Stray Cats and Cat Bites

It is inevitable, no matter how cautious you are when you are working with stray cats, at one time or another, you will either get bit or scratched for your efforts. The attack may be meaningful, when you go to fill a half-empty feed bowl, the cat lunges and clamps down. Or, perhaps while handling a new Queen’s baby kitten, the Queen strikes out and you become for a short period of time, her victim.

Never blame the cat for lashing out and keep your terror, panic, anger whatever emotion is coursing through you in check or it will be the worse for you. The cat will pick up on your emotion and the battle will continue.

If your stray has latched onto you with his claws or teeth, do not pull away (although this will be your immediate reaction) Pulling away, turns your hand, arm, leg from an inanimate object into prey wanting to escape and the cat will intensify his efforts to keep you near him. Instead, draw quickly (like a lunge) into the bite or scratch, this will cause the cat to startle and drop his grip.

If your stray is battle ready and willing to take you on- find something you can put in front of you- a blanket, a broom, even taking off your shirt works to hold him off. Use the object to guide the cat without touching him into a room where he can take some chill time while you attend to your wounds. Or if the cat is used to sleeping in a carrier, place the carrier near the cat and shoo the cat into his safe place using a broom.

What to do about a cat bite or a scratch:
Statistics show that 80% of cat bites become infected. I keep an emergency cat bite box available in my cat room upstairs. Inside, I have a basin- epsom salts, betadine solution, hydrogen peroxide, small container of bleach, 4×4 squares, paper tape (doesn’t pull your hairs like regular tape does) and an antibacterial cream.

You should have your tetanus up-to-date if you do any sort of work with strays. If not, do not pass go, do not collect one-hundred dollars, beat your feet quickly to the nearest ER room and get that bite looked at as well as updating your shot.

If you are like me, the bites usually occur when the doctor’s office is closed so if it isn’t a deep gash where you see muscle or bone, you can drop the wounded limb into a hot bath of water and epsom salt to draw out the poisons. One ER tech told me once that putting your finger or hand into a bleach and warm water mixture will kill any of the bacteria that cats commonly carry in their mouth or teeth (pasturella, staph, and other critters are running around in this critter). This procedure however, hurts like the dickens and I wouldn’t recommend it for the faint-of heart.

If it is a cat bite, the doctor is obligated by law to report the bite. This means that they may come and take the cat and quarantine him for 60 days to watch for rabies. Or, in some states, they can slap you with a fine for endangering your health and the health of others.

If you choose to not go to the doctor’s, that is your choice and your risk. You want to watch the area of the bite/scratch carefully. You are looking for any type of discharge, from clear to puss-filled. If you feel heat or see swelling around the area YOU NEED A DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY! Especially if you see long red lines traveling from the center of the wound to other healthy areas of your body- if this happens Call 911 as this is the first stage of blood poisoning.

Cat Scratch Fever has been mentioned in this blog several times. Possibly because I have had the misfortune of dealing with this nasty critter and almost lost my foot- but bites and scratches are nothing to sneeze at. Sometimes, neosporin, iodine, hydrogen peroxide just aren’t enough to take care of the bacteria that stray cats lug around with them.

2 thoughts on “Stray Cats and Cat Bites

  1. Thank you for the invaluable information regarding a stray cat bite. My tetanus is up to date but I wasn’t sure about cleaning the bite. I’m not sure as to what is going on with her. She had 4 kittens (in which) I managed to get 2 adopted by a friend & I have the other 2 (not intentionally). The kittens are 9 mos. now. I recently started letting the kittens out as I couldn’t stop them from pawing at the slider & crying insistently. For a while, when I would try to get the mom to come in, she would try to get the kittens out (kinda funny). This is my 1st experience with cat’s. Mom is still a stray but over time I was able to coax her to come in during bad weather or extremely cold weather. Now, because of the kittens she refuses to come in but…she won’t let the kittens near her. She is hissing at them & attacking them, she doesn’t even want them on the deck. I guess like it’s her territory. She has never tried to bite me before, just like a little nibble but friendly like. This time, she wanted me to pat her & while I was she turned & bit me then hissed. Is this something I need to worry about? Hopefully, you can answer this question for me. I have grown quite attached to her & don’t want to give her up. She hasn’t had any of her shots (I couldn’t afford them, I’ve been out of work for 2 yrs now). I did manage to get the 3 of them neutered & spayed but only 1 of the male kittens has had his rabies shot. Thank you in advance for any info you may be able to give me or where to find info.

  2. Peggy,

    Is the mom spayed? Her actions tell me that perhaps she is still intact and possibly going into heat which can cause aggression. Her driving her kittens away is perfectly normal in the stray cat world. She views them as competition for her food and waterand ultimately her survival and also another creature to bring predators near her. She will be more forceful with the males then the females, but eventually she will drive them off. Getting everyone neutered/spayed helps a lot so in that, you are ahead of the game. But if you didn’t get her spayed- you need to and it is possible she is pregnant again.

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