Help! I need to treat cat fight injuries!
Chances are you’ve heard the tell-tale yowling of an angry cat in your backyard before. In an urban setting, it’s common for cats to cross paths. And since they are territorial animals, cats fight to establish dominance, to protect their territory, or even to expand their territory. However, this is also not the only reason your cat may have been in a fight recently. Even cats that have been living together for a while may sometimes get into a fight over food or toys. Here we look at symptoms of cat fights and how to treat cat fight injuries.
Bite wounds especially should be treated quickly, as bacteria in a cat’s mouth can get into bite wounds. When the bites start to heal over, this bacteria can get trapped and can lead to infections and the consequent formation of abscesses. An abscess is a pus and fluid-filled pocket under the skin that is caused by a bacterial infection.
How to tell if your cat has been in a fight recently
While some wounds may be quite obvious, others may not be as apparent. Smaller wounds and punctures are often hidden by fur, but they can prove as dangerous as larger, open wounds. Here are some signs to be on the lookout for in your cat:
- Not wanting to move
- Not wanting to be handled
- Unusual noises such as growling or crying
- Signs of an abscess
- Patches of missing fur
If you suspect your cat has been in a fight recently, check its body for actively bleeding sores or wounds, as well as scabs that may have started to heal over. Be sure to look carefully in heavily furred areas. You should also run your hands gently over your cat’s body and limbs to see whether there are areas of discomfort or pain.
Check for areas of swelling or increased temperature. An infection or forming abscess will cause symptoms of swelling and may be hot to the touch around the infected area.
Cats may also obsessively groom and lick an area where they have been wounded, so be on the lookout for any abnormal grooming behaviours.
- If you know that your cat has been in a recent fight, check their body for cuts and bites as mentioned above. The most common places for bites are on the head and neck, the forelimbs, and the base of the tail. If you are checking for bite wounds or signs of infection, be sure to check these spots well. Be sure to keep an eye out for limping and whether they have trouble breathing.
- If you are able to identify a wound, clean it thoroughly by soaking the area with VetMed Wound and Skin Care. Do not use hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol on your pet. Not only do these agents sting when applied, which will cause your cat to stress and struggle, but they also damage sensitive, healing tissues.
- Abscesses are common with cat fights and should be examined by a veterinarian. Most abscesses are first drained and flushed. These wounds are not usually stitched closed because of the bacterial presence. Often a drain may be put in to help with the removal of any leftover discharge. Once the discharge has stopped, the drain is taken out.
Does a vet need to be consulted?
If you notice that your cat has damage to their eye, if they are labouring for breath, or if their wounds are bleeding profusely, get them to a vet immediately. Wounds that won’t stop bleeding or that show exposed muscle or tissue may need stitches.
Even if your cat does not need to see a vet straight away, it’s a good idea to call them and inform them of the situation. If your vet deems that your cat does not need to come in for an appointment, they will likely still want you to keep a close eye on your pet for about a week. This is to keep watch for signs like infection, abscess formation, or other signs of discomfort you may not immediately be aware of.
Can you prevent cat fights?
Having your pets spayed and neutered may aid with territorial behaviour, but is unlikely to eliminate it completely. You may want to keep your cat indoors, particularly at night. This helps to reduce the chances of them getting into fights while other cats are on the prowl.
Since cats are naturally more active during the evening and early morning hours, this is also the time where you would want to start stimulating their natural instincts through play. Providing you cat with toys or a laser pointer will encourage them to play and stay entertained while confined.
Try not to leave pet food outside your house as it is likely to attract strays and other neighbourhood cats.
As a cat owner, it’s good to be aware of feline-specific diseases that can be transmitted during a cat fight. Common infections include FIV, feline immunodeficiency virus or commonly referred to as feline AIDS, and FeLV, feline leukaemia virus.
Ask your vet about the most recent vaccinations against these diseases if your cat is prone to fighting or if you are concerned about kitty picking up these infections.