Your cat could be the most gentle, loving cat on the planet and there will still be that one time where you suffer from an accidental cat scratch during play or in the middle of the night when she takes off running like a banshee and uses you as a launching pad.
Cat scratches, though mild wounds, are annoying. Mostly they hurt, sometimes the sting and itch, sometimes they just bleed. And if not properly taken care of, like any wound they can become infected and cause even more problems for you. Home remedies take the sting out of cat scratches and help promote healing with minimal scar formation.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. Wounds, even superficial ones like cat scratches, can be more complex than they seem. If you’re concerned about your cat scratch or it shows signs of infection (such as swelling, a ring of redness around the site, foul odor and discharge), please speak to your doctor or another qualified health care professional. While home remedies are great for tiny cuts and as a first line of defense against pain and infection, there’s a certain point where you should call in the pros. Know that point and heed your body’s signals.
The very first thing you need to do is clean out the scratch. Soap and water work just fine. Place the emphasis on contact time rather than how vigorously you scrub — try singing a round of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to give the soap and water the right amount of time to kill off the germs. If you’re super paranoid or the wound is deeper than just a superficial scratch, you can swab the wound with rubbing alcohol or another antiseptic like witch hazel.
Honey is used by wound care centers all over the world as a solution for wounds far more serious than cat scratches, but even your most shallow scratch can benefit from slathering on some of this gooey gold. It’s a natural antibiotic, an antiseptic in its own right and has mild anti-fungal properties and anti-inflammatory properties. It’ll also keep the wound just moist enough to prevent scarring as it heals while still drawing water out of the wound to keep it dry enough to heal cleanly — that’s one of the ways it inhibits bacterial growth, by dehydrating bacteria. Beware, though: Not all honey is created equal. You’ll want to use real honey, not the sugar and corn syrup variety that’s sold cheaply.
Vitamins A, D, and E are the ones you want to help ease the pain of a cat scratch. Topical vitamin A produces an inflammatory response, which is critical in getting wounds to heal. Vitamin D acts similarly and helps promote healing of the wound, while vitamin E is a known antioxidant and soothes the wound, allowing it extra time to heal. You can crack open a gel caplet of each vitamin or buy them pre-prepared as ointments. Oral administration of the vitamins is also helpful in wound healing but may be overkill for a simple cat scratch. Since vitamins have an effect on the body regardless of whether applied topically or taken orally, it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor before using this home remedy.
Some cat scratches have an itch that just makes you want to go out of your mind. Instead of hurting or stinging, the itch is a result of your body’s defenses, a mixture of histamine and other inflammatory substances trying to jump start the wound-healing process. An old home remedy to help with the itch is baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate. Typically used to remove the sting from mosquito bites, this stuff can also take the sting out of very mild cat scratches.
Over the counter remedies, such as triple antibiotic ointment or vitamin A&D ointment, shouldn’t be overlooked in your search to cure your cat scratch. Depending on the severity, they may be the first line of treatment. If the cat scratch is from an unknown cat or one who spends his time outdoors, I would reach for the triple antibiotic ointment first after cleansing the wound and bypass the home remedies altogether — if you don’t know where a cat has been or what his claws have been into lately, triple antibiotic ointment offers a small bit of protection against possible infection as the wound heals.
Do you have any tried-and-true home remedies for dealing with cat scratches? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below!
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About Caitlin Seida: Owned by three cats and two dogs, she never met an animal she didn’t like. A Jill-of-All-Trades, she splits her workday as a writer, humane society advocate and on-call vet tech. What little free time she has goes into pinup modeling, advocating for self-acceptance, knitting and trying to maintain her haunted house (really!).