What was that for you psycho!?
April 10, 2011 11:32 AM   Subscribe

Ow! I got bit by a cat. Really hard! Fang hole puncture wounds with blood! Should I be worried?

This cat is a friend's cat, possibly traumatized as a kitten because he will come up to you, demand attention, then after a good 10 minutes of just lying there and being pet, will suddenly turn on you and bite. Whenever he bites me, he bites me hard, and this time the teeth went in pretty deep. Deep enough to immediately draw blood.

Pretty sure he has all "his shots" -- is there anything I should be worried about?
posted by molecicco to Health & Fitness (42 answers total)
You *must* see a doctor. Cat bites almost always cause infection, sometimes serious.
posted by nogero at 11:33 AM on April 10, 2011 [20 favorites]

Cats have pretty dirty mouths and you are probably going to get an infection. Have it cleaned out by a pro (doctor).
posted by WickedPissah at 11:39 AM on April 10, 2011

You will probably want a round of antibiotics on this. Cat saliva in a deep puncture wound equals nastiness. (Consider, if you will, how much of their day involves licking their kitty butts.) Please go to a doctor.
posted by elizardbits at 11:39 AM on April 10, 2011

Yes. A puncture wound from a cat's tooth can go really bad in less than twelve hours. In my case it was one fang hole, a wound that was less than a centimeter deep, and, what made it worse, it was right in the tendon of my wrist. I was able to get away with just having antibiotics shots in each hip a couple days in a row, plus oral antibiotics, but if I'd let it go any longer before seeking medical help I'd have been in the hospital with an IV. It was probably an infection with Pasteurella multocida, which is not something any pets get vaccinated against. If you see any redness or swelling around the wound, and it seems to be spreading at all, I recommend urgent care or an ER today, don't wait until tomorrow.
posted by Ery at 11:40 AM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah. Whatever he ate maybe hasn't gotten "its shots", you know...

(Me versus cat bite: the single infection (apart from a strep throat) that turned bad in 4 decades.)
posted by Namlit at 11:40 AM on April 10, 2011

ok. i am going to emergency right now then. it was friday evening when i got bit, and i have some soreness in my thumb and elbow on the arm where i was bitten.
posted by molecicco at 11:41 AM on April 10, 2011

after a good 10 minutes of just lying there and being pet, will suddenly turn on you and bite
I think most, if not all cats do this. They get overstimulated and attack, even if they enjoyed being petted at first.
posted by clearlydemon at 11:45 AM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, see a doctor, although I'm not certain ER is necessary. I got cat scratch fever once, from my own cat, complete with a huge abcess, it sucked and I was on antibiotics for the rest of my life (or maybe closer to a month). A scratch that bleeds is usually no biggie, but the puncture, oy..
posted by upatree at 11:49 AM on April 10, 2011

I would not go to the emergency room unless you have swelling, redness, and warmth (signs of infection). I might go to a normal doctor, but honestly after a couple of days you should be able to tell if it is infected vs. just bruised.
posted by anaelith at 11:50 AM on April 10, 2011 [6 favorites]

A relative of mine almost died of septicemia after being nicked in the finger by a cats claw. You've been bitten, see a doctor.
posted by fire&wings at 11:51 AM on April 10, 2011

IANAD. Cats do this frequently. It's not that big of a deal, frankly.

Do NOT clutter up the ER with a cat bite unless you need stitches. It sounds like you don't.

Unless time has passed and you are clearly showing signs of infection, as in redness, swelling, warmth in the area of the puncture, it's really a non-issue.
posted by Edubya at 11:56 AM on April 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

This kind of wound responds well to a simple bandage with minimal scarring. I'd probably add a little neosporin.

Prophylactic ER visit isn't required. Where I live you'd be one step above the lowest priority patient (drug seekers) in the waiting room. Watch for signs of infection and only see your doctor if redness, swelling or localized warmth occur.
posted by Mitheral at 12:06 PM on April 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

I agree that it is probably not a big deal. I've been bitten (and scratched) gazillions of times with no issues other than a few scars on my hands and wrists. Obviously, if there are signs of infection or other problems, go to the clinic. But a bite is not an guarantee of disaster.
posted by Forktine at 12:08 PM on April 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just want to add, a while back an acquaintance of mine ended up with a terrible infection that nearly cost them their hand after ignoring a cat bite.

