It is not uncommon for you to get the occasional scratch while playing with your cat. However, it is important to take care of your wound and carefully monitor it for complications.
Not all cat scratches are dangerous, but certain circumstances can increase your risk of developing certain diseases and other health risks.
Read on to learn more about some of the potential dangers associated with cat scratches and whether you need to see a doctor.
Even when playing with your cat seemingly harmless, the occasional cat scratches are inevitable. Johns Hopkins Medicine says kittens under 1 year old are even more prone to scratching – you may notice more incidents of playing and cuddling in the rounds as your younger cat gets used to their movements.
Regardless of age, cat scratches can mean more than just pain and temporary red or discolored stains. These wounds can sometimes stab, bleed, and even become infected.
Both wild and domesticated cats can also transmit certain viruses and bacteria when they scratch human skin. Some of the potential health complications are:
First, you should always wash any cat scratches with soap and warm water. Follow this rule for all scratches, even if it’s your own cat. Pat the area dry with a clean towel.
If your scratch is bleeding, apply light pressure with a clean gauze pad. You can also apply a small amount of an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment before covering it with a sterile bandage.
For the next few seconds, carefully monitor the scratch for symptoms of infection, such as:
- increased swelling
- Pus or drainage
- red or discolored streaks from the original scratch
- flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, and chills
Call a doctor if you have any of the above symptoms. You should also seek treatment if you have recently been scratched, bitten, or licked an open wound by a strange cat.
Treat eye scratches
Sometimes a cat can accidentally scratch your face, including the area around your eyes. In this case, you should immediately rinse the affected eye with clean water or saline solution. Be careful not to rub your eyes if something is stuck, such as particles from your cat’s claws.
Next, you should call your doctor so they can thoroughly examine your eye for possible damage. You can also prescribe medication if your eye scratch becomes infected.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology says eye scratches heal quickly. However, if left untreated, they can cause:
Cat scratch fever is a bacterial infection caused by Bartonella henselae. Cats can carry the bacteria in their saliva. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that up to 40 percent of cats will carry this bacterium at some point, but most will show no symptoms.
Originally, cats can get this bacterium from fleas. Cats can spread the bacterium during cat fights among themselves. The bacterium can then be transmitted to humans by the affected cat scratching, biting, or licking an open wound.
Symptoms of cat scratch fever
If you have cat scratch fever, according to the CDC, you may notice the following symptoms within 3 to 14 days of the first incident:
- Scratches or bites that are progressively redder or discolored and swollen
- Fever, pain, and other flu-like symptoms
- Body rashes
- swollen lymph nodes
- excessive tiredness and weakness
Treatment of cat scratch fever
Cat scratch fever can be treated with antibiotics, as well as home wound care, to relieve your symptoms and prevent possible complications.
It’s important to know that some of the symptoms of cat scratch fever are similar to other infections. This includes tetanus, which is caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani.
It is important to see a doctor if you have symptoms of an infection so that you can be treated properly. Your risk of developing cat scratch fever may also be higher if you’ve been around a flea-infested cat.
The CDC says complications from cat scratch fever are more likely if you are under 14 years old or have a weakened immune system. Although rare, such options include:
- Brain injury
- other internal organ damage
- bacillary angiomatosis, a progressive skin disease causing red or discolored raised lesions with scaly outer rings
- red, irritated eyes with flu-like symptoms
Rabies is a serious viral infection that results from the bite of an infected animal. Although not common in domesticated cats in the United States, cases of rabies are reported more often in cats than in other pets.
An infected cat may have sudden changes in behavior, including unusual aggression. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, loss of muscle control, and paralysis.
Rabid cats are more likely to transmit the virus to humans through their saliva by biting. However, there is still a lower chance that an infected cat can spread the virus through scratches. The first symptoms in humans mimic those of the flu and can develop up to weeks or months later, according to the CDC.
If you suspect you have had an interaction with a rabid cat, you should seek emergency treatment – even if this deadly disease has caused no symptoms. A quick supply of rabies antibodies and vaccinations can prevent life-threatening complications.
You can help minimize the health risks from cat scratches by:
- Washing and caring for accidental wounds in all types of interactions
- Avoiding rough play, especially with kittens who are more prone to scratching
- Keep your face away from your cat while playing to avoid eye injuries
- Cover open wounds so your cat cannot lick them
- Create an indoor-only environment for your cat
- Take care of feral cats or other cats that are not your own
- Keep your cat informed about their vaccinations, such as: B. Rabies Vaccinations, up to date
- Keep up to date with your own vaccines, including tetanus boosters
- Make sure your cat is adequately treated for fleas, as recommended by your veterinarian
Occasional scratches may be a natural part of a cat lover, but you should always be careful to wash off any accidental wounds you get after playing with your fur babies. Since some cases can lead to infection, it is important to watch out for any suspicious symptoms and see a doctor immediately.
While it can be difficult to completely avoid cat scratches when you have a playful cat in your home, there are certain steps you can take to avoid complications. This includes proper cleaning, avoiding wild animals, and following recommended vaccines.