Will Peroxide Clean A Cat Bite?


Cat bites are a common injury, with around 400,000 Americans bitten by cats each year. While most are minor puncture wounds, cat bites have a high risk of infection and can cause serious complications if not properly treated. Cats have sharp, pointed teeth that can introduce bacteria deep under the skin. Their bites also contain venom and enzymes that can cause local inflammation and skin necrosis. Up to 80% of cat bites become infected if left untreated [1]. Common infectious bacteria associated with cat bites include Pasteurella, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and others. For these reasons, proper cleaning and disinfection of cat bite wounds is essential to prevent infection and associated problems.

Risks of Cat Bites

Cat bites can carry serious health risks that should not be ignored. Even small puncture wounds from cats can introduce harmful bacteria deep into tissues and joints, leading to potentially serious infections. According to the VCA Animal Hospitals, “all cats carry bacteria in their mouths that can cause tissue infections in bite wounds.”

Common bacterial infections from cat bites include Pasteurella, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Fusobacterium, and Porphyromonas. These bacteria can rapidly multiply and spread, causing inflammation, pus, pain, and fever (VCA Animal Hospitals).

Another potential risk is cat scratch disease, caused by the bacteria Bartonella henselae. While often spread through scratches, cat bites may also transmit this infection. Symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, fever, fatigue, and open sores. In rare cases, it can lead to serious complications like encephalitis or endocarditis (Healthline).

Though uncommon, rabies is another potential concern with cat bites. All mammals, including cats, can contract and spread this deadly virus through their saliva. Seek immediate medical care if a cat that bit you shows signs of rabies like aggression, trouble swallowing, paralysis, or seizures (Mayo Clinic).

When to Seek Medical Care

You should seek prompt medical care if the cat bite resulted in a deep puncture wound, shows signs of infection, or if you are immunocompromised. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, deep puncture wounds from cat bites have an increased risk of infection and should be evaluated by a medical professional as soon as possible. Signs of infection include redness, swelling, pus, red streaks, increased pain, and fever. Immunocompromised individuals are also at higher risk of infection from cat bites and should seek medical care, even for minor bites. Prompt medical attention is crucial, as serious infections can develop within 24-48 hours of the bite.

Initial Wound Cleaning

The first step when treating a cat bite is to thoroughly clean the wound by flushing it with soap and water. The CDC recommends washing the bite with mild soap and running water for at least 5 minutes (1). This helps remove dirt, debris, and saliva from the wound.

Do not use peroxide or alcohol to clean the bite. Peroxide can damage tissue and delay healing. Alcohol can kill healthy cells and inactivate antibiotics. Scrubbing the wound forcefully can also further damage tissue (2).

After flushing, pat the area dry with a clean towel. Oozing blood or serum can be gently blotted but avoid scrubbing. Cover with a sterile bandage. Cleaning the wound properly is key to preventing infection.

(1) https://www.cdc.gov/animal/bite/first_aid.html
(2) https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/wounds-cat-bite-injuries-to-humans

Using Peroxide on Cat Bites

Many people instinctively reach for hydrogen peroxide to clean an animal bite wound, but doctors do not recommend using peroxide as it can actually damage tissue and delay healing. According to Kaiser Permanente, peroxide can irritate the wound and slow the healing process.

While peroxide may bubble up and look like it is cleaning the wound, it does not actually kill bacteria deep inside puncture wounds like those from cat bites. The bubbling is from the peroxide reacting with healthy cells, which can harm tissue. Using peroxide can also damage skin cells that aid in wound closure.

Most medical experts advise against using hydrogen peroxide for cleaning cat or animal bites. Simply flushing the wound with cool running water and a mild soap is the recommended first step. Peroxide should be avoided as it does not effectively kill bacteria in deeper puncture wounds and may impede healing.

Signs of Infection

If a cat bite becomes infected, you may notice increasing signs of infection around the wound site within 24-48 hours. According to the CDC, some key signs of infection from a cat bite include:

– Redness, swelling, and draining pus around the bite wound. As the infection worsens, you may see more swelling, redness spreading, and pus draining from the wound.

– Increased pain, warmth, and tenderness around the bite. The area may feel increasingly painful to the touch and warm as the infection grows.

These signs indicate the wound is becoming infected and you should seek medical care promptly. The earlier an infection is treated, the better the outcome will be. Ignoring signs of infection can allow it to spread deeper into tissues and become serious very quickly. Be especially watchful for infection signs if the bite was deep, if it was on the hand or face, or if your immune system is compromised.

Treating Infection

If a cat bite becomes infected, there are a few treatment options. The most common is oral antibiotics prescribed by a doctor to fight the infection from within (VCA Hospitals). Common oral antibiotics used for cat bite infections include amoxicillin, ampicillin, or augmentin. The type and dose will depend on the severity of the infection.

Topical antibiotic ointment is also often used, applied directly to the infected wound several times per day. This could include topical forms of neomycin, polymyxin B, or bacitracin (Healthline). Keeping the wound clean is also critical – gently wash with soap and water, apply antibiotic ointment, and cover with a sterile bandage that is changed several times per day.

It’s important to continue taking the full antibiotic course as prescribed, even if the infection appears to be clearing up. Stopping too soon could allow the infection to return. Seek prompt medical treatment if the infection worsens or fails to improve within a few days of starting antibiotics.

When to Return for Follow-Up

If infection from the cat bite occurs, it’s important to follow up with your doctor for additional treatment. Signs of infection include increased pain, swelling, redness, warmth around the bite, red streaks extending from the wound, drainage of pus, or fever. Infected cat bites may require antibiotic treatment for 7-14 days or potentially surgical drainage.

Your doctor will want to see you for follow-up appointments to check on the wound, change dressings, and ensure proper healing is taking place. Follow your doctor’s recommendations on appropriate timing for follow-up wound checks which may be anywhere from 24-48 hours after the initial bite to 7 days later depending on severity. Proper wound care and follow-up is crucial to treat a cat bite and prevent complications like infection from developing.

Preventing Cat Bites

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. There are several ways you can help prevent your cat from biting in the first place:

Supervise cats around kids – Small children often don’t know how to properly interact with cats. Make sure kids pet gently, don’t pull tails or ears, and leave the cat alone if it walks away or shows signs of aggression. An adult should always supervise young kids around cats.

Teach proper cat handling – People should know how to properly pick up, hold, and pet cats to avoid triggering a fearful or aggressive response. Always let a cat sniff your hand before petting, pet in the direction the fur grows, and do not restrain a cat or pick it up unless necessary. Scruffing should only be done as a last resort by experienced cat handlers.

Provide an enriched environment – Make sure your cat has plenty of appropriate scratching surfaces, toys, cat trees/perches, and daily playtime. This provides physical and mental stimulation to prevent boredom or frustration that can lead to biting.

Consider trimming your cat’s nails regularly to minimize damage if they do bite. And if your cat is still a biter despite your best efforts, consider consulting with your vet or a cat behaviorist.


While cat bites are initially small punctures, they can cause serious infections if left untreated. Although hydrogen peroxide may seem like a way to clean the wound, it is not recommended for cat bites as it can slow healing.[1] Promptly washing the bite with soap and water is the best initial care. If signs of infection develop, such as redness, swelling, oozing pus, or fever, it’s crucial to seek medical care right away for evaluation and possible antibiotics. With proper wound care and early treatment if infected, cat bites can heal well.

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