The emergency room may or may not be overkill. If I were you, I'd check to see if there's an insta-care style clinic in your area; they tend to be less expensive than the ER (though more expensive than a regular pre-scheduled doctor's appointment) and probably better matched to the level of urgency attached to your problem.

But either way, prompt attention is a must, and if it was Friday when you were bitten and the ER is the only way you can be seen today, I don't think it's unreasonable for you to go there. If they have more important things to do, the triage nurse will make that decision.
posted by weston at 12:09 PM on April 10, 2011

I've been bitten by cats a bunch of times and never gone to the doctor. Even if you don't go to the ER, do make sure to immediately wash out the wound thoroughly and apply some antibiotic cream. I've found that without those steps, it will become inflamed and itchy and take longer to heal.
posted by tdismukes at 12:10 PM on April 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

I'd go with just the cleaning and the neosporin, TBH.

/multiple cat bite survivor.
posted by Artw at 12:29 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

My SO's dad got bit by the family cat with all 4 fangs on the back of the leg last year. He thought nothing of it, a few days later he developed an infection that spread all the way up his leg and could easily have killed him, he was hospitalised for a week. We saw him a month later and the skin was still growing back, Now clearly this does not happen all the time but a cat bite can be dangerous, see a doctor and make it sooner rather than later.
posted by biffa at 12:34 PM on April 10, 2011

My beloved Siamese gave me a puncture bite at midnight. At eleven a.m. I was in urgent care and had an antibiotic shot and prescription. At six p.m. red was spreading up my arm, I went to the E.R., I was in the hospital for 2 days. Not all bites will become infected, but this is NOT something you want to take a wait-and-see approach with if there is any sign of infection. Good luck!
posted by cyndigo at 12:52 PM on April 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

Good call going to the ER. I've worked with vet techs who ended up needing IV antibiotics 24 hours a day for 3 weeks due to a nasty cat bite. Good luck to you!
posted by Nickel Pickle at 1:00 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Slap antiseptic on it (after washing thoroughly), band-aid, get to the docs. You'll probably get a tetanus jab if you're not up to date. Maybe antibiotics, but please please please complete the course if you get those. They tend to be over-prescribed and we are really starting to pay for that. That said, in the case of an animal bite it is justified!
posted by Decani at 1:01 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, and just so you don't worry too much, I have been bitten by cats many times and I never did anything more than hit the wound with antiseptic and plan to take things further at the first sign of infection. It never happened. But you can't be too careful... see what the doc says.
posted by Decani at 1:03 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh and yes... ER is way over the top for something like this unless you are getting a serious reaction. Please don't clog the ER for a very minor wound.
posted by Decani at 1:06 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've been both bitten and nipped by a cat. A light bite that doesn't go in deep, no big deal. A deep puncture wound? You almost certainly need antibiotics. My doctor actually told me to go to the ER after a deep bite that didn't respond to the simple antibiotics he gave me (luckily, a stronger round from the ER did the trick and I didn't need IV).

This kind of wound responds well to a simple bandage with minimal scarring. I'd probably add a little neosporin.

Seriously? That is contrary to everything I've ever heard on the topic, from doctors and vets both. Are you sure you are talking about a deep cat bite and not just a light skin breaking nip?
posted by ch1x0r at 1:23 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just some advice on the Jeckyll and Hyde attitude, I had a cat exactly like this, I think she was probably traumatized when she was little too. I learned if I pet her initially but then ignored her and just let her sit beside me she stayed way happier, way longer and my skin remained intact. I think cats like this have intimacy issues, just like some people. They want to be close, but not too close. Watch out for a violently twitching tail, usually a precursor to rage and you should stop touching him until he calms down.
posted by Carlotta Bananas at 1:31 PM on April 10, 2011

Are you up to date on your tetanus? Get up to date on your tetanus.

