Do Feline Fangs Need to be Flagged? The Truth About Reporting Cat Bites

Cat bites are relatively common injuries, especially among women, but often go unreported. While less frequent than dog bites, cat bites have a high risk of infection that can lead to complications if left untreated. One study found that cat bites accounted for up to 25% of animal bite injuries requiring medical attention [1]. The puncture-type wounds inflicted by cats provide a deep repository for bacterial growth. Cats also harbor a unique oral flora that includes Pastuerella multocida, a virulent organism. Without proper care, cat bites on the hand have been associated with serious infections involving bones, joints, and tendons [2].

when to report cat bites

When Cat Bites Should Be Reported

Cat bites can sometimes lead to serious infection, even if the bite does not appear severe initially. According to The Ultimate Guide to Cat Bite Infections, you should always seek medical attention for the following types of cat bites:

  • Puncture wounds from cat bites – These deep, narrow bites allow bacteria from the cat’s mouth to penetrate deep into tissue.
  • Bites that break the skin – Any cat bite that breaks the skin can introduce infection.
  • Deep bites – Even if the wound appears small, deep bites can infect underlying tissue and bone.
  • Bites to the hand, feet or face – These areas have a rich underlying blood supply and are more prone to infection.
  • Bites to people with weakened immune systems or chronic illnesses – Those with compromised immune function are more at risk for developing serious infections.

As per How Do You Know If A Cat Bite Is Okay?, it’s important not to underestimate any cat bite. Even small, superficial bites can become infected. Seek prompt medical attention for the signs discussed above to reduce infection risk.

Infections from Cat Bites

infections caused by cat bites

Cat bites can cause serious bacterial infections, even from nicks and scratches. The main bacteria found in cat saliva is Pasteurella multocida, which can enter the wound site and spread rapidly if left untreated (1). This bacteria is found in over 50% of infected cat bite wounds and can cause abscesses or infect joints, bones, and the bloodstream (2).

Abscesses are one of the most common local infections from cat bites. The bacteria multiply quickly, causing the tissue to become inflamed and filled with pus. Abscesses require antibiotic treatment and possibly drainage or surgical removal (1).

Septic arthritis, or joint infections, can occur if bacteria spread to a nearby joint space. The knee, hand, and wrist joints are most often affected. Symptoms include severe pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the joint. Intravenous antibiotics and sometimes surgery are required (2).

Osteomyelitis, a bone infection, is a rare but serious complication of cat bites to the hand or feet. The bacteria invade the bone, causing destruction and necrosis. This requires lengthy antibiotic therapy, often coupled with surgical debridement (1).

Sepsis is a life-threatening complication where the bacteria enter the bloodstream and cause body-wide inflammation and organ damage. Symptoms include high fevers, low blood pressure, and confusion. Sepsis requires rapid treatment with IV antibiotics and care in the intensive care unit (3).

Due to the rapid spread of infection, all cat bite wounds should receive medical care. People with diabetes, cancer, liver disease or taking medications like steroids are at higher risk of developing complications from cat bites (2).

Seeking Medical Care

seek medical care for cat bites

It is crucial to seek medical attention promptly after receiving a cat bite. Even small puncture wounds can lead to serious infections like cat scratch disease or septicemia if left untreated.

Doctors recommend seeing a medical professional within 12 hours of a cat bite. The wound needs to be professionally cleaned and assessed for potential damage or infection. Medical staff can determine if antibiotics or other medications are necessary to prevent infection from bacteria commonly found in cats’ mouths, such as Pasteurella multocida.

Most people who experience a cat bite will require a course of antibiotics as a precaution. Common prescriptions include amoxicillin-clavulanate (Augmentin) or doxycycline. It’s important to follow medical advice and take the full antibiotic course as prescribed, even after symptoms improve.

In some cases, the bite wound may need to be stitched closed or drained if an abscess forms. Returning for follow-up care allows the doctor to monitor healing and check that the antibiotics are working effectively. Prompt medical treatment gives cat bites the best chance of healing without complication.


Reporting Cat Bites

There are certain situations when cat bites should be reported to local authorities. Reporting cat bites helps protect public health and safety.

Laws regarding reporting animal bites vary by local jurisdiction. Many states, counties and cities require healthcare providers and veterinarians to report animal bites to local health departments or animal control agencies. Individuals who have been bitten may also be required to report the bite.

Typically, cat bites should be reported if:

  • The bite broke the skin
  • The bite occurred for an unknown reason or unprovoked
  • The cat appears ill or is displaying abnormal behavior
  • The bite required medical treatment

Reporting provides animal control officers with information to assess the risk posed by the cat. It allows follow-up and observation of the cat to check for signs of rabies. Quarantine may be required in some cases.

