Steps for Treating a Wound
Cats are just as susceptible to everyday minor injuries as any other animal. Many cuts (lacerations), bruises (contusions), and scrapes (abrasions) are not life threatening and will heal with little treatment. Other wounds can be severe enough to require sutures and more intense emergency care.
What to Watch For
Fresh wounds will usually show some or all of the following:
- Missing hair
- Cut, scraped or torn skin
- Tenderness or pain
If a wound is not seen when it is fresh, it can become infected. In addition to swelling and tenderness, you may observe the following:
- Discharge (pus) from the wound
- Abscesses (i.e., an accumulation of pus under the skin) and the resulting hole in the skin when the abscess break open and drain
- Signs of a fever (e.g., lethargy and ears that feel hot to the touch)
Wounds can come from bumping or hitting hard or sharp objects, avoiding cars, attacks from animals, and other dangers.
What you can do at home is ultimately up to your cat. Sometimes the only thing you can do is wrap your cat in a towel or put him in a carrier and take him straight to your veterinarian. There are, however, a few things you can do if your cat will let you, especially if it may be a while before you can get to your veterinarian.
- If there is bleeding, apply direct pressure to the wound. The wound should be covered with sterile gauze or a clean cloth, and then pressure applied. It may take 5 to 10 minutes for bleeding to stop. Once it does, tape the gauze in place; removing it may remove the clot and bleeding will restart.
- Check for other wounds.
- If there is no bleeding and the cut (laceration) or scrape (abrasion) appears minor, try cleaning the wound. Use an antiseptic solution or plain water and gauze or a cloth (not cotton) to gently clean around the wound, and a syringe or similar device to flush the solution over the surface of the wound. Antiseptic solutions are made by diluting concentrated solutions bought at the store that contain either povidone iodine or chlorhexidine diacetate as the active ingredient. Do not use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide on the wounds, as these will actually damage the tissue. Povidone should be diluted to the color of weak tea; chlorhexidine should be diluted to pale blue.
- If the laceration is long or deep, or if it is a puncture wound, you can clean around the edges as already described, but do not flush the wound itself. Let the veterinarian do that.
- Once you have done all that you can, take your cat to your veterinarian.