Cat Scratch Fever or Dog Bite Blues? The Truth About Pet Injuries

Both cat and dog bites can cause injury, but it is often debated which one tends to be more severe. This article will examine the severity, risks, and statistics associated with cat bites versus dog bites in order to determine which one tends to be worse.

We will look at factors like bite force, bacteria, wound infection rates, damage severity, bite location, bite frequency, and demographics. By evaluating research and statistics on these key factors, we can gain insight into whether cat or dog bites generally have worse health outcomes.

Understanding the comparative risks allows medical professionals, veterinarians, and the general public to be informed and take appropriate precautions. It also sheds light on an area of debate among animal experts and enthusiasts.

Bite Force

When comparing the bite force of cats vs dogs, dogs generally have a much stronger bite. Bite force is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI).

On average, domesticated dogs have a bite force around 230-250 PSI, but this depends greatly on the breed. Small breeds like Chihuahuas have a very weak bite of less than 100 PSI, while larger breeds can have a bite force over 450 PSI. Some studies have measured the bite force of certain dog breeds at over 700 PSI.

In comparison, the average domestic cat has a bite force of around 75-100 PSI. The slightly larger bobcat has a bite force around 400 PSI.

The main reason dogs generally have a much stronger bite force than cats is due to their larger heads and jaws, combined with stronger jaw muscles. Certain dog breeds like Mastiffs and Rottweilers have been selectively bred for centuries to have incredibly powerful bites.

So when comparing bite force between the two species, dogs clearly have the upper hand in terms of pounds per square inch of force their jaws can generate. This allows them to bite harder and inflict more damage with a single bite compared to cats.

dogs have stronger bites than cats


Both cat and dog mouths contain bacteria that can cause infection if a bite breaks the skin. Common bacteria found in dog bites include Pasteurella, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and Capnocytophaga species (Abrahamian 2011, Talan et al. 1999, Kirchner 1999). Pasteurella canis is frequently isolated from dog bites. Cat bites more commonly contain Pasteurella multocida as well as other species like Staphylococcus and Streptococcus. Corynebacterium and Enterococcus species are also more prevalent in cat bites compared to dog bites (Abrahamian 2011, Talan et al. 1999).

Wound Infection Rate

Cat bites are more likely to become infected than dog bites. One study found that between 28-80% of cat bites become infected, compared to 5-25% of dog bites (Rothe, 2015). The bacteria found in a cat’s mouth, especially Pasteurella multocida, are more likely to cause infection than bacteria from a dog bite (Davies, 2000). Another study of 145 bite wounds found that only 5.5% of primarily closed dog bite wounds became infected, compared to a much higher infection rate for cat bites (Ellis, 2014).

The higher infection rate of cat bites is due to a combination of sharp teeth that inject bacteria deep into tissue as well as the types of bacteria cats harbor. Prompt cleansing and medical treatment of any cat bite is essential to avoid complications.

Damage Severity

Dog bites, especially from larger breeds, can often cause more severe wounds than cat bites. This is due to the size and strength of a dog’s jaws and teeth compared to a cat. Dogs have up to a 320 psi bite force, while cats have a bite force around 60-100 psi.

Dog bites tend to crush bones, tear flesh, and create larger wounds that can require extensive surgical repair. The crushing and shaking action of a dog bite also damages more tissue. One study found the mean diameter of dog bite wounds was 3.61 cm compared to only 1.06 cm for cat bites (Maniscalco, 2022).

While cat bites appear smaller, they often penetrate deep into muscles and tendons. The small teeth and jaws of cats create narrow, deep punctures capable of introducing bacteria far under the skin and into joints or bones. However, dog bites overall create more tissue damage on the surface and structures like blood vessels and nerves.

Bite Location

Studies show there are notable differences in where cats and dogs tend to bite humans. Dog bites frequently occur on the hands and feet. One study found over 50% of dog bite wounds were located on the hands and feet [1]. The hands and feet are common targets as they are often moving and within reach when a dog attacks. In contrast, cat bites are more likely to be located on the arms and legs. One source notes that two-thirds of cat bites involve the upper extremities like the arms and hands [2]. Cats have a tendency to attack larger body parts that are more stable targets compared to the hands and feet.

Bite Frequency

cat bites often target arms while dog bites affect hands and feet

When looking at the statistics, dogs bite more often than cats. According to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, there are approximately 4.5 million dog bites every year in the United States compared to 400,000 cat bites. While the number of cat bites is still significant, dog bites occur over 10 times more frequently. Some key statistics on bite frequency include:

  • There are around 400,000 cat bites annually in the U.S.
  • An estimated 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year.
  • Around 66,000 hospital emergency room visits each year are due to cat bites.
  • Most cat bites are from pet cats, while most dog bites are from unfamiliar dogs.

The much higher number of dog bites compared to cat bites shows dogs are more prone to biting. However, the overall damage and risks of cat bites should also be considered.

dog bites occur more frequently than cat bites


When it comes to cat and dog bites, certain demographics are more at risk than others. According to the CDC, children are by far the most frequent victims of dog bites, accounting for 50% to 80% of dog bite injuries. Children ages 5 to 9 years old are the most common age group affected, with boys bitten more often than girls. Adult men are the second most common victims of dog bites. For cat bites and scratches, adult females are at highest risk, accounting for around 70% to 80% of injuries. This is likely because women tend to have more frequent and intimate interactions with cats as pet owners. Elderly individuals are also at increased risk for cat bites and scratches. Overall, dog bites pose the highest risk to children, while cat bites and scratches most often affect adult women [1].


Both cat and dog bites require prompt medical treatment. The first step is to thoroughly clean the wound to remove bacteria, dirt, and debris. According to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, irrigation with tap water under pressure for at least 5 minutes is recommended (American Society for Surgery of the Hand).

Antibiotics are usually prescribed to prevent infection. Cat bites are more prone to infection than dog bites. A study in the National Library of Medicine found that 80-90% of cat bites become infected, compared to 5-25% of dog bites (National Library of Medicine).

For dog bites, amoxicillin-clavulanate is commonly prescribed. Cat bites often require a stronger antibiotic like Doxycycline or Clindamycin due to higher infection risk. Patients should follow the full antibiotic course as prescribed.

A tetanus booster shot is recommended if the patient’s tetanus vaccination is not up to date.

More serious bites may require surgical debridement and repair, intravenous antibiotics, and hospitalization. Plastic surgery may be necessary in severe cases.

severe animal bites may require hospitalization


When looking at cat and dog bites, there are several factors to consider in determining which may be worse overall. Dog bites tend to be more frequent and severe, causing more tissue damage and higher infection rates. However, cat bites are very prone to infection with dangerous bacteria despite their smaller size and damage. Ultimately both types of bites can lead to serious complications so timely medical care is critical regardless of the source animal. If forced to choose which is definitively worse, dog bites likely pose a greater immediate threat due to their strength and frequency, while cat bites may lead to higher rates of infection. But both present a significant health risk that should not be taken lightly and require diligent post-bite care.

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