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There is a (female) cat we've been feeding the last 3 or so months (I didn't take notice so it's an approximation). She seemed quite young at first so I presume she should be around 6 months old.

She comes to our balcony several times a day, but at the rest of the day she roams free around the neighborhood and I'm pretty sure I've noticed some scratches on her a few times. At first she barely let us get near her even when bringing food, then we could pet her only while she was eating, and now she actually comes by when being called and lets you pet her if you don't make any sudden movements.

Now, she's not vaccinated at all yet but I've been thinking on ordering a vet the following days to get it done at home. But today while petting her she decided all of a sudden to bite me (most cats I've seen have this stupid reaction where they seemingly forget it's a familiar hand petting them and lash out in the middle of the petting without notice). It went onto my thumb, and while it didn't feel too forceful and at first I didn't think it actually punctured, I did notice a pinpoint red dot which is probably from one of her teeth. I washed it with water and soap and afterwards applied a povidone-iodine solution to the area.

The basics — rabies? From local data it seems rabies the past several years has been mostly confined to the north of my country (~100 km north of where I'm at) and detected cases in cats (though perhaps many aren't detected and thus are missing from the data) average about 1 per year. So that seems very unlikely and I don't think this cat shows any symptoms of rabies (which to my understanding remains non-infectious through bites until the virus has reached the brain area and symptoms show up).

But other stuff that might pass through a tiny bite puncture? Possible infections or even parasites?

Thanks in advance.

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    you can take a look here en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat_bite Nov 24, 2019 at 20:09
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    @trond hansen Some of these sound pretty bad, but they don't mention whether the physical severity of the bite affects its likelihood to transmit diseases. It also seems some of the mentioned pathogens are possibly confined to different geographical areas than mine, but I suppose there could be other relevant local pathogens that are not mentioned. I suppose I'll call the GP tomorrow and ask whether I should have some preventative treatment just in case.
    – TLSO
    Nov 24, 2019 at 21:54
  • we cannot give medical advice here: most of us are not qualified, and any of us that may be cannot examine the wound. I recommend consulting a doctor if you are concerned about it.
    – jalynn2
    Nov 25, 2019 at 14:27
  • I was once bitten by my own vaccinated indoor-only cat while trying to give her a pill. My finger turned red and firm and angry, even though I soaked it in hot salt water for hours. At the end of the workday I went to an urgent care and they gave me a prescription for Clavamox, and my finger healed up after a week or so.
    – shoover
    Dec 2, 2019 at 21:39

2 Answers 2

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The bites of free-roaming animals like stray cats and dogs are always risky, because these animals may have recently had contact with rodents, vermin and filth. As pointed out by this Wikipedia article about cat bites:

Cat bites are usually considered minor injuries but can result in serious infection.

Bites from cats develop infections more frequently than bites from dogs.

It might not be obvious, but a tiny puncture that doesn't bleed much can be just as dangerous as a deep wound, but for different reasons:

  • Deep puncture wounds tend to bleed a lot, which transports parts of the infectious matter out of the body. Since no oxygen can reach inside the wound, the risk of an infection with extremely dangerous anaerobic bacteria (like Clostridium tetani that causes tetanus or Clostridium botulinum that causes botulism) is high. Consult a doctor in any case.
  • Shallow, open wounds are easier to clean and disinfect. With proper first aid (and effective vaccination against rabies and tetanus, if you live where it exists in the wild) it's acceptable to monitor the wound and only consult a doctor if you notice infection or other complications.
  • Shallow puncture wounds tend not to bleed (much) and are harder to clean and disinfect. The risk of anaerobic microbes is low, but the risk of being infected with whatever the animal had on it's claws or in it's saliva is higher. With proper first aid and disinfection, it's acceptable to monitor the wound and only consult a doctor if you notice infection or other complications.

The best prevention is to keep your own vaccinations up to date, especially rabies and tetanus (or whatever infectious diseases are common in your area). Clean the wound very thoroughly with water and soap, then apply plenty of isopropyl alcohol.

Don't cover the wound with an airtight bandage / band-aid.

Consult a doctor as soon as you notice any symptoms like severe pain or swelling, typical flu symptoms, discoloration of the wound, a tingling sensation, fever, fatigue or unusual tiredness.

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  • Thanks. I'm obviously not vaccinated against rabies ona regular basis as I don't work with wild animals and it's not very common where I'm at, but I doubt the last tetanus shot I've had is still effective while other stuff you may get from a cat are mostly not vaccinated against from my understanding. The wound is like a shallow stab from a pin, but today I'll consult my doctor through the phone at least.
    – TLSO
    Nov 25, 2019 at 14:13
  • @TLSO keeping the tetanus vaccine up to date is always smart when you handle cats,not only feral cats but all cats that spend time outside. Nov 25, 2019 at 16:12
  • @trond hansen Yeah, the doctor sent me to have a tetanus shot and prescribed a few days' worth of antibiotics, though she said it's mostly for protocol as the wound is very small. About rabies she said cats here don't have these (that mostly true, but on rare cases), but the nurse who gave me a shot today said everyone bitten by an animal is instructed to contact the Ministry of Health. I tried calling them to see whether a healthy-looking cat could logically give you rabies, and all the woman said was "I can't tell you, you have to come here".
    – TLSO
    Nov 26, 2019 at 15:27
  • @TLSO Sounds like a lot of effort for such a tiny wound. The problem with rabies is that it's 100% lethal for anyone who wasn't at least partially vaccinated as soon as they recognize the first symptom. You can read about the outward symptoms and incubation time of rabies and evaluate your own risk, especially if you can compare the cat's most recent behavior with that typical of rabies.
    – Elmy
    Nov 26, 2019 at 16:03
  • @TLSO it sounds like a lot of work for a tiny bite,but rabies is serious so you need to follow the advice you get.if you have seen the cat during the last couple of days and it looks healthy the risk of it having rabies is very low. Nov 26, 2019 at 17:58
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Never treat a stray bite like its ok and you will be fine. Every time you even see a speckle of blood on your finger from a stray bite, you should still get it checked out. There is always a chance your cat will get infected with a disease such as tetanus or rabies. Rabies is contagious through infection of the skin so it can be spread to you if the cat scratches or bites you. I would go to the vet if your cat have been bitten right away. Like go Now.

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  • The asker is presumably a human and there’s no mention of a second cat belonging to the asker - I don’t think the parts of this post referring to cats beyond the stray are “answering the question”.
    – Stephie
    Apr 21, 2021 at 17:43

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