Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Overview Incidence Symptoms Evaluation Treatment rabies specialist tetanus Home Care pain in adults pain in children warning signs Outlook Complications

Cat Bites Treatment

Treatment for a cat bite requires careful wound care. Because cat teeth a very sharp and thin, dirt and saliva can be introduced deep into the wound. Wounds must be rinsed and cleaned completely. Most minor cat bites heal within 2 weeks. Depending on the severity and location of the bite, a person with a cat bite may require antibiotics, or surgery to repair damaged tissue. In some circumstances, tetanus or rabies vaccinations are needed.

Treatment for cat bites may include:

  • Antibiotics for cat bites
  • Wound irrigation
    • Rinsing the wound
  • Wound cleansing
  • Wound exploration
  • Wound debridement:
    • Removal of dead or dirty tissue
    • Removal of foreign bodies in the wound
  • Tetanus vaccination
  • Rabies prevention
  • Surgery to repair damaged tissue

Cat Bites Rabies

Cats that have not received rabies vaccinations are at risk for rabies. Most domestic cats have been vaccinated. If the cat has not been vaccinated, rabies may be safely excluded if the cat remains healthy for 10 days after the bite occurs. The observation period is usually performed by animal control personnel.

If there is any concern about rabies exposure, rabies vaccines are necessary within 72 hours after a bite.

Cat Bites Specialist

Physicians from the following specialties evaluate and treat cat bites:

Cat Bites Tetanus

Cat bites rarely cause tetanus. Most children born in the US have received three tetanus shots (boosters) in the past, because these boosters are part of the usual vaccination schedule. Additional tetanus boosters are given every 10 years.

Those who require treatment to prevent tetanus include:

Dirty wounds include:
  • Wounds that occur outdoors
  • Wounds that contain dirt or foreign material
  • Wounds caused by bites

Treatment Options

Tetanus Vaccine and TIG Recommendations
HistoryClean, Minor WoundOther Wounds
< 3 boostersgive Tdgive Td + TIG
3 boosterspossible Tdpossible Td

Clean and minor wounds may need a booster if it has been more than 10 years since the last tetanus vaccine. Other wounds may need a booster if it has been more than 5 years since last tetanus vaccine.

Continue to Cat Bites Home Care

Last Updated: May 23, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Cat Bites References
  1. Brook I. Management of human and animal bite wounds: an overview. Adv Skin Wound Care. 2005 May;18(4):197-203. [15920371]
  2. Brook I. Microbiology and management of human and animal bite wound infections. Prim Care. 2003 Mar;30(1):25-39, v. [12825249]
  3. Correira K. Managing dog, cat, and human bite wounds. JAAPA. 2003 Apr;16(4):28-32, 34, 37. [14968515]
  4. Talan DA, Citron DM, Abrahamian FM, Moran GJ, Goldstein EJ. Bacteriologic analysis of infected dog and cat bites. Emergency Medicine Animal Bite Infection Study Group. N Engl J Med. 1999 Jan 14;340(2):85-92. [9887159]
  5. Wolff KD. Management of animal bite injuries of the face: experience with 94 patients. J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 1998 Jul;56(7):838-43. [9663574]
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