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Bite me! What You Need to Know About Your Quarantine Rescue Cat

During the COVID19 outbreak, my boyfriend and I decided now was the perfect time to add a furry friend to our lives. We had been searching for the right cat, when a local rescue told us a grey, dog-like cat would be coming to New York from a high-kill shelter in Alabama. His name was Taco and had big green yellow eyes. We were sold. 

His name was Taco and had big yellow-Green eyes. We were Sold.

We met Taco (now Grange) over FaceTime due to the shelter’s coronavirus safety protocols. The next day, we drove to pick him up. Someone from the shelter took our carrier from the trunk of our car, and put our new cat inside and returned the carrier to the car. I sat in the backseat while we drove Taco to his new home. 

Russian Blue cat with big yellow green eyes

When we got to our apartment, we opened the carrier and Taco cautiously ran out and hid under the bed. After a little bit of hiding, he got sick of his dusty hiding spot, and came out so he could meet us and sniff all around his new home. 

The next morning he jumped up on my lap for some head scratches and cuddles. We fed him and afterwards he came up to me with a head butt, and as I went to pet him, he bit me hard on my finger. I was shocked. It all happened lightning fast. One minute our sweet cat was rubbing his head on me lovingly, and the next he was chomping down on my finger. Unfortunately, during stressful situations like moving across the country to a new home, cats can exhibit bipolar behavior. Something had startled him, and biting my finger was his way of defending himself.

Domestic Short Hair Cat looks out window

I washed the puncture wounds well with soap and water, then I cleaned the bite with rubbing alcohol and topped it with Bacitracin ointment and a bandaid. The bite was just two tiny bleeding holes, and I was surprised at how much such pain such narrow small teeth can cause. After cleaning it, I thought my work was done and I could let the wound heal on its own. 

Since Taco was new to our family, I typed “my new cat bit me” into google chuckling a little at myself. I expected the results to say to clean it as I already had. I was surprised when I found that the top results said to visit a doctor immediately. Of course this being a pandemic, I wasn’t too eager to visit an urgent care so I did a Telehealth visit with my doctor and she prescribed antibiotics for seven days. 

When a cat bites you they basically inject this aggressive pathogen [Pasteurella multocida] (and others) deep into your tissue. This plunges the bacteria right into a warm, dark, low oxygen environment which is optimal for the development of infection.

Renee DiPietro, CVT
               Veterinary Information Specialist, Permitted Wildlife Rehabilitator

Cat bites are particularly dangerous because of cats’ long, narrow and extremely sharp front canine teeth. These fang-like teeth have the ability to dig deep into the skin, and problems arise when they reach tendons and bones. Due to the narrowness of the puncture they create, cat bites are difficult to clean, which means the bacteria from your cat’s mouth and even your own skin is pushed deep into your flesh.

In fact, studies show that up to 50% of cat bites become infected. Often infected bites require a hospital stay and even surgery to remove bacteria from tendons or bones. Cat bites on the hand are most common, and also pose the greatest risk for infection because of the amount of tendons and joints in that area of the body. Your body’s extreme response to the bacteria can lead to sepsis which is a life threatening condition. 

Hand with bandaid over cat bite

According to the American Veterinarian Association, over 58 million Americans are cat parents, yet many are unaware of the dangers posed by cat bites. Of course, many cats and kittens will bite playfully or give you a love bite. These bites tend to be more gentle, and if they don’t draw blood, then you’re probably fine to wash it with soap and water and treat with bacitracin ointment to be sure. Some doctors recommend avoiding Neosporin as neomycin, an added ingredient, can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Cover the scrape with a bandaid and watch out for any redness or swelling which could signal an infection. 

If your furry friend gives you a puncture wound, call your doctor or visit an urgent care right away. Infections can occur within 24 to 48 hours. You might feel goofy seeking medical attention for such a tiny bite —I know I did— but a bottle of antibiotics beats surgery any day. 


*This article is not a substitute for medical advice.


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Molly W
Contributor


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