Do Cats Really Lick Their Wounds Better? The Truth About Feline First Aid

What are open wounds in cats?

An open wound is any injury that breaks the skin and leaves underlying tissue exposed. This allows contaminants and bacteria to enter the cat’s body, risking infection. Open wounds may be caused by bites, scratches, cuts, punctures, or abrasions that damage the skin. Common types of open wounds in cats include:

  • Puncture wounds – Caused by sharp objects like thorns, nails, needles etc penetrating the skin. These are deep, narrow wounds.
  • Bite wounds – From fights with other animals. These tend to be ragged injuries with crushing damage.
  • Cuts and lacerations – Slice wounds caused by sharp edges that split the skin open.
  • Abrasions – Wounds caused by scraping/friction against a rough surface, removing outer skin layers.
  • Abscesses – Pockets of pus caused by bacterial infections under the skin, often from bite wounds.
  • Sores or blisters – Lesions caused by burns, irritants, or friction.

Open wounds expose deeper tissues to contaminants. Without proper care, they risk complications like further tissue damage, bleeding, and infections. Therefore prompt treatment is important for optimal healing.

open wounds can lead to infection if left untreated in cats.

Do cat open wounds heal on their own?

Generally, healthy cats are well equipped to heal minor wounds on their own thanks to their natural healing abilities. However, how well an open wound heals depends on several factors:

Wound size – Smaller wounds under 1 cm tend to heal quicker than larger, deeper ones. Large open wounds are at higher risk for infection (

Wound location – Wounds on the legs, paws, and head tend to heal slower since these areas are prone to re-injury when the cat moves around. They may need bandaging for protection (PetMD).

Cat’s age and health – Younger, healthy cats heal faster than older cats or those with conditions like diabetes. Kittens under 6 months need extra care as their immune systems are still developing (

Bleeding and clotting – Bleeding flushes wound bacteria, so a bloody wound heals better. Impaired clotting causes prolonged bleeding and delayed healing (PetMD).

Leaving open wounds untreated poses serious risks like:

– Infection – Bacteria rapidly multiply in wounds causing local infection or spreading sepsis. Deep wounds reaching muscles/bones are especially prone (

– Chronic non-healing – Untreated wound infections impede healing. The wound becomes chronic and forms granulation tissue or stubborn scars (PetMD).

– Fly strike – Flies are attracted to wounds and can lay eggs in them. The maggots hatch and eat away healthy tissue (VCAhospitals).

– Loss of limb use – Tendon/nerve damage from deep untreated wounds can lead to limited limb use or paralysis (PetMD).

While healthy cats can heal minor wounds themselves, it’s always safest to get veterinary attention for deeper, larger wounds to prevent complications and promote proper healing.

When should you seek veterinary care?

You should seek immediate veterinary care if your cat has any signs of a severe wound that requires prompt treatment, such as:

These types of severe wounds require urgent veterinary attention to properly clean, close, and treat the wound, provide pain control, antibiotics, and other care. Waiting to see if it heals on its own risks dangerous complications like systemic infection.

How vets treat open wounds

vets treat open cat wounds by flushing, antibiotics, stitches.

Veterinarians use a variety of techniques to treat open wounds in cats depending on the severity. Cleaning the wound thoroughly is a critical first step. Vets will flush the wound with sterile saline solution to remove debris and bacteria (VCA Animal Hospitals). Topical antibiotics may be applied and the wound covered with a sterile bandage that allows air circulation for healing.

For more severe lacerations, vets may prescribe oral antibiotics to prevent infection like amoxicillin or clavamox (PetMD). Deep wounds or those with significant tissue damage may require stitches or surgery to close the skin and promote proper healing. Proper wound closure helps minimize scarring as well.

Vets will closely monitor the wound healing process, changing bandages and checking for signs of infection. They may recommend an Elizabethan collar to prevent the cat from disturbing the wound. Providing good at-home care and follow-up vet visits helps ensure optimal healing.

At-home care for minor wounds

at-home care for minor cat wounds involves cleaning gently.

For minor wounds that do not require stitches, you can provide care at home to help the wound heal cleanly and prevent infection. It’s important to keep the wound clean by gently cleaning with a saline solution or mild antiseptic like chlorhexidine twice a day. Be very gentle when cleaning to avoid disrupting any scabs that are forming. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, you should clean off any discharge or crusted material during the healing process.

You can apply an antibiotic ointment like polysporin to the wound after cleaning. Antibiotic ointments help prevent bacterial infections in wounds. PetMD recommends applying a thin layer of ointment over the entire wound.

It’s also crucial to prevent your cat from licking or biting the wound. The rough tongue of cats can disrupt healing and introduce new bacteria into the wound. You may need to use an Elizabethan collar and limit licking access. Check the wound at least twice a day to monitor for any signs of redness, discharge or swelling which could indicate infection.

