How to Treat a Cat's Wound at Home and at a Vet Treating Your Cat's Minor Scrapes at Home

How to Treat a Cat's Wound at Home and at a Vet
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vet verified PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian DVM

Your cat may jump around like he's invincible, but the reality is that cats get roughed up just like anyone else. While a serious injury should receive professional attention, minor scraps and bumps can be taken care of at home. Here's how.

Cats, especially outdoor cats, can be especially susceptible to cuts. Your cat may get into fights with other cats or even dogs or squirrels. They can run into sharp objects or suffer scrapes and bruises that come with the habit of squeezing through tight spaces.Many of these wounds will be minor and can be treated at home. More serious wounds should be treated by a veterinarian.

Types of Cat Wounds

These are some of the most commonly found wounds on cats. 

  • Puncture Wounds - Puncture wounds can be caused by animal bites when your cat goes outdoors. They can also be scratches from foreign objects like thorns, broken glass, or metal pieces penetrating the skin. Puncture wounds may appear very small to the naked eye, but they can cause unseen trauma to underlying tissues, especially if they are the result of an animal bite. You should always monitor puncture wounds even if you administer first aid yourself, especially for 24 hours. You should take your cat to a veterinary clinic if the wound is bleeding, draining pus, swollen, or painful. 

  • Bite Wounds - Your cat will need immediate veterinary attention if it has been bitten by another animal. These wounds require professional inspection and may need to be flushed. The vet will determine if stitches are required. If you are not sure about the rabies vaccination status of the animal that bit your cat, the vet will administer a booster dose. 

  • Minor Cuts and Abrasions - These are usually just superficial trauma to the skin and should heal on their own unless you notice additional symptoms, like swelling, blood, pus, or pain. But if you see any such symptoms, it is best to take your cat to a veterinary clinic immediately.

  • Abscesses - Abscesses are walled-off infections, often from puncture wounds. These form when a layer of skin forms on top of bacterial infection. Abscesses can cause inflammation of the surrounding tissues, along with other clinical symptoms like high fever, lethargy, and pain. That will eventually burst and spill smelly pus and blood. Sometimes, the fever is high enough to warrant hospitalization. If you notice an abscess accompanied by high fever, lack of appetite, and lethargy, you should take your cat to a veterinary clinic immediately. Veterinary professionals will drain and clean the abscess for better healing.

  • Sores or Blisters - You can take care of small sores or blisters on your own at home. However, if you notice any abnormal masses on your cat's skin, you should visit a veterinary clinic as soon as possible. Chronic conditions like feline eosinophilic granuloma complex can cause sores or blisters, skin lesions, and even cancer. These masses may require fine needle aspirate (FNA), cytology, or biopsy for conclusive diagnosis.

These are some signs of an infected wound - 

  • Swelling around the wound area

  • Redness

  • Skin discoloration

  • Bruising 

  • Pain

  • Bloody or pus-like discharge with odor

  • Fever

  • Lack of energy

  • Vomiting or diarrhea

  • Lameness of the limb with the wound

If you notice these symptoms, you should immediately take your cat to a veterinary clinic. 

Treating Minor Wounds at Home

Very small scrapes or cuts to your cat are often not worth worrying too much about. Minor abrasions will usually heal on their own without human intervention. If your cat does suffer a small injury, keep an eye on the wound site and watch for signs of healing. If swelling, redness, or oozing occurs, it’s time to seek professional help.Wounds without puncture sites or that bleed just a little can be treated with a bit of feline first aid.

Essential Supplies for Cat Wound Care

  • Sterile, Non-Stick Gauze - Gauze pads are essential for cleaning and covering wounds. Use sterile, non-stick gauze to prevent irritation or sticking to the wound.

  • Antiseptic Solution -  Antiseptic solutions such as povidone-iodine or chlorhexidine diacetate are required for cleaning wounds and preventing infection. Dilute the solution as directed before use.

  • Saline Solution - Saline solution is gentle and effective for rinsing wounds and flushing debris. It helps to keep the wound clean without causing further irritation.

  • Bandage Tape - Secure bandages with appropriate tape to keep them in place. Look for adhesive bandage tape that is safe for animal use and won't cause discomfort when removed.

  • Curved-Tipped Syringes - Curved-tipped syringes are useful for gently flushing wounds with antiseptic solution or saline. Their design allows for precise and controlled application without causing additional trauma to the wound.

  • Elizabethan Collar - An appropriately sized Elizabethan collar, also known as an E-collar or cone, is necessary for preventing your cat from licking or chewing on their wound, reducing the risk of infection and promoting faster healing.

