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Wound Treatment for Cats (Overview)

Steps for Treating a Wound


Cats are just as susceptible to everyday minor injuries as any other animal. Many cuts (lacerations), bruises (contusions), and scrapes (abrasions) are not life threatening and will heal with little treatment. Other wounds can be severe enough to require sutures and more intense emergency care.


What to Watch For


Fresh wounds will usually show some or all of the following:


  • Bleeding
  • Swelling
  • Missing hair
  • Cut, scraped or torn skin
  • Limping
  • Tenderness or pain


If a wound is not seen when it is fresh, it can become infected. In addition to swelling and tenderness, you may observe the following:


  • Discharge (pus) from the wound
  • Abscesses (i.e., an accumulation of pus under the skin) and the resulting hole in the skin when the abscess break open and drain
  • Signs of a fever (e.g., lethargy and ears that feel hot to the touch)


Primary Cause


Wounds can come from bumping or hitting hard or sharp objects, avoiding cars, attacks from animals, and other dangers.


Immediate Care


What you can do at home is ultimately up to your cat. Sometimes the only thing you can do is wrap your cat in a towel or put him in a carrier and take him straight to your veterinarian. There are, however, a few things you can do if your cat will let you, especially if it may be a while before you can get to your veterinarian.


  1. If there is bleeding, apply direct pressure to the wound. The wound should be covered with sterile gauze or a clean cloth, and then pressure applied. It may take 5 to 10 minutes for bleeding to stop. Once it does, tape the gauze in place; removing it may remove the clot and bleeding will restart.
  2. Check for other wounds.
  3. If there is no bleeding and the cut (laceration) or scrape (abrasion) appears minor, try cleaning the wound. Use an antiseptic solution or plain water and gauze or a cloth (not cotton) to gently clean around the wound, and a syringe or similar device to flush the solution over the surface of the wound. Antiseptic solutions are made by diluting concentrated solutions bought at the store that contain either povidone iodine or chlorhexidine diacetate as the active ingredient. Do not use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide on the wounds, as these will actually damage the tissue. Povidone should be diluted to the color of weak tea; chlorhexidine should be diluted to pale blue.
  4. If the laceration is long or deep, or if it is a puncture wound, you can clean around the edges as already described, but do not flush the wound itself. Let the veterinarian do that.
  5. Once you have done all that you can, take your cat to your veterinarian.


Veterinary Care




Your veterinarian will carefully examine your cat and evaluate all wounds that are found. Your cat will also be evaluated for indications of other problems. The cat's hair will need to be shaved off for proper evaluation. Some wounds may require X-rays. Sedation may also be necessary to accomplish the examination.




The basic goals of treatment are to prevent infection and speed healing. Different types of wounds require different methods of accomplishing these goals. Most of the time your cat will require sedation or anesthesia to treat the wounds safely and without causing more pain.


  • Small scrapes and cuts often require nothing more than a thorough cleaning and maybe a little skin glue to hold the edges of the cut together.
  • Long and/or deep cuts require careful cleaning to be sure there is no debris in the wound and careful examination to determine the extent of the damage. If the wound is less than 12 hours old and not heavily contaminated, it will probably be sutured closed.
  • Puncture wounds, especially from animal bites, often have extensive damage under the skin that is not visible on initial exam. After removing any possible foreign materials, these wounds have to be thoroughly probed and then carefully cleaned with large volumes of antiseptic solution. Sometimes these wounds must be opened surgically to treat damage deep in the tissues.
  • Meanwhile, puncture wounds and/or wounds that are over 12 hours old, contaminated or showing signs infection, abscessed, or missing large amounts of skin are usually not sutured. Instead they are covered with bandages until such time as the wound is healed or the wound is healthy enough that sutures will actually help the wound rather than trap infection inside.
  • Large or deep wounds, contaminated wounds, or multiple puncture wounds often require the placement of a Penrose drain, which is soft rubber tubing that allows excess, contaminated tissue fluid to drain out, and keeps a small opening available for flushing antiseptic solution through the wound.
  • Your veterinarian will give your cat medication for infection and possibly for pain, which you will need to continue giving at home.
  • Most cats are released within 24 hours of being admitted.

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Living and Management


The most important thing you can do once your cat is home is to provide good nursing care. Fortunately this is usually for only 1 to 2 weeks. Good nursing care includes:


  • Keeping your cat from licking, chewing or scratching at the wounds, sutures, bandages, or drains. This may require the use of an Elizabethan collar.
  • Keeping bandages clean and dry and changing the the bandages as directed by your veterinarian. This may be as often as 2 or 3 times a day initially. You may need to take your cat back to the vet for the changes, especially if he is not cooperative. If the bandages get wet, or you notice an odor, chafing, or an increase in drainage (or the drainage doesn’t subside), take your cat to the vet for evaluation.
  • Placing a thin film of an antibiotic ointment around the edges of the wound once or twice a day, but only if the cat can’t lick it off.
  • Making sure your cat gets all the medication that has been prescribed. If you are having trouble administering it, contact your veterinarian.


