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Understanding cat fight injuries

Understanding cat fight injuries

Cats that are allowed access to the outdoors are very likely to get themselves into a scrape at some time. In warmer weather especially, as the mating season kicks off, the noise of cat fighting can often be heard outside as cats battle over territory and mates.

Cats are generally not a very social species. They find it very stressful to share resources with other cats, and although sometimes bonds can form, cats that live together usually just tolerate each other. Fighting normally occurs when two cats meet for the first time, however, cats also fight over territory, dominance and attention. 

Puncture wounds and injuries often occur during these fights due to the cats’ sharp canine teeth and long claws. These teeth are covered with bacteria from within the mouth, meaning that those bacteria are effectively injected deep into the flesh when the cat’s canine tooth bites down. Claws are usually also covered in bacteria, for example, from the litter tray. Without treatment, bites and scratches can develop into large, painful abscesses. Cat fights can also result in the transmission of viruses including the serious feline viruses: Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP).

The best way to minimise the risk of your cat getting into a fight with another cat is to restrict access to the outdoors. However, if they do have access to the outdoors then having your male cat castrated and your female cat spayed will greatly reduce the risk of fighting, not to mention roaming, spraying, and unwanted kittens!

Symptoms of a cat fight

You may hear the cat fight – it is usually very noisy with loud, high-pitched yowls and screaming.

Call your vet if you notice any of the following symptoms:

Bleeding

Puncture wounds

Swellings

Lumps on the skin

Limping

Lethargy

Loss of appetite

Diagnosing a cat fight wound

Typically puncture wounds will be present, however they may be difficult to see initially as the entry wound is usually very small and may be hidden by fur. The puncture may be given away by the fur around the area being damp with saliva. In some cases there may be muscle trauma or soreness. Some fights occur in high above the ground such as in trees, therefore, your cat may also sustain injuries from a fall. Wounds have the best chance of healing without complication if treatment is administered immediately after the injury is caused.

If cat bites are not detected straight away, an abscess may form. This is a collection of pus under the skin, so may be seen as a swelling, or a loss of hair where the cat has licked at the painful spot. These need to be drained by the vet, and antibiotics prescribed. This build-up of infection will usually mean that the cat has a fever and will be lethargic with low appetite. Sometimes abscesses will not be noticed until after they have already burst, in which case the area is often seen as a large, ragged wound, leaking purulent fluid. The vet will be able to clean up the area and will prescribe antibiotics.

After care

Initially, cleaning the bite wounds with a saline solution or iodine will help to reduce infection, however, the injuries will likely be extremely painful and this may be best left to your vet while the cat is under sedation.

While your cat is recovering, ensure she is kept inside the house and keep the wounds clean. She may have to wear a collar to prevent her licking at her wounds. Don’t forget to complete any course of medication your vet prescribes for your cat.

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