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Top 7 Cat Bite Infection Symptoms in Humans: What to Watch For!

a red domestic cat bites its owner's hand
Image Credit: Irzhanova Asel, Shutterstock
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Jordyn Alger

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	Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM) Photo

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Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM)


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Cats like to bite playfully, but the bites aren’t meant to puncture the skin. However, if you sustain a cat bite that draws blood, you may have more to worry about. Cat bites can become infected, which can be a hazardous complication.

Cats have plenty of bacteria in their mouth that can lead to infections if transferred into your bite wound. Infected people may experience flu-like symptoms. But in severe instances, those bitten may even require surgery and extensive medical treatment. That is why it is imperative to notice the early warning signs of a cat bite infection and get proper treatment immediately.

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The 7 Symptoms to Look for in Cat Bite Infections

1. Heat

Does the spot where you suffered a cat bite feel hot to the touch? If it does, you are experiencing a common sign of infection1. When a portion of your skin is hotter than the surrounding area, that means that your internal body temperature in that spot is rising. This is because the white blood cells in your body are fighting off the infection. An increase in blood flow in that area could also cause a temperature increase.

bleeding wound on ankle caused by cat bite
Image Credit: Oporty786, Shutterstock

2. Redness

If the area surrounding the cat bite has begun to turn red, that is another indication that your body may be fighting off an infection2. The redness may vary from a light dusting of pink to a strong, angry red. Watch for any signs that the redness may be spreading. If the redness begins to spread, that may be an early warning sign of sepsis or blood poisoning3. If you suspect that you have sepsis, get emergency medical help immediately.

3. Discomfort

It is normal to experience discomfort after a cat bite has punctured your skin. However, that discomfort should gradually begin to fade away. If any pain persists or worsens, that is a cause for concern. When a cat bite has become infected, the pain tends to increase and spread to nearby tissues. Rather than try to fight off this pain with painkillers, reach out for medical assistance.

fresh wound and blood from a bite cat
Image Credit: mydegage, Shutterstock

4. Swelling

A more obvious sign that something is going wrong inside your body is swelling. It should be a huge red flag if your cat bite has begun to swell up. When it comes to injuries, swelling often goes hand in hand with inflammation, and you may experience redness and heat at the same time. Swelling may cause the area to become enlarged and more tender than usual. If you are experiencing swelling around a cat bite, that is an almost sure sign that an infection has taken root.

5. Odor

The wound’s odor is another vital sign of an infection. An odor may emit from a cat bite for several reasons, such as chemicals being released from bacteria, wound drainage, or even necrosis (also known as dead tissue). Additionally, if the cat bite is not properly attended to, the injury may begin to smell foul due to poor hygiene. A foul odor coming from your wound may be difficult to discern at first, but once you notice it, you will need to take prompt action to prevent the condition from worsening.

cat bite marks
Image Credit: LS92, Shutterstock

6. Pus or Discharge

Pus or any other kind of discharge from the wound is an indication of infection. If the bacteria from a cat’s mouth is trapped within your wound, pus or other fluids may accumulate. The discharge will likely be yellow, white, or brown and may be somewhat thick. The drainage is often a combination of the white blood cells that are trying to ward off the infection and the bacteria that caused the infection in the first place.

7. Fever

A fever is a rise in your body’s temperature, and it is a serious sign of infection from a cat bite. A human’s body temperature is around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and any temperature of 100 degrees or higher is generally considered a fever.

You will likely experience chills, shivering, sweating, headaches, and body aches if you have a fever. You may also be dehydrated and weak and may experience irritability and a loss of appetite.

sick female with headache
Image Credit: fizkes, Shutterstock

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Treatment for Cat Bites

If you have developed an infection from a cat bite, a medical professional will wash the wound, remove any dead tissue, and apply an antibiotic ointment. X-rays may be recommended to verify that underlying bones are not damaged or showing signs of infection, as well.

Most likely, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics for the infection. You may need to get a tetanus booster if you haven’t received the vaccine in recent years. Depending on the severity of the injury, stitches or surgery may be necessary.

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Cats are adorable creatures, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t hurt us by accident (or on purpose) with their teeth. If you sustain a cat bite that punctures the skin, wash it thoroughly before bandaging it, report it to your physician, and keep a close eye out for any signs of infection. If you start recognizing the signs of a possible infection, consult a medical professional immediately. The sooner you seek help, the sooner you will be able to get the treatment you need.

Featured Image Credit: Irzhanova Asel, Shutterstock

About the Author

Jordyn Alger
Jordyn Alger
Cats are Jordyn’s passion. Whenever she has the opportunity she loves to learn about animals and share her knowledge with everyone. She is devoted to her sassy tabby cat named Jack and works hard to buy him his favorite treats and toys. Discovering new ways to better care for her cat is always on her to-do list, and she is eager to help pet parents everywhere. In Jordyn's spare time, she loves to write, read, and take long walks. She has a creative spirit, which often helps her to come up with funny cat names.

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