I'm house sitting for a family that has several cats and dogs, and today while letting one of the inside/outside cats inside, a feral cat jumped out from where "my" cat was sitting and scratched me on my leg.

I'm assuming it is feral because it doesn't have a collar of any kind, and behaves like I would assume a wild/unowned cat would; skittish around humans, defensive/aggressive by default, etc.

The scratch is not very deep at all; though some blood was drawn, it dried up almost instantly. This may have been helped by the blue jeans I was wearing. I have cleaned the scratch and rubbed it with antiseptic. However, should I see a vet or doctor about rabies or a more common infection, since the cat was wild?

I'm pretty sure I am not in any danger, but I never had pets growing up (or as an adult), so I only know what I've heard from friends/seen on TV/the internet.

(I'm in the United States, if there are regional differences to handling this situation).

  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this isn't about pets. You may want to have a look at health.stackexchange.com/questions/1048/…
    – Joanne C
    May 24, 2015 at 13:03
  • 1
    @JohnCavan I disagree because it's definitely about a pet scratch, but OK. Such a common behavior from pets is a great canonical topic for a pet-focused SE site.
    – TylerH
    May 24, 2015 at 19:44
  • Well, feral cats aren't pets and treating human injury is not topical regardless, the health site is better suited to answering.
    – Joanne C
    May 24, 2015 at 19:57
  • @JohnCavan True, I guess it is reasonable to expect typical pets (feral cats can be pets, if you interact with them infrequently enough) to be vaccinated.
    – TylerH
    May 24, 2015 at 20:03
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    @Oldcat That's not true; if the infected saliva has come in contact with the animal's claws, it can be transmitted via scratches, so long as the saliva hasn't dried out yet.
    – TylerH
    May 26, 2015 at 20:54

1 Answer 1


Your country actually helps a lot. USA is known to almost fully eradicate rabies in urban and suburban regions, while it still exists in wild. Apparently, there are 1-3 cases a month in the whole country per year.

Another thing that makes you safe is that it wasn't a deep wound, it was a scratching, most of which is absorbed by your jeans.

The normal procedure for rabies is as follows:

  • Wash your wounds thoroughly.
  • Follow the animal that bit or scratched you for ten days.
  • If the animal dies, gets into a bloody fight, shows unwarranted sign of aggression or if you can't find the animal, see a doctor immediately.

You are clear after ten days.

Even though I am very sure that you are safe in terms of rabies, I still urge you to be better safe than sorry, because sorrow in rabies means death. Since the cat is a feral or stray cat, I assume you won't be able to follow him daily, it is better to see an infectious disease specialist.

In any other developed country in the world, I wouldn't have to say anything else, but specifically for USA, there is an issue of healthcare. It might be too expensive for you to see an infectious disease specialist. In that case, try to contact to rangers or animal control to learn more about rabies in your region and make your final decision accordingly.

However, your biggest concern should not be rabies but tetanus. Not as deadly as rabies, tetanus is still very inconvenient to have. Some people don't make full recovery if the disease progresses. If you are behind your tetanus shots, rectify this immediately. The tetanus shot creates excruciating pain on the muscle it is administered to, but it only takes a day to heal, and you have to do this whether your healthcare covers it or not. Tetanus shots are very essential.

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