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Advice From Dr. Lindsey: Cat Bite Abscess

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Authored by: Dr. Lindsey, DVM

Abscesses are very common and quite painful for cats. Cats can get abscesses from many things, but a cat bite is probably the most common. Cat’s can be very territorial, especially un-neutered cats. They frequently will fight another cat for territory and get wounds. These wounds can turn into an abscess which is a pocket of pus found somewhere in the body. When a cat gets bitten by another cat the penetrating wound seals over quickly and gets infected with bacteria. The wound may go undetected for several days until a swelling develops. Depending on the type of bacteria and how deep the bite is an abscess may form.

Signs of an abscess depend on the location of it. Some symptoms could include a lump or swelling, the area may feel warm or the skin may be red, it is usually painful to the touch, wounds may be found, the cat may groom the area excessively, and cats usually develop a fever. If the abscess has ruptured, there will be a foul-smelling discharge from the area.

The treatment of the abscess depends on its location. Luckily, most skin abscesses heal quickly once they are treated. Abscesses in other parts of the body may take more involved treatment. The treatment of an abscess requires a veterinary clinic visit. The abscess needs to be drain and flushed or surgically removed. The wound is generally left open to allow for drainage and sometimes a drain may be placed in the wound to help keep it open. Cat’s will be sent home with antibiotics and pain medication. It’s important to finish all antibiotics and pain medications as prescribed. The veterinarian may also recommend the cat restricts activity while the abscess is healing. Follow-up with the veterinarian to make sure the abscess is completely healed. During the healing period, monitor for any worsening signs such as increased drainage from the wound or the cat is not improving. For prevention of cat bite abscesses, it is recommended to neuter all cats in the household and to not let cats outside especially at night when fighting frequently occurs.


Dr. Lindsey graduated from Colorado State University in 2009 and works in general practice, shelter medicine, and more recently as a civilian contractor veterinarian for the Army. She is also certified in acupuncture and resides in Palm Springs, CA.