A Comprehensive Guide to Cat Wounds: How to Care for Your Feline Friend

A Comprehensive Guide to Cat Wounds: How to Care for Your Feline Friend

Our beloved cats are known for their adventurous nature, always exploring and getting into some mischief. Unfortunately, this spirit of adventure can sometimes lead to wounds and injuries. While some wounds may be minor and heal on their own, others require more attention and care. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through everything you need to know about cat wounds, from identifying the causes to cleaning the wounds and determining when it’s necessary to seek veterinary assistance.

Types of Cat Wounds

Cats can experience various types of wounds, including:

Puncture Wounds

Puncture wounds are often caused by animal bites, scratches, or foreign objects that penetrate the skin, such as sticks or thorns. Despite appearing small, these wounds can cause unseen trauma to underlying tissues, especially if they result from an animal bite. If you notice a puncture wound on your cat that is bleeding, draining pus, swollen, bruised, or painful, it is crucial to take them to a veterinarian within 24 hours for proper inspection and potential sedation to evaluate tissue damage.

Bite Wounds

If your cat has been bitten by another animal and you observe bite marks or abrasions, it is essential to seek veterinary attention. The veterinarian can examine the wound, flush it out, and determine if stitches are necessary. Immediate veterinary care is especially critical if the biting animal or your cat is not up to date with their rabies vaccine. Different states have varying rabies vaccination and quarantine laws to ensure the safety of both you and your cat.

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Minor Cuts and Abrasions

Superficial cuts and abrasions that only affect the skin can often heal on their own without specific treatment. As long as there is no excessive licking, swelling, bleeding, pus, odor, or pain, these wounds can safely heal with minimal intervention. However, it is advisable to have a veterinarian assess and clean the wounds, even if they seem superficial, as fur can sometimes obstruct a thorough evaluation.


Cats are prone to developing abscesses, which are walled-off infections that typically occur under the skin. These abscesses are often a result of puncture wounds that trap bacteria transferred from teeth, nails, or foreign objects. Abscesses can start flat and cause inflammation in the surrounding tissues, leading to fever, lethargy, and pain. Over time, they become swollen, painful fluid-filled pockets that eventually burst, releasing a foul-smelling discharge. Abscesses can make cats very ill, sometimes requiring hospitalization. If you notice any puncture wounds, skin swelling, bleeding, or drainage accompanied by lethargy, loss of appetite, or reluctance to move, it is crucial to bring your cat to a veterinarian for proper evaluation, drainage, and cleaning.

Sores or Blisters

Chronic conditions can cause skin wounds in cats. Feline eosinophilic granuloma complex, for example, can result in raised, reddened skin lesions or skin cancers. It is important to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian if you notice any abnormal masses or lesions on your cat. A proper assessment may involve sampling cells from the area or performing a biopsy for a definitive diagnosis.

Signs of an Infected Wound on a Cat

Wounds left untreated can become infected due to bacterial contamination or overgrowth. Signs of an infected wound include:

  • Swelling
  • Redness or bruising of the skin
  • Pain
  • Warmth
  • Persistent bloody or pus-like discharge with an unpleasant odor
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lameness (if the wound is on a leg)

How to Clean a Cat’s Wound

Cat wounds should always be evaluated by a veterinarian, unless they are superficial and show signs of healing. If the wound is bleeding, apply direct pressure with a clean cloth or sterile gauze for five minutes to control the bleeding. If bleeding persists, it is crucial to seek emergency veterinary care. For superficial wounds without bleeding, you can gently clean the wound using an antiseptic solution or water. Avoid using alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, as they can damage the tissue. Antiseptic solutions containing povidone-iodine or chlorhexidine diacetate can be diluted appropriately and used for wound cleaning. If you are unsure about the severity of the wound or it is large and deep, it is best to disinfect the surrounding area and seek veterinary assistance.

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How to Keep a Cat From Licking Their Wound

Preventing cats from licking their wounds is crucial for proper healing. The best way to achieve this is by using an Elizabethan collar (e-collar). Ensure the e-collar is measured correctly to your cat’s size and does not hinder their daily activities, such as eating, drinking, and using the litter box. Avoid applying bandages to your cat’s legs, as improperly placed bandages can cause additional tissue damage. If you believe a bandage is necessary, cover the wound with sterile gauze and gently wrap it with stretchy bandage material before promptly seeking emergency veterinary care. Remember to remove the bandage within an hour to prevent skin damage.

How Vets Treat Cat Wounds

Veterinarians aim to diagnose the type of wound and provide appropriate therapy to promote healing and prevent infection. They typically start with a physical examination of the wound and may clip the fur to better evaluate the injury. Depending on the severity, your cat may require sedation or anesthesia to assess the wound more comprehensively and perform necessary treatments. In some cases, bloodwork and x-rays may be necessary to assess for systemic infection or damage to underlying tissues. Antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, pain medications, and topical ointments are common treatment options. Specific therapies for different types of wounds include thorough cleaning, surgical closure, drain placement, and tissue removal.

What to Watch For at Home

Your veterinary team will provide you with instructions for home care, which often include limiting your cat’s activity to aid healing and keeping them indoors. It is crucial to keep the e-collar in place to prevent licking, which can lead to further complications and infection. Outdoor wounds are particularly susceptible to infestation by fly larvae. Watch for signs of warmth, swelling, pain, discharge, continued bleeding, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, or lethargy. If any of these signs occur, contact your veterinarian promptly.

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Rechecks and Bandage Care

Your veterinarian will guide you on how to clean wounds and drains at home and monitor bandages. If a bandage becomes wet, soiled, slips down, shows bleeding, or causes discomfort to your pet, it is essential to remove it, assess the underlying tissue, and replace the bandage. Recheck examinations are usually recommended within two weeks, depending on the extent of the wound. The healing process may involve drain removal, suture removal, or changing bandages.

Cat Wound Care Supplies to Keep on Hand

Having a first aid kit for your pets is highly recommended for emergencies. Essential items to keep at home in case of wounds include sterile gauze, antiseptic solution, saline solution, bandage tape, curved-tipped syringes for wound flushing, an appropriately sized Elizabethan collar, and, for severe bleeding cases, a tourniquet (to be used under veterinary supervision for a maximum of 20 minutes).

Remember, providing proper wound care for your cat is essential for their well-being and a speedy recovery. If you have any concerns or questions about your cat’s wounds, always consult with a veterinarian. And don’t forget to check out Karen’s Kollars for the finest pet accessories to keep your feline friend happy and stylish throughout their healing process.