To report a cat bite, contact your local health department or animal services agency. Be prepared to provide details like:

  • Date, time and location of the bite
  • Name and contact details of the cat owner
  • Description of the cat (breed, age, name)
  • Circumstances around the bite

Prompt reporting ensures situations can be handled appropriately to prevent further injury. It also creates documentation in case further legal action is required.

Quarantining the Cat

If your cat has bitten someone, it’s important to quarantine the cat for a period of 10 days according to the CDC ( This involves isolating the cat from people and other animals during that time. The purpose is to observe the cat for any signs of rabies.

Keep the cat confined indoors and away from other pets. Wear gloves when handling the cat’s food, water, and litter box. Avoid direct contact with the cat as much as possible. Watch for signs of rabies such as fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, excessive drooling, problems swallowing, and unusual behavior (

Contact animal control to report the bite and arrange for the 10-day in-home quarantine. They will examine the cat after the quarantine period before clearing it. If the cat appears ill or dies during quarantine, notify animal control immediately.

Quarantining an animal that has bitten someone is crucial for monitoring rabies symptoms. Take care when isolating the cat, and be diligent in watching for concerning signs during those 10 days.

Preventing Cat Bites

preventing cat bites

Properly socializing cats from a young age can help prevent cat bites. According to Understanding Cat Bites and Learning How to Respond, kittens that are taught good manners through play and handling are less likely to bite as adult cats. Allowing kittens to play with hands and feet can encourage biting behavior. It’s important to redirect them to appropriate toys instead.

Learning to read cat body language can help anticipate bites before they happen. Signs like ears folded back, avoiding eye contact, and twitching tail all indicate a cat feeling irritable or overwhelmed. Remove the cat from the situation before it escalates to biting. Providing enrichment through prey toys, scratching posts, cat trees, and playtime can make cats less likely to bite out of boredom or frustration.

Avoiding overly aggressive play and overstimulation are other ways to prevent cat bites. Cats have individual preferences for types and frequency of play. Pay attention to your cat’s signals to determine proper play style and duration. Make playtime engaging yet calm to discourage roughhousing that could lead to bites.

Treating Cat Bite Wounds

If you are bitten by a cat, it is important to properly clean and care for the wound to prevent infection. Here are some tips for treating cat bite wounds:

Clean the bite thoroughly with soap and water. Use mild soap and rinse under running water for at least 5 minutes to flush out bacteria. According to the blog Cat Bandit, “Thoroughly cleaning the wound is the most effective way to prevent infection after a cat bite.”

Apply antibiotic ointment to the wound after cleaning. Ointments like Neosporin can help fight off infection. Be sure to use one that is safe for animal bites. Cover with a clean bandage or dressing.

The WestStar Pet Care blog recommends covering cat bites with a clean bandage and changing the bandages daily. Keeping the wound covered helps prevent bacteria from entering.

Monitor for signs of infection like redness, swelling, oozing, and fever. Seek medical treatment if the wound appears infected. The earlier treatment begins, the better chance of avoiding serious complications from a cat bite.

When to Seek Legal Action

In some cases, a cat bite may warrant legal action against the cat’s owner. According to Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers, you may have a case if the bite resulted in a severe infection requiring extensive medical treatment. Additionally, if the owner was negligent and failed to take proper precautions despite knowing their cat had a history of aggression, you may have grounds to sue.

For example, FindLaw notes that if the cat was previously prohibited by animal control but the owner illegally kept it anyway, they can be held liable for injuries. The owner’s liability often depends on the jurisdiction and whether they had prior knowledge of the cat’s dangerous propensities. If there is clear evidence the owner was irresponsible and the bite caused significant harm, consult with a personal injury lawyer to determine if you have a case worth pursuing.

However, Parrish DeVaughn also cautions that these cases can be challenging to win. Much depends on the specific circumstances and evidence available. An attorney can advise if legal action is viable based on the severity of your injuries, the owner’s negligence, and local laws regarding animal attacks. Suing should be a last resort when serious harm was caused by a reckless owner ignoring clear warning signs. Otherwise, reporting the incident and seeking medical care may be the most prudent response.


In summary, while most cat bites are minor, all cat bites carry a risk of infection. Puncture wounds from cat bites can introduce bacteria deep into the skin and tissue, leading to complications like cellulitis, abscesses, septic arthritis, osteomyelitis, and septicemia. Seek prompt medical attention for any signs of infection such as redness, swelling, pus, red streaks, fever, or pain. Clean all cat bites thoroughly with soap and water, and contact your doctor to determine if antibiotics are needed.

Prevent cat bites by understanding cat behavior, properly socializing cats, trimming their nails regularly, and avoiding rough play. Always supervise young children with cats. Learn how to restrain cats safely and handle them in ways that avoid provoking aggression. While cat bites are rarely life-threatening, education and precaution are key to avoiding these injuries.

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