Wounds in cats

Wounds in cats are common and can come in all shapes and sizes.

Uncomplicated cuts and grazes that are small can sometimes be treated at home. Deep or bite wounds may need medication or surgery if they are serious or if there is a risk of infection.

These types of wounds need to be seen immediately by a veterinarian:

  • Snake bites
  • Burns
  • Deep wounds and wounds where the bone is visible
  • Wounds that involve the abdominal or chest cavity
  • Wounds that have a lot of bleeding or bleeding that is not stopping within 10 minutes
  • Wounds that involve the eye

The mouths of cats are full of bacteria – up to 600 different types.

It is important to stop your pet from licking wounds.

Infection can occur as a result of licking, biting, or scratching at the wound.

Don't let cats lick themselves

What to do

What to do if your cat has a wound

Serious wounds

  • Try to keep your cat calm and still, and take them to your local vet as soon as possible.
  • For heavily bleeding wounds, apply firm pressure to the area where the blood is coming from.
  • For burns, wash any chemicals off and rinse the area with cool, not ice-cold, water.
  • Be careful! Pain or distress may cause them to bite or scratch.

Other wounds such as lacerations, grazes, cuts, bite injuries, and torn nails

  • If bleeding, apply gentle pressure to the area with a clean cloth for up to 10 minutes.
  • If possible, clean the area with saline (1 tsp salt in 500ml cooled boiled water). Remove any small foreign objects that you can see.
  • Prevent your cat from licking, biting, or scratching the affected area.
  • Get the wound checked by a veterinarian to assess if the wound needs any further treatment.



Most common causes of wounds in cats

Bite wounds

  • Caused by bites from other cats or dogs. Can be small puncture wounds or larger lacerations. Dog bite wounds can often be much worse than they appear due to deeper damage.
  • Cat bite abscesses usually appear 2-3 days after a bite injury from a cat. Usually found around the face or tail. Start as a swelling but often rupture and release a pus discharge. Find out more about Cat bite abscess in cats
cat bite wound
Abscess that has ruptured

Torn Nails

  • Often caused by damage when running or playing. Can also be caused by cutting the nail too short.

Cuts, Tears and Grazes

  • Cuts, tears or lacerations often occur as a result of trauma from sharp objects such glass, dog bites, barbed wire, or sticks.
  • Grazes are also known as abrasions or scrapes. Only the top layer of the skin is damaged. These often occur due to contact with a rough surface or self-trauma.
cat wound laceration cut
Laceration wound
wounds in cats graze
Graze wound

Pressure wounds

  • Pressure sores are caused by increased pressure on one area of the skin over a long period, such as when a pet is lying in one place and not moving.
  • They can also develop from bandages that are too tight or loose.
  • Pressure wounds can be difficult to treat and healing can take a long time.


When to worry

When should I worry about my cat’s wound?

Seek help from a vet immediately if:

  • The wound or damage involves the chest or abdominal cavities.
  • You suspect your cat has been bitten by a snake.
  • There is excessive bleeding or a small amount of bleeding that is not stopping.
  • Your cat has a deep wound, especially if there is bone visible.
  • Your cat’s eye has been damaged.
  • Your cat’s wound is infected.

Joii can help if

  • Your cat has a minor cut, scratch, or graze.
  • Your cat has been bitten by another animal, and you are not sure what to do.
  • Your cat has a torn nail.
  • You need advice about keeping your cat mentally stimulated during rest periods.
  • You require assistance with your cat’s nutrition and weight.



Prevention of wounds in cats

Unfortunately, most wounds are unpreventable.

Neutering male cats will reduce straying behaviour and also the risk of cat fights.

Pressure wounds can be prevented by:

    • Do not use home bandages. Wrongly placed bandages and incorrect pressure can lead to new wounds.
    • Make sure to move your cat into different positions, if they are unwell and resting more than normal.
    • Use soft bedding and keep the skin clean and dry at all times.
    • Keep your cat in a healthy body condition and feed a balanced diet.

Body Condition Score (BCS) is a scale that gives a practical evaluation of the fat coverage of your cat’s body. By checking how easy or not it is to feel certain bony areas of the body, a score is then produced. There are several scales, from 1 to 5 or 1 to 9. The ideal body condition lies in the middle, so either 3/5 or 5/9.

