The Danger of Cat Bites to Humans

Cat bites are extremely dangerous to humans.

Have you ever heard that it's important to see a veterinarian any time a cat's tooth punctures your skin, even if it seems like a minor injury? It's true, and here's why.

The Skin Is Great at Healing

A cat's tooth is small and sharp, so when it punctures a person's skin, it leaves quite a small wound but a deep one. The cat's tooth deposits bacteria under the skin. Because the surface of the wound is tiny, the skin does its job and heals over fast. That seals in the bacteria and allows them to sit there, safe and cozy, multiplying like crazy.

Cats' Mouths Carry Bad Bacteria

Cats carry high numbers of different types of bacteria in their mouths, and one of them, in particular, is dangerous—Pastuerella multocida.

Bacteria Spreads to Surrounding Tissue

Once the skin heals over and the bad bacteria multiply like crazy, they also spread to nearby tissue, causing cellulitis, which is infection and inflammation. Cellulitis can cause long-term damage.

If the bacteria gets into the blood stream, it causes septicemia, which is life-threatening.

If bacteria gets into joints, it can cause permanent damage there.

Symptoms of Infected Cat Bites in People

People with infected cat bite wounds will usually see the immediate area redden and swell. It may be warm to the touch. The affected area can spread to close by tissues, and affected joints can get sore and stiff.

People may develop a fever and flu-like symptoms of aches and pains. The infection can be severe, especially in very young, elderly, or immunosuppressed people.

When infection has gotten into a joint or caused severe tissue damage, surgery may be necessary.

What to Do If a Cat Bites You

If you receive a cat bite, wash it under running water right away. If it's bleeding, apply pressure or a bandage to control it.

See a doctor as soon as possible. You need to do this even for mild bite wounds because they can result in the severe consequences listed above. Additionally, sometimes the tip of a cat's tooth, especially if the kitty is young, may break off inside the wound, causing even more trouble.

If possible, determine the rabies vaccination status of the cat that bit you. If the cat's rabies vaccination is not current, your doctor may recommend that you undergo rabies prophylaxis. This, too, is best if done in a timely manner.

Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed veterinarian. If you require any veterinary related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly. Information at is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site.