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How to treat a cat bite abscess at home

Updated: May 13

How to treat cat bite abscess at home

What is an abscess?

A cat bite abscess is a “pocket of pus” located somewhere in the body. Common bite locations include the head/face, forelimbs, and the base of the tail.  Below are general guidelines and steps on how to treat a cat bite abscess at home.

How does it happen?

The sharp canine teeth and claws of a cat create puncture wounds in the skin during a fight. These punctures quickly seal over, trapping bacteria from the biting cat's mouth or claws beneath the victim cat's skin, providing the ideal environment for bacterial multiplication (abscess formation).

What are the signs I should look for and how can I treat a cat bite abscess at home?

Cat bite abscesses appear as a painful swelling that can either feel firm to the touch or compressible like a water balloon. They are often warm to the touch.

Because puncture wounds are tiny and heal over quickly, you'll often not notice anything is wrong until a few days later when the abscess has formed and symptoms such as swelling, discomfort, and possible drainage emerge.

Sometimes abscesses are not noticed until they rupture and drain a foul-smelling pus (this is actually a good thing to have happen).

Key home treatments include draining the pocket of pus, providing wound care, and starting antibiotics and pain meds. It is strongly recommended that you see your vet for treatment, but when this is not possible, the following steps can be considered:

  • Drain the Abscess: If the abscess is soft and seems ready to burst (and hasn't already burst on its own), you can gently attempt to drain it. Use a clean, sterilized needle or scalpel (disinfected with alcohol) to make a small knick in the skin at the most prominent point of the abscess. Gently squeeze the pus out, then clean the area again.

  • Clean the Wound: Gently clean the abscess with warm water and mild soap. You can use a clean cloth or gauze. Avoid using hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol as they may further irritate the wound.

Never use hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol for cleaning a drained abscess. This will delay healing and can worsen the problem.

  • Warm Compress: For the next 3 to 5 days, apply a warm, moist compress to the abscess to help promote drainage and relieve pain. Hold the compress on the abscess for about 10-15 minutes, several times a day.

  • Antibacterial Solution: After cleaning the wound, you can use a diluted antiseptic solution (such as povidone-iodine) to disinfect the area. Be sure to follow the product's instructions for dilution.

  • Apply an Antibiotic Ointment: After each compressing and cleaning, apply a thin layer of an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment to the wound. This can help prevent further infection. Be cautious not to use any ointment that contains ingredients harmful to cats (like zinc).

  • Monitor for Improvement: Keep a close eye on your cat's condition. If the abscess doesn't start to improve within a day or two, or if your cat's condition worsens (they become lethargic, quit eating, seem to have a fever, or is acting painful), consult a veterinarian immediately.

  • Oral Antibiotics and Pain Management: If the abscess is extensive or if your cat's condition deteriorates, your veterinarian will want to prescribe oral antibiotics and pain meds to better address the injury. Alternatively, you can schedule a virtual appointment with Spot to have these medications delivered to your door.

Cat bite abscesses can be serious, and home care is not a substitute for professional veterinary treatment, especially if your cat is acting ill. Always consult with your veterinarian to ensure the best care for your cat's specific situation.

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