I was bitten by not even a month old kitten which is a stray; this happened when I was trying to help it get to it's mom. The bite is not deep and is very shallow, it's like very small dots. What should I do?
First off, rule one for an animal bite (beyond the obvious first step of thoroughly cleaning it and properly bandaging it) is to contact your doctor ASAP, even if it seems innocuous. There are two reasons this is important:
- Bite wounds are almost always puncture wounds, and puncture wounds are notoriously difficult to clean properly. Because of this, even if cleaned and dressed promptly they still pose a non-negligible infection risk.
- There are all kinds of seemingly strange potential complications with animal bites, ranging from infections with pathogens you would not normally be exposed to (Bartonella henselae being a good example of this with cats) to stuff that sounds absolutely crazy at first unless you have a background in medicine or zoology (such as non-venomous snake bites running the risk of having splinters of the teeth left in the wound because of how fragile many snake’s teeth are).
Now, as far as risks here from a bite from a feral cat, the three big ones are (note, this is not a complete list, I am not a doctor or veterinarian, and you should still contact your doctor):
- Rabies: Risk varies based on what part of the world you are in. If you live in a region where rabies is uncommon, keep an eye on the cat for the next ten days, paying attention that it does not die or exhibit unwarranted aggression. Past that you are clear (note though that if it does die or exhibit unwarranted aggression, this is not a guarantee that you have rabies, just an indication that you should be treated as if you do). If you are living in a region where rabies is common, contact your doctor ASAP and begin treatment.
- Tetanus: Simply ensure your vaccinations for tetanus are up to date, and if not get them up to date and you should be fine. Tetanus vaccination is painful for a few days, but generally has no other complications, and is far preferable to actually contracting tetanus, and as long as you are properly vaccinated it’s not a serious risk.
- Cat Scratch Disease: More specifically, the aforementioned bacteria Bartonella henselae. Risk here is actually a bit higher than it would normally be because it’s a young cat. CSD is generally not serious unless it goes septic (which is rare) or you are already immunocompromised (if you do not know what that means, you almost certainly are not), though it is rather unpleasant. Symptoms typically show up within 3-14 days. If you develop a bump or blister near where you were bitten, and/or develop painfully swollen lymph nodes, see your doctor about it promptly.
It depends on where you live.
If you are living in a western country, chances are rabies is almost completely eliminated. Disinfect the wound as soon as it happens. You will be fine.
To make certain that you are fine, you might want to follow these steps:
- Disinfect the wound.
- Watch out for the cat regularly for ten days.
- If it dies, gets into a bloody fight or shows unwarranted aggression, contact the doctor immediately.
You are clear after ten days.
However, rabies is not your biggest concern, tetanus is. Make sure that your vaccinations are upto date for tetanus. If not, get vaccinated as soon as possible. It is a painful vaccination, usually causes pain in the muscle it is administered to for a day but other than that it has no complications.
If you are living in a country where rabies occur frequently, contact a doctor ASAP. For additional information on rabies exposure and treatment please refer to the World Health Organisation's Rabies Fact Sheet.