The body areas normally checked for fat coverage are:

1. ribs and spine

2. hips and shoulders

3. waist

Body condition scoring (BCS) in cats

Here are a few tips on how to do it.

With your pet in a standing position:

  • Place your hands on the rib cage and gently feel for each rib, without pressing too hard
  • Feel the waist and look from the top and the side (if you have a very furry breed, it may be harder to assess)
  • Feel the spine, which runs down the middle of the back
  • Feel the top of the hips and shoulders



Diagnosis of wounds in cats

Wounds from trauma, such as bites or scratches, won’t need any further diagnosis.

If the wound is severe, does not heal as expected, or shows signs of infection, your veterinarian may recommend additional testing, such as:

  • Swabbing of the wound for culture and sensitivity
  • Skin biopsy
  • Blood and urine tests
  • X-rays or further imaging such as MRI.

Infection is a common problem with wounds and can cause a delay in healing.

Signs of infection include swelling, discharge, redness, and a bad smell. Licking, biting, or scratching at the wound can lead to infection.

infected wound cat
Wound with pus and swelling

Blackened tissue is a serious sign of concern. Get this checked with your local vet as soon as possible.

Other factors that can lead to a delayed healing time include:

  • Anaemia, as well as other underlying medical conditions like diabetes or kidney disease
  • Obesity or poor diet
  • Certain medications: Corticosteroids, inappropriate use of antiseptics, radiation therapy
  • Environment: cold weather can delay wound healing, as can low oxygen levels. This includes bandages that are too tight.
  • Pets can also get MRSA and MRSP though this is not common. These are antibiotic-resistant ‘superbugs’- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus and Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Pseudintermedius.


Home treatment

How to treat wounds in cats at home 

With any type of wound, we recommend getting it checked with a vet in person if the wound is large or deep. If the wound is mild, a video call with a vet is another option. Mild wounds may be able to be treated at home.

These are the most important things to consider:

Keep the wound clean and dry at all times

  • To keep the wound clean, use saline (1 teaspoon salt in 500ml cooled, boiled water). This can be done 1-2 times daily for the first few days.

Prevent licking, biting, scratching, and other self-trauma of the wound

  • Use a buster collar, inflatable collar, medical pet shirt or baby grow, socks or boots.
  • Bitter apple spray can be used as a deterrent on top of a bandage.

Restrict exercise until the wound has healed over.

Use of topical treatments to help with healing, such as manuka honey or antibacterial wound creams.


What to expect with wound healing

Most wounds heal in 3 main phases

  1. Inflammation and debridement: Wounds may develop mild swelling. The body gets rid of dead cells and other debris.
  2. Repair: The tissue closes over any gaps of raw skin.
  3. Maturation: The fibres rearrange to strengthen the tissue. This stage can last months.

The time for wound healing can vary depending on different factors, but in general, most simple wounds with no infection heal within 5-14 days.


Vet treatment

Vet treatment for wounds in cats

Treatment depends on the cause, size, location, and depth of the wound.

Mild wounds may require:

  • Shaving of the surrounding hair
  • Thorough cleaning of the affected area
  • Removal of any foreign material
  • Trimming back nail if broken or cracked
  • Bandaging
  • Topical creams or gels
  • Antibiotics or pain relief

More serious wounds may require:

  • First aid to stop the bleeding. Stabilisation of any other serious problems such as heart, lung, or other organ damage.
  • Surgery including sutures, staples, lancing of abscess and removing any foreign material, removal of dead tissue, drains, flaps, and grafts.
  • Laser Therapy
  • Management of any other condition associated with the wound, such as antivenom for snake bites or repairing broken bones.
  • Long-term care using bandages and medications.

If the wound does not heal as expected or shows signs of infection, your veterinarian may recommend additional testing, such as:

  • Swabbing of the wound for culture and sensitivity
  • Skin biopsy
  • Blood and urine tests



Are some cats more at risk of wounds?

All cats are at risk of developing wounds.

  • Cuts, grazes, and tears are more common in young, active cats.
  • Cat bite abscesses are more common in outdoor, male cats.
  • Pressure wounds are more common in older, obese, and inactive cats.
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