Cat Spit Got in My Mouth – Now What?

Introduction

Saliva plays an important role in cleaning our mouths and processing food. But what happens when your pet’s saliva gets into your mouth? Should you be concerned about contracting an illness? While the risk is often low, exposure to a cat’s saliva does warrant caution in some cases.

In this article, we’ll explore the potential health implications when cat saliva enters the human mouth. We’ll look at which diseases can be transmitted this way, how to assess your personal level of risk, when to seek medical care, and steps you can take to prevent exposure or treat it after the fact. We’ll also provide tips on managing your cat’s behavior to reduce instances of saliva exposure.

Let’s dive in to gain a deeper understanding of this topic that many cat owners ponder after interacting with their beloved felines.

Diseases From Cat Saliva

The most concerning diseases that can potentially be transmitted from cat saliva to humans are rabies, cat scratch disease and cat pox.1

Rabies is a fatal viral disease that can affect the brain and spinal cord. It is primarily spread through bites from infected animals. Cats are one of the most common domestic animals to transmit rabies to humans. Thankfully, the widespread vaccination of pets has made this less common in many parts of the world.2

Cat scratch disease is an infection caused by the bacterium Bartonella henselae. It is spread through scratches, bites, or even just contact with saliva from infected cats. Symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, fever, and fatigue. It usually resolves on its own, but can become serious in immunocompromised individuals.

Cat pox is a viral infection caused by a poxvirus specific to cats. It can cause mild skin lesions and fever in humans. Cat pox is not the same as smallpox, chickenpox, or monkeypox viruses that affect humans. It is relatively rare and self-limiting.

Assessing Your Risk

There are several factors that can increase or decrease your risk of contracting a disease from cat saliva.

Increased risk factors include:

  • Being immunocompromised or having a weakened immune system due to illness or medication (https://www.cdc.gov/capnocytophaga/index.html)
  • Having an open wound that comes into contact with cat saliva
  • Being older or very young
  • Having a condition that reduces wound healing, like diabetes or cancer

Decreased risk factors include:

  • Being generally healthy with no immune issues
  • Having only intact, healthy skin exposed to cat saliva
  • Washing any exposed skin immediately after contact
  • Keeping cats’ vaccinations up to date (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8721530/)

While healthy individuals are at low risk, those with compromised immune systems or open wounds should take extra precautions around cats as their saliva can potentially transmit harmful bacteria in rare cases.

Seeking Medical Care

If you have been bitten or scratched by a cat and saliva has entered your body, it is important to seek medical care promptly. Even minor bites or scratches can cause infection. According to the CDC, symptoms of infection typically appear within 3-5 days but can occur anywhere from 1-14 days after exposure (CDC).

See a doctor right away if the wound is deep, was caused by a stray cat, shows signs of infection like redness/swelling/pus, or if you develop fever, headache, vomiting, or muscle pain in the days following the bite/scratch. People with weakened immune systems, diabetes, or liver disease are at higher risk of infection and should always see a doctor after cat exposure.

While less serious scratches can be treated at home, it’s advisable to have a doctor assess the wound within 24-48 hours even if no symptoms are present yet. Antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent infection from developing (VCA).

Though rare, cat bites and scratches can transmit bacterial infections that may become serious or even life-threatening if left untreated. Seeking prompt medical attention allows doctors to thoroughly clean the wound, assess the need for antibiotics, and monitor for signs of infection.

Preventing Exposure

Here are some tips to help prevent exposure to cat saliva:

  • Avoid letting your cat lick your face, mouth, or any open wounds. Cat saliva can transmit bacteria that may cause infection.
  • Wash your hands after petting or handling cats. Hand washing can remove allergens and prevent spreading them.
  • Have someone else feed the cat. This avoids close face contact when providing food or water.
  • Use toys or wands when playing with cats. Keeping them at a distance reduces saliva contact.
  • Trim your cat’s nails regularly. Declawing is inhumane, but trimmed nails reduce scratches that expose you to saliva.
  • Bathe your cat weekly. Regular bathing removes dander and allergens in saliva stuck on fur.
  • Vacuum and dust regularly. This picks up dander with saliva allergens before they circulate.
  • Use humidifiers. Proper humidity reduces airborne allergens that settle on surfaces.

Taking precautions like avoiding direct contact and cleaning regularly can significantly reduce exposure to cat saliva allergens.