Unless the wounds are severe or complications develop, here is a typical schedule of events after the veterinary visit:


  • Penrose drains are removed 3 to 5 days after being placed.
  • Sutures are removed 10 to 14 days after being placed.
  • Antibiotics are generally given for 7 to 10 days.
  • Pain medication, if used, is usually given for 5 to 7 days.
  • Bandages may be left on for as little as 24 hours or up to several weeks, depending on the nature of the wound. Bandage changes are at least once a day to start; longer intervals between changes may be possible later in the healing process.


If a wound, especially a puncture wound, was not seen, and if your cat did not take antibiotics, an abscess can form, resulting in symptoms described at the beginning of this article. Abscesses take about 10 to 14 days to develop, and often are not noticed until they rupture. An abscess will require another trip to your veterinarian.




Since cats are most likely to be injured when roaming outside unattended, the best way to prevent injury is to either keep the cat inside or only let him out in a protected, confined area.


Image via Shutterstock

Comments  17

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  • Money?!
    12/10/2012 12:51pm

    I am asking bc I don't have money to pay a vet and your asking me to pay $40 to get an answer?!?!?!?! This is Nuts!!! People shouldn't have to pay to get a question answered!

  • 06/10/2013 12:12am

    Then you should learn how to use google. Also, if you don't have money for vet care, you should not have an animal. It is a cruelty to animals violation to deny your animal vet care, whatever the reason. Do you really want to be that person?

  • 06/21/2013 10:31am

    What in the world did we do forty years ago when vets were very few? We used home remedies to care for our animals, the same thing we did for people. A lack of money certainly didn't keep people from procreating or having pets and telling the person to learn how to use google was most arrogant as you don't even know this person. Since you seem to know most everything, you already know then that most people in this country would thousands on animal care and not send a dollar to help third world PEOPLE or people here in the USA who have been hit by disasters. Vets are like regular docs these days. It is easily forty bucks to get in the door and I have found in recent years that the newbies want to run every test known to man short giving them an ACT or SAT college entrance test. I have learned from experience that a lot of people will attempt to provide the most loving care and medical they can and forgo a visit to a vet. My, cat has two wounds this morning and I am googling for pain relief for her after my husband gently cut away the fur, extracted pus, flushed the area and applied the same ointment doctors would. I was simply looking for something to give her for pain and it is not always the easiest thing to find. With all of this said, do you have children? If so, would you give them up for adoption if you lost health insurance? How easy would it be for you to give up your beloved pet if your financial circumstances changed? You speak many words but say nothing.

  • 04/10/2014 09:13am

    Amen, I am a pet parent and I love my cat dearly. She has had a medical issue lately and I have been treating her the best I can. Vet always want money, money, money but not everyone is made of money. I wouldn't give her up for any reason. I think that if you get a pet when you know you can't afford them, then that is sad and wrong; but if you have a pet and then fall on hard times as we all seem to do then we do what we can and hope for the best. :)

  • 11/07/2013 01:59pm

    Rachel, in a perfect world all pet owners would have oodles of cash to pay wealthy vets. I'm sure there are many vets who ply their trade because they love animals but it has become a license to print money. Instead of placing the blame at the feet of the pet owner, why not ask vets why they are charging outrageous fees that make their services beyond the reach of working class people. Your statement shows a disconnect from millions of people fiscal realities. Your attitude is harsh, judgmental and elitist. Maybe you're a vet yourself or married to one. There has to be a reason for you being so insensitive.

  • 12/25/2013 06:17pm

    I believe you were rather harsh to say if an individual does not have money they should not have an animal. You may mean well, but are obviously quite unaware of many individual situations. At one time I cared for 90 feral cats that were dumped off where I live resulting in more feral kittens born in my barn. Where I live this problem is handled by putting kittens in sack and dumping in French Creek. You only have to go out in boat to see them. I do not have heart to do this so despite crap from many after 20 yrs I now have only 14. The SPCA was worthless for assistance, in fact they do charge to take animals and only want totally healthy animals. I was more fortunate than many as my friend who is a DVM came out and gave my kittens shots free 2 yrs in a row and actually neutered 17 males on a Sunday on personal time. My husband who fortunately loves me has tolerated the money that has gone for food, medicine, and providing heated sheds. There are so many that have taken in strays that would otherwise be run over and provided food, shelter and love to. I feel you should at least credit the lady for at least seeking a solution to help her animal. I suppose your answer is if the lady has no money for animal just let it die and decrease the surplus population. After all she cannot afford it. There is a word for it "HYPOCRITE"

  • 05/18/2014 08:18am

    R.M. you seem to have only money not intelligence, but what can one expect!

