Why do cats fight?

Cat fights are common in cats that are allowed to go outside.  The vast majority of septic (infected) wounds in cats result from cat bites sustained during a cat fight.

Dog, rat and other rodent bites can occur but they are much less common.

Cats are very territorial. They fight with other cats to protect their territory or to acquire more territory and as a result fight wounds are common in cats. Wound sustained from cat fights frequently result in infection that can make cats quite ill, particularly if they are left untreated.

Fight wounds are more common in male cats than females and most frequent in entire (unneutered) male cats.

What should I do if my cat has been bitten?

Bite wounds (especially small puncture wounds) are highly likely to become infected due to bacteria from within the cat’s mouth contaminating the wound.  Over a few days the bacteria multiply in number and often result in an abscess forming, cellulitis (infection within the tissues), septic arthritis (infection in a joint), osteomyelitis (infection of bone) or pyothorax (infection within the chest cavity). If your cat has been bitten:

  • keep them calm and warm in a blanket, keeping the nose and mouth exposed
  • be careful handling your cat as they may be very painful
  • bathe any wounds with dilute salt water (1 teaspoon of salt in a pint of cooled boiled water), try to bathe the wound twice per day for a couple of days to help reduce the likelihood of infection
  • it can be difficult to spot small puncture wounds, so keep a close eye on your cat and if you see any signs of infection developing such as heat, swelling, pain, lethargy or pyrexia (fever) then contact your vet
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Diagnosis and treatment

Your vet will ask you about your cat’s health, onset of signs, and possible incidents that might have preceded this condition.  During the examination, your vet will carefully observe how your cat breathes and will listen to his chest for evidence of a heart murmur or fluid in the lungs. Your cat’s gum colour will be evaluated as this can indicate whether oxygen is being delivered to the organs effectively, or if it there is a low red blood cell count (anaemia).  If your cat is having extreme difficulty breathing, the vet or nurse may take your cat straight out to the back area to enable them to give your cat oxygen to help him breathe and settle down before doing any more examinations or tests.

Most cases will require blood tests to check for underlying disease conditions and xrays or ultrasound to examine the lungs and heart.

Treatment will depend on the diagnosis your vet makes for your cat’s breathing problems. Most breathing problems require admittance into the hospital until your cat’s breathing has significantly improved.