Treating Exposure

If cat saliva has come into contact with your skin, the first thing to do is thoroughly wash the area with soap and warm water. Be sure to scrub well and rinse away all traces of saliva. According to the CDC, vigoroursly cleaning cat scratches, bites, or areas exposed to saliva may help prevent infection (CDC).

After washing, apply an antiseptic ointment such as Neosporin to the wound. Cover with a clean bandage and change it daily, being sure to keep the area clean. Watch for signs of infection like redness, swelling, warmth, and pus. If any of these develop, contact your doctor right away.

For bites, scratches, or exposed skin, applying a warm compress can help relieve pain and inflammation. Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen if needed for further relief.

If you get cat saliva in your eyes, flush them thoroughly with clean water or an ocular eyewash. Seek medical attention if irritation persists.

In the event of a deep bite or puncture wound, or if the wound shows signs of infection, contact your doctor promptly. Cat bites can introduce bacteria deep into skin and tissue, sometimes requiring medical treatment with antibiotics or even surgery for abscess drainage or debridement.

Managing Cat Behavior

Cats may bite or scratch their owners during play or when they feel threatened. This aggressive behavior should be addressed right away to prevent injuries. There are several effective methods to curb biting and scratching:

Redirect your cat’s focus when they start to bite or scratch. Give them a toy to play with or lead them to a scratching post. This redirects their energy in a positive way. Consistently interrupting biting/scratching and providing appropriate alternatives will teach the cat these behaviors are unacceptable [1].

Remove yourself from the situation if your cat starts getting too rough. End play and walk away to show that excessive biting/scratching means fun time is over. This removes their incentive for that behavior [2].

Use deterrents like loud noises or compressed air to startle your cat out of aggressive behaviors. The surprise will disrupt their focus and let them know biting/scratching has negative consequences.

Try pheromone sprays or diffusers to reduce your cat’s anxiety levels. Less stress means less likelihood of aggression. Consult your vet for product recommendations.

Keep your cat’s nails trimmed to minimize scratch damage. Only trim the sharp tip, avoiding the pink quick.

Work on building trust through daily play and affection. A secure cat-owner bond decreases the chances of unwarranted aggression.

Reducing Anxiety

Getting exposed to cat saliva can understandably cause anxiety. However, there are steps you can take to manage worries over potential exposure.

First, recognize that anxiety is common after any perceived health threat. Try to identify anxious thoughts and respond to them in a calm, rational way. Remind yourself that the vast majority of exposures do not lead to illness.

Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation. Spend time doing activities you enjoy to take your mind off your worries.

Talk to close friends or family members about your concerns. They can provide reassurance and support.

If anxiety persists and interferes with your daily functioning, consider speaking to a mental health professional. They can help develop healthy coping strategies. In some cases, anti-anxiety medication may be recommended on a short-term basis.

Lastly, focus on the aspects of the situation you can control. Keep your cat’s vaccinations up to date, wash any exposed areas thoroughly, and use caution when interacting with your cat in the future. This will allow you to manage anxiety and move forward.

Importance of Veterinary Care

Regular veterinary care is crucial for keeping cats healthy and reducing the risk of disease transmission. Veterinarians perform wellness exams to check for signs of illness and provide vaccinations that may prevent the development and spread of certain diseases. They can diagnose and treat conditions early before they become more severe or contagious.

Dental care is also an important part of veterinary visits, as dental disease is extremely common in cats and can provide an entry point for bacteria to spread in the body or to humans through bites and scratches. Professional dental cleanings under anesthesia allow thorough examination and cleaning above and below the gumline. Preventive care such as dental sealants may also be recommended.

Veterinarians can advise owners on proper nutrition, parasite prevention, and other aspects of care that support good health and a strong immune response. They will tailor wellness plans and recommendations to each individual cat based on health history, environment, and lifestyle factors. Following veterinary recommendations helps reduce shedding of pathogens and the risk of disease transmission. (Citation here)

Conclusion

In summary, if cat saliva accidentally enters your mouth, remain calm and assess your situation. Minimize exposure by rinsing thoroughly with water. Contact your doctor if concerned about transmission of diseases like cat scratch fever. While cat saliva contains bacteria, the overall risk of infection is low for healthy individuals. Focus on safely managing interactions with cats by reading their body language, avoiding agitation, and scheduling veterinary visits. With proper care and precautions, cat owners can continue to enjoy rewarding relationships with their feline companions.

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