I've had a number of cat bites that drew blood -- certainly well into three digits of this. Once it has gotten infected and needed antibiotics (after about 2 days -- I took a course of pills and had no other problems), but other times just soaking them in hot water has worked, and most of the time, doing nothing was just fine (other than the general cleaning and putting of neosporin on it). This was when I volunteered at a shelter, and seriously, no one ever saw a doctor unless there were signs of infection. Clean it, wash it regularly, and monitor it. (I don't think it's a waste of resources to see a doctor, really, I think it's a waste of your time.)

(Note: if you were bitten by a kitten and not an adult cat, I would probably advise seeing a doctor. Those wounds, being thinner, are much harder to clean out.)
posted by jeather at 1:34 PM on April 10, 2011

When Earl bites me, nothing happens apart from copious amounts of blood. When Earl bites my ex-husband (who chose custody of that cat), massive swelling, infection and blood poisoning ensues, but it took a couple of days.
posted by b33j at 1:37 PM on April 10, 2011

Expect to provide the name of the cat owner. Medical personnel are required to report animal bites.
posted by yesster at 2:58 PM on April 10, 2011

I'm back! Thanks for all your input. Everything looks ok for now, pretty much.

So, I live in Germany and the cost of ER is €10 (but only has to be paid if it's your first visit to a doctor in the month), so that wasn't an issue. However, when I showed up the receptionist said "three people in front of you, you are fourth". Then, after two hours waiting, the people who showed up after me started to get called in. After three hours I was finally called in. So yeah, they put me on way-low priority.

The doctor was young and seemed to know what he was doing. He opened up the scabs, cleaned them out, the nurse slapped some brown goo onto a bandage, and then they wrapped up the lower half of my forearm (kind of overdoing, I think). He said to come back if red lines develop, and that I should check my records for tetanus, and go to my family doctor tomorrow if I don't have the shot.

However!! What I found super strange, was that he said "I see no signs of infection". But, all the wounds, small as they were, were slightly raised and surrounded in light pink. And every time that I have had an infected wound in the past the nearby joints ached. I told him that my thumb and elbow were aching but he ignored it. But I am going to stick with his diagnosis - maybe I injured my thumb somehow and didn't notice?
posted by molecicco at 2:59 PM on April 10, 2011

Your innate immune system makes a living responding to nearly anything foreign with inflammation - i.e. redness and swelling. If this is still happening a couple days from now, be concerned.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:05 PM on April 10, 2011

Glad you went in! Keep an eye on it, for sure. My infection manifested as constant painful throbbing, before the red streaks started.
posted by cyndigo at 3:21 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have been bit by cats many times, recently right through my pinky finger pad. I deal with feral cats. I never went to the doctor and never got an infection. I just cleaned the bites, put ointment on them, and bandaged. Of course, where I live rabies is non-existent. That is the only thing I would worry about.
posted by wandering_not_lost at 3:23 PM on April 10, 2011

after a good 10 minutes of just lying there and being pet, will suddenly turn on you and bite
I think most, if not all cats do this. They get overstimulated and attack, even if they enjoyed being petted at first.>>

Please don't perpetuate this. It's not true
posted by FlyByDay at 4:30 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

[comment removed - we don't call people idiots here, be helpful or come back when you can be helpful. thank you.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:53 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've never had a deep cat bite puncture wound, just nips in warning or play. But I had an tomcat with all his shots and a masochistic enthusiasm for getting in catfights. The scratches and clawed-up ears would heal just fine (slightly battered) on their own, but every stupid one of the fang punctures he suffered got infected. I'm talking from the puffy and chewed-looking but shallow wounds you'd pour peroxide on and they'd scab over nicely in a day to the tiny invisible needle-like puncture to his shoulder that ended with a run of oral antibiotics and the vet opening up his whole leg to clean out the abscess ooze. Cat bites are NASTY. And it is better to get them checked out safely than to be the embarrassing amputee story of "fingers (or hand) lost to housecat."
posted by nicebookrack at 7:57 PM on April 10, 2011

Ironically, because your hand is so well perfused with blood, it is more likely for any infection of the hands to spread.
posted by orthogonality at 8:08 PM on April 10, 2011

For future encounters with this cat, watch for the tail-twitching like Carlotta Bananas said, and for if he flattens his ears or stops purring. If he starts biting after 10 minutes of petting, stop petting after 5. And/orpace out the petting with breaks of simply sharing the same space, without physical contact. Take the cat asleep two feet away from me now, who follows me from room to room and mews plaintively if we're separated by doors, but stiffens in affronted outrage if I dare to pick him up or rub his fuzzy belly. Cats can be like people, sometimes they just wanna hang out with you without you getting all touchy-feelly and up in their faces.