In severe cases of bleeding, a tourniquet may be necessary to stem the flow of blood temporarily. However, use a tourniquet with caution and only as a last resort. Tourniquets should be applied for no longer than 20 minutes at a time and under the direct supervision of a veterinarian. Prolonged use can lead to tissue damage and other complications, so it's essential to seek professional veterinary care as soon as possible.

Step 1: Secure Your Pet

Even the friendliest cat can scratch or bite if they are in pain or frightened. Wrap your cat in a towel to keep them still while you’re applying first aid. It helps to do this part with two people, though with care, one can manage alone if need be. Wrapping your cat in a towel is a technique many veterinarians use. If the towel interferes with access to the wound, another option is to hold the cat by the scruff of its neck. Again, an extra pair of hands can make this much easier.

Step 2: Examine the Wound

Make sure it is not deeper or more serious than you might have assumed. If the wound is minor, you can move on to cleaning it yourself.

Step 3: Clean the Wound

Apply direct pressure with a clean cloth or sterile gauze. Hold pressure for a full 5 minutes to stop bleeding. If bleeding persists, continue pressure and seek emergency veterinary care.

Dilute concentrated solutions containing povidone-iodine or chlorhexidine diacetate. Povidone-iodine should be diluted to the color of weak tea and chlorhexidine diacetate to a pale blue color. Avoid Using alcohol or hydrogen peroxide because these can damage tissue.

A syringe may help flush the wound with saline or antiseptic solution. Fill a syringe with a mixture of water and antiseptic solution. Rinse the wound site several times with this mixture. Antibacterial soap can work, as can the antiseptic soap you’d buy in any regular pharmacy’s first aid section.

Minor wounds often heal best when able to breathe, so you probably want to skip a bandage. What's more, some veterinarians note that pet parents sometimes wrap bandages too tightly, causing circulation problems. Instead, wrap sterile gauze over the wound and gently secure it with stretchy bandage material. If you think your pet needs a bandage, it's best to let your vet do it.

Step 4: Keep a Close Eye

Keep your cat inside and watch the wound for signs of healing. If the site begins to look red or inflamed, or if pus develops in or around the wound, contact your vet immediately.

If the wound is on your cat's paw or foot, swap out the kitty litter for a newspaper to prevent litter particles from irritating the wound or causing an infection.

More Serious Wounds

Any wound that involves punctures or more than minor blood loss should be treated by a vet as soon as possible. Puncture wounds, especially those caused by a bite from another animal, can easily become infected, as can deep cuts. These wounds can seal over, trapping dirt and bacteria inside. You'll also want to make sure your pet's rabies vaccine is up to date if the wound is a bite from another animal.

Injuries of this type that are left untreated can result in the formation of abscesses or pus-filled pockets at the wound site. These abscesses can be very painful to your cat and can also result in lethargy and fever. Watch for these signs, as well as limping or tenderness of the wound, as indications that an emergency vet trip is required.

Should your cat suffer a serious injury and you can’t get to the vet right away, you may have to apply pressure to the wound to stop the bleeding. You can also clean around the edges of these larger cuts, but let your vet flush the wound.

Last, check around your cat’s body for any additional injuries it may have gotten that you might have missed while tending to the biggie. And, of course, be sure your cat’s vaccinations are up to date, especially if wounds were inflicted by another animal.

How Vets Treat Cat Wounds

Veterinary professionals would first assess the wound type and decide on the appropriate treatment to heal the wound and prevent further infection. They will first conduct a thorough physical examination and check for additional wounds. They might also need to give sedative injections or general anesthesia to examine the wound properly and perform the necessary treatment. 

Diagnostic procedures can include comprehensive blood work and imaging of the affected area to understand the extent of damage to underlying tissues and bones. Oral or injectable antibiotic therapy may be prescribed for moderate to severe wounds, along with anti-inflammatories and pain medications. Topical ointments can be prescribed for mild wounds. 

These are some of the therapies for common wounds found in cats - 

  • Small abrasions and lacerations usually need a thorough cleaning and can either be left open to heal with time or sealed with a little skin glue. 

  • Larger lacerations need to be carefully explored under sedation or anesthesia to understand if there is any effect on the underlying tissues. If the wound is less than 12 hours old and clean, it will be closed with surgical sutures. However, if there is a possibility of infection, veterinarians may place a surgical drain to reduce the risk of abscess formation. These drains are removed in 2 to 4 days once the production of fluids stops in the wound. 

