Treating Cat Bites and Scratches
In this article, you will find:
1. The story about how and why my cat attacked me.
2. Important, immediate treatment of cat bites and scratches.
3. Ongoing treatment of wounds.
4. Signs of infection.
5. How to avoid being wounded by a cat.
Cat Attack: My Story
Cat scratches and bites can often lead to infection if not treated properly. I know because my cat bit and scratched me.
The other day, my cat found himself in a perilous situation. He was standing on the back of the couch looking out the window. Then he decided he needed to look out the other window. He started racing through the mini blinds, back and forth to each window. Then suddenly his back leg got caught in the strings and the poor cat found himself stuck in the blinds. He let out a horrible yowl and struggled to free himself. I raced to him and tried to support his body with one hand as I frantically tried to free his foot from the strings.
The whole time I tried to help him, instead of taking it out on the blinds, he took it out on me. He bit and scratched whatever piece of skin or clothing he could latch onto. My hands, fingers and thumbs were bloody and sore, but I had to get him out. Since untangling the string wasn't working, I ran and grabbed the scissors and chopped the string holding up the blinds.
After he was freed, he ran around the house hissing at me, ready to attack again. I put him somewhere safe where he couldn't hurt himself or me. I didn't dare pick him up, especially with my hands already hurting so bad. Instead, I opened a door and let him walk through. I put his food and water and litter box in the room and closed the door. Periodically I went to check on him and he still hissed at me. I didn't let him out until he had calmed down.
You can well imagine how much I was freaking out. I had blood dripping from my hands and cat urine all over me. I was shaking and scared because I had thought that he was going to hang himself. While he was caught, a stream of urine sprayed out every which way, as he twisted and writhed to free himself. After freeing him, of course my first thought was, "I'm never going to get the smell out." My second thought, which I vocalized loudly, contained several obscenities and, "Oh my God, it hurts so bad!"
Painful Cat Bites and Scratches
I ran to the sink and stuck my hands under warm water until I gathered up the courage to pour peroxide over the wounds. All I'm going to say about that is "OW!" After my hysterics subsided a bit and my feeble attempts at cleaning up the mess failed miserably, I called my husband at work. While I waited for him to get home I used my gimp hands to take down the blinds and throw them away. Who would have thought that mini blinds could be so dangerous to a cat? I always made a point to keep the cords out of the cat's reach, but I never would have thought about the strings on the inside acting as death traps. I was just thankful that I was home when it happened.
When my husband got home he tried calling to get me in to see a doctor. "They can see you in three weeks," he said wryly as he hung up the phone. Instead of waiting two weeks for infection to set in, he took me to the E.R.
I was especially concerned because my left thumb, the one that the cat had repeatedly bitten, was completely numb. I've had cats all my life, but I've never been bitten or scratched that badly. Both of my hands swelled up and hurt so bad I could hardly move them. By the time we reached the hospital I couldn't use either thumb.
In my case, the scratches and bites were so severe that one of my thumbs felt numb and I could barely bend the injured appendages. Everything started to swell and ache.
We come to love our pets as part of our family. We begin treating them as if they were our children, but sometimes when they "bite the hand that feeds them" we are reminded that they are animals.
What You'll Need Immediately:
1. Cleanse wounds thoroughly.
2. Antibiotics for infection.
3. Rabies shot (if bitten by a stray).
4. Tetanus shot (if it's been five years since last shot).
5. Benadryl or antihistamine if allergic.
(Do not delay treatment!)
How to Treat Cat Scratches and Bites: What I Learned
If this happens to you, see a doctor immediately. Go to the emergency room if you have to. They will cleanse the wounds and prescribe antibiotics to combat infection. If the animal was a stray, you will more than likely need a rabies shot. Regardless of ownership, if you are not up-to-date on tetanus shots, you will also need one of those. Tetanus shots are good for five years. If it has been over five years since your last, or if you can't remember when your last was, it's a good idea to tell the doctors so they can make sure you are properly vaccinated to reduce further complications.
The doctor told me that my thumb was numb because the cat bit very close to a nerve and I may have permanent nerve damage.
If you, like me, are allergic to cats and your skin bubbles up and swells when you get scratched or bitten, take some Benadryl. The antihistamines will help reduce the painful swelling.
Whatever you do, don't wait to get your cat scratches and bites checked out. A friend of mine said he knew someone who had been scratched severely by a cat. The man was trying to rescue a rabbit from a stray cat (which is a bad idea, by the way. Never mess with a cat's food). The cat attacked him and left him with scratches and bites on his hands and arms. The man didn't go to the doctor until two weeks later when his whole arm became swollen and infected. Doctors said that he could have lost his arm.
Ongoing Care of Cat Scratches and Bites:
1. Keep the wounds clean and dry. Do not cover.
2. Take acetaminophen for pain, if needed.
3. Soak affected area in warm water for 15 mins., three times a day.
4. Look for signs of infection.
Keep the wound clean and dry. Do not cover with bandages as the wounds will be more likely to get infected. You may take acetaminophen (Tylenol, ibuprofen, Advil, or Motrin) to relieve the pain.
Soak the affected area in warm water for fifteen minutes three to four times a day to keep the area clean and to reduce the possibility of infection.
If you notice a red line under your skin (kind of looks like a red vein), see your doctor immediately. This means that you have an infection. Other signs of infection include pus coming from the wound or warmth or swelling around the injured area. Also, if you run a fever, are tired or dizzy, have a headache or cough, call your doctor.
Signs of Infection:
A red line or lines emanating from the wound.
Warmth or swelling around injured area.
Fever, dizziness, headache, and/or cough.
Pus in the wound.
How to Avoid Getting Injured by Cats
Exercise caution when helping an animal in distress. Animals may not understand that you are trying to help and will, more than likely, take it out on you. Avoid touching the animal, if you can. In my case, the scissors should have been the first thing I went for. If you must handle the animal, take the time to cover your hands and arms with gloves and thick long sleeves.
If your cat is interested in destroying your mini blinds, just take them down. Buy some cheap curtains. Or at the very least keep the blinds pulled up to where he cannot reach them.
Also, don't name your cat after a superhero. Batman, my cat, seems to think he's invincible. Maybe it's the name. Who knows?