Cat bites and scratches are considered as common injuries among children. Managing a cat bite or scratch must always start with the safety of all involved including the victim, rescuer and even the cat if possible.
If an adult or child is suspected with either a cat bite or scratch, the following steps can be performed at home or wherever an injury occurred. A doctor should be consulted right away to determine if further care is required.
How to manage cat bites and scratches
- Always stay safe by securing the cat or the individual. Move one away from the other. In case the owner of the cat is around, instruct him/her to secure the cat. If not, transfer the individual to a safe area. Remember that cat bites and scratches usually occur if the cat is frightened or kittens are threatened, thus it is best to leave them alone. Do not start any form of treatment until a reasonable expectation is achieved that the cat will not attack again.
- If you are helping out an individual with a cat bite or scratch, always observe universal precautions and wear the appropriate protective equipment if available.
- If bleeding is present, control it by applying direct pressure and elevate the affected limb. Do not use a tourniquet unless there is severe bleeding that could not be controlled in any other way.
- Once the bleeding stops, cleanse the wound using warm water and soap. Make sure to clean inside the wound and thoroughly rinse the soap or it can trigger further irritation later.
- Cover the wound using a dry, clean dressing. You can also dab on an antibiotic ointment on the bite or scratch before covering. Remember that cat bites and scratches are at high risk for infection. The indications of infection include swelling, redness, drainage of pus and warmth.
When to consult a doctor
A doctor should be consulted for cat bites and scratches that require stitches. Since the bites are often deep, infection is always an issue of concern. Remember that regardless of how severe a bite or scratch is; it is vital to consult a doctor right away.
If the wounds occur on the hands or face, a doctor should be consulted for proper assessment due to the likelihood for scarring and potential loss of function.
Cat bites and scratches from unidentified cats has the risk for rabies. In case the cat could not be identified and the owner could not provide proof of rabies vaccination, the individual must seek immediate medical care. Always bear in mind that rabies is considered fatal to humans if not promptly treated.