If this cat actively solicits petting (headbutting your hand while purring, etc.) but then turns and bites while still apparently happy, he may think you two are playing / think that hands=toys, and no one ever taught him to play gently, or to leave play-biting right out. (Having that problem with fuzzy-belly kitty now.) Since any attention is part of the "game," one way to help that is at any biting or nipping, drop everything and leave the cat and room immediately. Hopefully cat gets the biting=Game Over message in time.

Or maybe cat is just an asshole. (It happens, I've had them.) In that case admire from a distance and stay the hell out of range. Nine minutes of fluffy-belly-petting is not worth injury, and petted cat gets message that "I can do anything to these suckers and still get my ears scratched."
posted by nicebookrack at 8:11 PM on April 10, 2011

Recently one of my ferals grabbed my hand and hung on, then tried to shake it. I got a few deep punctures and a long scrape, and that whole area of my hand swelled and bruised from the encounter. For a while the broken skin areas were surrounded by pink, as the area started healing. I never did develop infection; it IS possible to get catfang punctures and not get an infection.

The elbow discomfort sounds worrying, though; you're going to go make sure your tetanus is up-to-date anyway, right? Sounds like it's worth addressing with your family doctor.
posted by galadriel at 8:12 PM on April 10, 2011

orthogonality: Ironically, because your hand is so well perfused with blood, it is more likely for any infection of the hands to spread.

Insert RL horror story via my mom re: her friend's strep throat infection + nail-biting habit = necrotizing fasciitis!

Your hand also has lots of important tendons and nerves tightly packed in a relatively small area with little fat for protective cushioning.
posted by nicebookrack at 8:19 PM on April 10, 2011

I'm glad you went to the doctor! I had a deep cat bite in a finger many years ago - I washed it immediately and thoroughly, put some antibiotic ointment on it, bandaged it, then went to bed. When I woke up, the bitten finger was swollen, sticking out at an angle to the rest of my hand, and a red line was heading up the back of my hand from the bite. It took a series of shots, oral antibiotics, and lying down with my hand above my head (the doctor threatened to hospitalize me and tie my hand above my head if I didn't comply at home) for about a week before my finger returned to its normal position.
posted by pinky at 10:10 PM on April 10, 2011

IANADoN, but it sounds like you have inflammation but no infection. Inflammation is OK, it means your immune system is busy making sure you heal and don't get an infection!
posted by KathrynT at 10:49 PM on April 10, 2011

FWIW, when my husband got bit by a cat recently and started showing signs of infection, he went to the ER and they gave him a flyer that basically said "yes, cat bites are dangerous and you should consider them reason for an ER visit or at least a doc visit ASAP." I am not sure but I think in his case he just got to take oral antibiotics for a while.

On the other hand, I got bit a while back too (stepped on my cat in the dark, then when I went to comfort him, he was all freaked out and bit the hell out of my bicep). At the time I didn't know that cat bites are so dangerous, so I didn't get any treatment other than home treatment, and mine didn't get infected at all. So occasionally they aren't a problem. If it ever happens to me again, though, I'll see a doctor quickly.
posted by litlnemo at 4:37 AM on April 11, 2011

Thanks everyone - I think going to ER was the right thing. I checked my records and I am currently in the process of getting my tetanus shot (three shots, each one being spread out). I am late getting the third one, so I am going to the doctor today to get it. I am not too worried though.
posted by molecicco at 4:47 AM on April 11, 2011

« Older If your kids have kids, I want to hear from you!   |   Moving to Dallas & would like advice on East... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.