Cat Fights (Monthly Cat Care Article)

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photo by Clarabelle Fields

Disclaimer: the staff writers here are not vets nor are they qualified to give medical advice. This article’s purpose is strictly to share stories/information and should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Please take your cat to the vet if you suspect anything might be wrong with them. Your vet will know best what to do in your specific situation.

No matter how watchful or careful we might be as pet parents, sometimes our little ones end up at odds with each other. If you have an outdoor cat, they might have altercations or unpleasant run-ins with other neighborhood cats or wild animals. If you have multiple indoor cats, they might get on each others’ nerves and try to settle scores the old-fashioned way. Fighting also commonly occurs when you introduce two new cats to each other. These interactions can vary in severity — sometimes it is merely a mild scuffle, other times it can result in serious injuries for the cats involved (and the humans trying to separate them).

Treatment for cat fight injuries also varies, depending on the severity of the injuries the cats have sustained. Extremely serious injuries — deep wounds, broken bones, large bites, injuries to the face/neck — may require emergency veterinary treatment. In these cases, especially if the injures are from a fight with a wild animal or stray cat, the cat should be taken immediately to a vet or animal ER. The cat may need surgery, blood transfusions, and/or booster vaccinations.  Milder injuries sustained in fights with wild animals and stray cats may not always require emergency treatment — for example, they might have received scratches or bites that are not deep. However, these injuries should still be checked by a vet in a timely manner, and the vet should be consulted to see if booster vaccinations and/or antibiotics are necessary to protect the cat from potential disease.

Untreated injuries, especially ones from wild animals and stray cats, can result in deadly consequences for an affected cat. They could become ill with rabies, FIV/FeLV, or various bacterial infections. Bites and scratches from other animals can easily transmit a wide variety of viruses and bacteria into the injured cat’s bloodstream. Untreated rabies is almost always fatal, and FIV/FeLv are lifelong infections that can gravely impact a cat’s health. For these reasons, it’s extremely important to keep your cat’s vaccines up to date, as well as to give the cat additional booster vaccines if they do end up hurt in a fight. Infection of bites/scratches is also a concern. Signs of infection include warmth, redness, and swelling around the site of the injury, as well as general listlessness and fever. To help prevent infection, any visible injuries should be immediately cleaned with water and some kind of antiseptic. Later on, the cat should receive a course of prophylactic antibiotics from the vet, either in the form of a shot, pills, or liquid medicine.

Injuries sustained in fights with other household cats may still pose a risk for disease and infection, although the risk is generally lower, especially if the household cats are all kept indoors and are up to date on their vaccinations. In these cases, cats may still require emergency treatment if injuries are severe, but if the injuries are mild — i.e. scratches and scrapes that are not too deep — they do not necessarily require veterinary treatment. The injuries still need to be cleaned with water and an antiseptic, but they will usually heal well on their own, provided that infection does not occur. If infection does occur, the cat will require a vet visit and antibiotics.

When it comes to cat fight injuries, it’s important to act swiftly in assessing the danger and risk the injuries pose to the cat’s health. Sometimes cats require quick, lifesaving treatment, and potentially deadly infections are always a possibility. Regular vaccinations, as well as other general safety precautions, such as keeping cats indoors and away from wild animals, are a necessary part of protecting a cat’s health and overall well-being.

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