Signs the Wound is Healing

Once initial treatment has begun, there are several signs to look out for that indicate your cat’s wound is healing properly:

Scabbing Over

As the wound starts to close, a hard scab will begin to form over the injured area. It is important not to peel or pick at scabs as they protect new tissue underneath. Some discharge or oozing from underneath the scab is normal.

Decreased Swelling

Swelling and inflammation should go down around the wound as it heals. Significant swelling can be a sign of infection. Monitor swelling and alert your vet if it seems to be getting worse.

Less Discharge

There may be some pus or fluid discharge from the wound initially, but this should taper off as healing progresses. An increase in discharge could indicate complications. Look for changes in color, consistency, and amount.

Complications to monitor for

There are a few common complications to monitor for with open wounds in cats:


Open wounds are prone to infection, especially bite wounds, as cat saliva contains bacteria. Signs of infection include pus, redness, swelling, foul odor, and your cat becoming lethargic. Infections must be treated quickly with antibiotics prescribed by your vet to prevent them from becoming severe (source).


Dehiscence is when a surgically closed wound reopens. This can happen if your cat licks or scratches at the wound excessively. Using an e-collar and monitoring the wound site is important to prevent dehiscence and additional complications (source).

Chronic non-healing

In some cases, wounds may have trouble healing and remain open for an extended period. This can result from underlying health issues like diabetes or immune disorders. Your vet can run tests to determine the cause of delayed healing and provide treatments to promote wound closure (source).

When to remove bandages/stitches

Bandages applied to cat wounds will typically need to be changed every 1-2 days, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). This is important to keep the wound clean and monitor healing. The first bandage change may be done by your veterinarian, then you can change them at home after being shown proper technique.

For minor wounds closed with surgical glue, there are no stitches to remove. But your vet will still want to see the progress after several days. More severe lacerations often require sutures or staples to hold the skin together for healing. These should be left in place for 10-14 days, according to VCA Animal Hospitals [1]. Exact timing varies based on factors like the location of incision and your cat’s health status. Your veterinarian will advise on the optimal time for stitch removal.

It’s important not to remove stitches too early, before the wound has sufficiently closed underneath. Premature removal can lead to the incision reopening. But leaving them in too long increases risk for infection and irritation. Have your vet examine the healing progress around day 10 to decide if the wound is ready for stitch removal.

Helping your cat heal

After your cat receives initial treatment for an open wound, there are several things you can do at home to help aid the healing process:

Keeping the cat calm

It’s important to keep your cat calm and restrict their activity while recovering from an open wound. Confine them to a small room or crate when you can’t directly supervise. Reduce stress by keeping noise and other pets away. Provide soft, comfortable bedding. Speak in a soothing voice and avoid handling the wounded area.

Providing an E-collar

Your vet may provide an Elizabethan collar to prevent licking or scratching at the wound site. Make sure your cat wears this at all times except when eating. Watch for signs of irritation or distress. Talk to your vet if the e-collar seems to be interfering with healing.

Nutrition tips

Make sure your cat eats a balanced diet and remains hydrated to help their body repair tissue. Canned food or broths can encourage eating. Supplements like fish oil, vitamin C or zinc may aid wound healing, but check with your vet first ( Avoid milk products which could cause loose stools.

Preventing Future Open Wounds

cat-proofing your home prevents hazards that cause wounds.

The best way to handle wounds is to avoid them in the first place. Here are some tips to help prevent open wounds on your cat:

Cat-Proof Your Home

Scan your home for potential hazards. Trim or cover any sharp edges on furniture. Keep small objects like pins, needles, thread, rubber bands, and string put away. Remove poisonous houseplants or move them out of reach. Check that cabinets, shelves, and appliances are securely mounted to prevent tipping when climbed. Cover cords from blinds and curtains. Use cord covers on appliance cords. Doing a “cat safety check” regularly can identify risks before injury occurs (VCA Animal Hospitals).

Monitor Outdoors

While indoor cats avoid many outdoor hazards, escaped or free-roaming cats can suffer more wounds. They can get into fights with other animals, get caught in machinery, walk on sharp objects, or get trapped. Supervise time outside and provide secure enclosed spaces like cat patios. Use breakaway collars and consider microchipping for identification. Trim overgrown plants that could hide sharp branches or thorns (PetMD).

Groom Mats and Burrs

Brush cats regularly to prevent mats or tangles in their fur. Carefully cut out small mats instead of shaving them off, which can nick the underlying skin. Check for any foxtails, thorns, or vegetative awns stuck in the fur after time outdoors. Removing these promptly prevents them from migrating deeper into the skin. Keeping cats groomed will minimize sources of irritation that could lead to self-mutilation wounds from biting or scratching (BetterVet).

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