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Are Cat Bites Dangerous?

A cat bite from an angry, hissing cat can be dangerous

The short answer to this question is, “Yes.” But many people wonder why cat bites are so dangerous. Others swear that their cat would never bite them, so we’re telling our own story about Peanut Butter, our senior cat of 17 years, who bit me recently.

Peanut Butter had been moodier lately, but we put that down to age. Last week, she was sitting next to me when I reached over to stroke her and she suddenly lashed out. Not playfully. She sank her teeth deep into my hand.  She had never bitten anyone before (aside from the occasional nip when playing). She meant business when she bit through the skin not once, but twice. I ended up with two cat bites that left four deep puncture wounds that took me to the local Emergency Room. After cleaning the wounds and giving me the obligatory tetanus shot, they prescribed a strong, oral antibiotic, explaining that there are more than 35 types of dangerous bacteria in a cat’s mouth. Yeah. Gross.

There’s Always a Reason for Cat Bites

Despite many people who say, “I have no idea why he/she bit me. It was a complete surprise,” there is always a reason. With Peanut Butter, it was pain – the most common reason for a cat to suddenly attack a family member. Cats are masters at hiding pain (P.B. had been to the vet just two months ago and got a clean bill of health). But the vet checked more thoroughly this time, and discovered that Peanut Butter has arthritis, particularly in her hips. I had obviously touched her somewhere that was very painful.

Fortunately, after just two days on a prescription pain medication, P.B. is improving. She’s moving more easily and her temper is more, “Meh” than “I want to scratch your eyes out.” It’s a big improvement. I’m healing fine as well, so we’re back on good terms with each other. I just wish I had realized sooner that she was in pain. Lesson learned –  we should NEVER ignore unusual behavior in our pets!

Why You MUST See a Doctor if Your Cat Bites You

Cat bites are much worse than bites from a dog or another person. Despite being very clean animals in general, cats’ mouths harbor about three dozen different types of dangerous bacteria. When a cat breaks the skin, his teeth push those pathogens deep into the underlying tissue, where it can quickly start an infection that can spread to other tissues. The problem is that it’s almost impossible to really clean a deep puncture wound. Going to the ER or your doctor is essential, as they can clean the wound better than you can and will give you a tetanus shot. They will also give you an oral antibiotic to fight any germs from the inside. If your cat hasn’t had a rabies vaccine or you’ve been bitten by a strange cat, you may need to undergo a series of rabies shots as well. For more information on animal bites and how to treat them, read Cat and Dog Bites on the Family Doctor website (FamilyDoctor.org)

Consider this: A bite from a dog will end up infected about 2% of the time. Cat bites will end up infected 60% of the time. It’s a chance you don’t want to take, as untreated cat bite infections can lead to blood poisoning, cellulitis or hospitalization.



  1. Jeanne Melanson

    August 4, 2017 2:15 am

    Yep! I know all about it. It’s happened to me 4, perhaps 5 times, where I ended up in the Emergency Room with an IV. The first time I stayed three days in the hospital. I’m glad you wrote on this topic because it’s important. I have a draft written up about this too to publish one of these days, along with pics of my baseball mitt-sized hand.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this! All the best to you (and your cat).

    • Lori

      August 6, 2017 7:03 am

      Thanks, Jeanne! I’m glad to hear you recovered from your cat bites as well. Sorry to hear you were hospitalized – that would have been traumatic, especially having to be away from your cats.

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