Fighting Felines and Abscess Answers

The midnight massacre begins… and usually right outside your window. It's the neighbourhood cats getting into a brawl again. Whether your cat is a bully or a victim, the ensuing scabs and scars may be all you notice but sometimes more serious problems can arise.

Cat bites transmit bacteria from the mouth under the skin, causing infections and abscesses, which may require draining and treatment with antibiotics. Fighting can also spread Feline Leukaemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.

Poor 'Smokey' here has an abscess on her head as a result of a catfight, and needed treatment to get better.

What will happen after my cat has been in a fight?

If the skin has been punctured, it is likely that infection will develop at the site. There will be swelling and pain at the wound site, and lameness if the bite is on a leg. If the wound is covered by loose skin, such as on the head or body, an abscess may develop.

What is the treatment for an abscess?

An abscess is a collection of pus, which requires lancing by your veterinarian to drain the abscess, then flushing with sterile water or antiseptics. Antibiotics will be prescribed to kill the bacteria causing the infection. Since the skin heals quickly, a rubber tube may need to be inserted in the lowest part of the abscess, so it can continue to drain until the infection is controlled. The drain will need to be cleaned with warm water to prevent it blocking for a few days after surgery. Even if the abscess bursts by itself, it often reforms as it has not drained properly and the infection is still present.

Why does my cat keep getting fight wounds?

Some cats are more territorial and aggressive than others, especially undesexed male cats. The problem still occurs in outdoor desexed male cats and female cats can also defend their territory.

The site of the wounds helps determine whether your cat is the aggressor (or willing to defend its territory) or is running from an attack – a fleeing cat will tend to have wounds around the tail base, or back half of the cat.

Since fights occur most commonly at night, keeping your cat inside at night will reduce the number of wounds sustained.

Can I stop abscesses forming after a fight?

Prompt treatment with antibiotics may stop the spread of infection and the development of an abscess. Once one has formed however, antibiotics are ineffective since they cannot penetrate the pus to kill the bacteria.

- Last updated 2 November 2015

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