  • If the wound is infected, older than 24 hours, or too large to be surgically closed, it must be cleaned, and the bandage must be changed frequently till it is small enough to be closed surgically. 

  • Puncture wounds are thoroughly examined for underlying tissue damage or pocket formation. These wounds may be left open to drain after thorough cleaning, or they may need surgical removal of damaged tissues and drain placement. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I treat my cat's wound at home?

Jenea Huston, a veterinary technician since 2012, says that various factors like the wound position, presence of infection, wound size, and current stage are crucial to determine how it can be treated. She also says that a veterinarian must make all these assessments. Simple wounds on cats tend to turn into problematic abscesses that are so large that they need surgery. Vets might also prescribe oral or topical antibiotics. Also, you shouldn’t use a human topical antibiotic, as the cat might lick it. If the wound is minor, clean it with mild soap and warm water, then apply an antibiotic ointment and cover it with a bandage. However, if the wound is deep, large, or appears infected, it is best to take your cat to a veterinarian for proper treatment. Keep an eye on the wound, monitor your cat's behavior and appetite, and seek veterinary care if there are any signs of worsening or infection.

What can you put on a cat's wound?

Amanda Barton, an active volunteer at King’s Steet Cats since 2003, says you can use coconut oil for minor wounds like burns, rub wounds, or small abrasions. But if it’s anything more severe, you should take your cat to a vet. Several types of medications may be used by veterinary professionals to treat cat wounds, depending on the severity and type of wound, as well as the overall health of the cat. Antibiotic ointments or creams, such as Triple Antibiotic Ointment or Bacitracin, can be applied directly to the wound to help prevent infection and promote healing. Antibiotics, such as amoxicillin or Clavamox, may be prescribed to help fight any bacterial infections that may be present in the wound. Pain relievers, such as Metacam or buprenorphine, may be prescribed to help manage pain and discomfort. Anti-inflammatory medications, such as prednisolone, may be prescribed to help reduce inflammation and swelling. It is always best to consult with a veterinarian before administering any medication to your cat, as certain medications may not be appropriate or safe for all cats.

Can a cat's wound heal by itself?

A cat's wound can potentially heal by itself, depending on the severity and location of the wound. For example, small, superficial cuts or scratches on the skin may heal on their own without the need for medical treatment. However, deeper wounds or wounds that are located in areas with high amounts of movement (such as joints) may require medical attention and proper treatment in order to heal properly. According to Dr. Meg Barnes, an Australian veterinary surgeon, a pus-filled abscess can look like a lump or might be open and oozing and should never be left to heal on its own. They have a tendency to cause more complications if they are left to heal on their own, so a vet visit is a must to treat them. It's best to keep an eye on the wound and monitor your cat's behavior, appetite, and overall health. If you notice any signs of worsening or infection, such as increased redness, swelling, or discharge, or if your cat is acting unusually or not eating, it is best to seek veterinary care right away.

Is it OK to put Neosporin on a cat's wound?

While Neosporin is a commonly used over-the-counter antibiotic ointment for human use, it is not recommended to use it on cats. Karen Purcell, an associate veterinarian who studied at Cornell, says that topical human medicines should never be used on pets because pets have a different skin pH and medicine absorption mechanism. Also, Neosporin would not stay long enough on your cat’s skin, as it will probably get licked off. Neosporin contains the active ingredient neomycin, which can be toxic to cats if ingested or if large amounts are applied to their skin. Cats have a different enzymatic system than humans and dogs, and neomycin can cause significant damage to their ears, eyes, and other organs. Additionally, Neosporin is not labeled for use on animals and has not been tested for safety or efficacy in cats.

Is it safe to put hydrogen peroxide on a cat?

Dr. Beth Turner, a veterinarian with over 20 years of experience, says that it is not recommended to use hydrogen peroxide on cat wounds. Hydrogen peroxide is a strong oxidizing agent that can damage healthy tissue and delay wound healing. When you apply hydrogen peroxide to your cat’s wound, it kills off the healing cells called fibroblasts. Additionally, it can also cause foaming, which can push debris and bacteria deeper into the wound. If you don’t have any option but hydrogen peroxide to flush your pet’s wound, you can use it as an exception. Use a 1:1 mix of hydrogen peroxide and water, and make sure the hydrogen peroxide is not over 3%. But it should not be repeated or continued. Instead, she advises to use a saline wound wash or even a saline eye wash.  

More on Pet First Aid and Care

How to Treat a Dog's LacerationA Guide to Pet First Aid KitsDisaster Preparedness for Your PetsWhat To Do About Cat HiccupsThe Annual Vet Visit: What To Expect

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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