect, they don’t cause any pain and thus are not memorable. Everyone I know who works in rescue does the same thing.

  43. Very good article. I for one had no idea that a cat could inflict such damage. Two months ago today our two year old cat attacked me when I was trying to rescue our kitten. She had her leg caught and was crying loudly-the moment I touched her he sprang. All together he bit me seven times; he was like a wild animal, striking again and again. I was able to put a laundry basket in between us, and we circled the room for a few minutes. My hand was swollen almost instantly. By the time I got to the doctor, it hurt to move my fingers, and my arm was also swollen. He put me on antibiotics, gave me a tetanus shot, and a stern warning to watch for infection. I couldn’t work for a few days because of the risk of infection, and once I went back people kept asking what kind of accident I’d had-my arm was so bruised and swollen it looked like I’d been in a wreck.
    Emotional damage was done too…it was very difficult to let him get on the bed and sleep with us. All I can say is he is a very lucky black cat, because we love him so much. I think a lot of people would have given up on him at that point, but he is still a loved and cherished member of our household.

    • I’m glad you didn’t give up on your boy, Debbie. It’s devastating when your own cat turns on you and bites you so savagely, and the emotional damage, as you said, can linger. It helps to remember that in that moment when it happens, your cat is no longer your sweet pet cat. My guess is that your kitten’s screaming set off your older cat. It’s almost like a switch gets flipped when these things happen, and these formerly docile cats turn completely feral and wild.

  44. I don’t take cat bites lightly. I have heard about the serious potential consequences. I have been bitten twice this past year. I did not go to the doctor, however aggressively and conscienciously treated at home. After rinsing and promoting bleeding, I soaked immediately in epsom salts for 20 min and numerous times throughout the day, round the clock, and ensuing week. I applied triple antibiotic ointment, kept my hand clean, and kept a close eye on the bite area. I was very concerned about the bite. Use epsom salt hot soaks.

    My first bite was when my cat had a seizure on my hand and could not let go; it was horrible. The second bite was not bad. I was very frightened each time, having heard the stories about cat bites. They should be taken seriously. My bites eventually healed. The redness and swelling went away, but it did take awhile. If it happened again, I would also eat a lot of garlic, a mild antibiotic and tonic. These were my pet cats. If it was a stray cat, I would go to the doctor, but first would bleed and soak and use the triple antibiotic ointment, as you could sit in the ER for hours, delaying treatment. Everyone with a cat should know about cat bites; thanks for posting, Conscious Cat.

    • I’m glad your cat bites healed without any problems and without medical intervention, Mary. It sounds like you did all the right things.

      • Hello some street dog attack my kitten I tried to save her but unconsciously ketten bit on my thumb I let the blood discharge an wash nw there is no pain is it compulsory to visit doctor

  45. An excellent article about cat bites. May i also take this opportunity to also warn people to be wary of a more common thing than bites, namely cat claw scratches. I have my own cats plus i help at a cat rescue and the one thing i can guarantee is that i always end up with the odd scratch or two, mostly accidental.
    I mostly let them bleed out for a while before treating and covering them and generally i’ve had no problems. BUT i do keep an eye on them for any redness etc showing on the wound as once happened and i had to take a short course of antibiotics to cure it.
    Luckily here in the UK (apart from a couple of isolated pockets in Scotland in bats) we don’t have rabies so we don’t have to worry about that.

  46. My dad’s co-worker was recently bitten by one of his cats and his hand turned red and got swollen. Luckily, he went right to the doctor and got antibiotics and proper treatment. The doctor told him it was the right thing to do!

  47. I have been seriously accidentally scratched by my male tomcat “Matata” on two occasions while separating him from a scuffle with his dam “Matahari” at home in Mumbai. On both occasions there was severe bleeding from the cut wound and i treated it with antiseptic and let nature take its course. Luckily everything turned normal after the minor scratch healed.

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