  • 06/15/2014 01:36pm

    Rarely have I read such an ignorant, smug and supercilious piece of snarkiness in one reply. Obviously, a gen-Y baby who thinks that there are easy solutions to all of life's problems; just pay until you get them. "If you don't have money for vet care, you should not have an animal." As if YOU are in any position to make this kind of high-handed judgment for others! "It is a cruelty to animals violation to deny your animal vet care, whatever the reason." Please cite me a specific: Is this a violation of Federal law, or State law? If State, in which State(s) does it apply? Or is it a City ordinance? What city? Please give me a simple Penal Code citation so that I can look up the "cruelty to animals" statutory requirement that is supposedly being violated. (The truth is, what you meant to say was "I think it's cruel not to have a sick animal treated," but in your lame attempt to come across as authoritative you couldn't resist the urge to stray into an area about which you apparently know nothing. A vast area, BTW). "Do you really want to be that person?" I certainly wouldn't want to be a haughty, pin-headed tongue-clucker like you.

  • it IS insane to pay for
    06/14/2013 03:12pm

    now.. for you HOLIER than thous who have LOTS of cash to spend on vets.. go for it.. there are SOME of us who love animals and actually DO WITHOUT things WE need to help the less fortunate animals.. ferals and strays.. having said this... YOU have no right to say WHO is in the right when it comes to caring for animals.. how would u feel if i said YOU DONT DESERVE to have children because you have no money.. or in this case... NO HEART.. i suggest u think on that one.So YES its stupid to pay 40 bucks to read an answer that isnt going to even help those like me and MANY others in the first place. If vets would come down some on prices and if ANTIBIOTIC were more available without a script for pets... this converstation would never take place.

  • oh oh wait.. about google
    06/14/2013 03:15pm

    you really THINK google has ALL the answers? LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Thats hilarlious... I cant even find a simple product thru them for fish medication in my local area... so no.. google is not god. MAN i tell you what.. people like you Rachel need a good lecture on LOVE and CARING instead of living in the 'rolling in the dough' world.

  • no $ but love animals =)
    06/14/2013 03:25pm

    American Animal Hospital Association
    " Through the AAHA Helping Pets Fund, veterinary care is possible for sick or injured pets even if they have been abandoned or if their owner is experiencing financial hardship."

    Angels 4 Animals
    "Our services range from financial aid to complete treatment
    to those pets and pet owners in need."

    Care Credit
    A credit card company for health care, including veterinary care.
    "With a comprehensive range of plan options, for
    treatment or procedure fees from $1 to over $25,000, we offer a plan
    and a low monthly payment to fit comfortably into almost every

    God's Creatures Ministry
    "This fund helps pay for veterinarian bills for those who need help."

    "Our efforts focus on serving the elderly, the disabled, and the
    working poor."

    "We are dedicated to insure that no
    companion animal has to be euthanized simply because their caretaker
    is financially challenged."

    The Pet Fund
    "The Pet Fund is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit association that
    provides financial assistance to owners of domestic animals who need
    urgent veterinary care."

    United Animal Nations
    "The m ission of LifeLine is to help homeless or recently rescued
    animals suffering from life-threatening conditions that require
    specific and immediate emergency veterinary care. We strive to serve
    Good Samaritans and rescue groups who take in sick or injured
    animals. In certain cases, LifeLine can also assist senior citizens
    and low-income families pay for immediate emergency veterinary care."
    They also keep a list of local and national help resources here

    Feline Veterinary Emergency Assistance (FVEAP)
    "Seniors, People with disabilities, People who
    have lost their job, Good Samaritans who rescue a cat or kitten - any of these folks may need financial assistance to save a beloved companion."

  • 11/07/2013 02:01pm

    This is helpful information.

  • 06/15/2014 01:41pm

    Please explain how Care Credit, a subsidiary of GE Retail Credit, belongs in this list?

    They are an opportunistic lending company that is making an absolute fortune off of Obamacare, putting a smiling face on short-term loans with usurious interest rates - as if medical procedures were no different than buying a big-screen TV. If you have no $$ but love animals, this would be the LAST place you'd ever want to visit.

    I guess just doing a quick Google search isn't the answer to every question.

  • 08/21/2013 11:35pm

    Our community cat has--what looks like--a one inch gash. The flesh is exposed, the fur pushed to the side but there is no blood and he strolls the neighborhood like nothing has happened to him. What advice can you give us?

  • 12/25/2013 06:30pm

    If someone can get a live catch cage to catch town cat, perhaps they can get him tame enough to get some cephalexin down him. Try to find someone to get you a bottle of powdered Cephalexin Oral Suspension USP in 250/5ml. When you put water in bottle it will be 200 ml mixed. You may be able to find this online w/out prescription. This med is used often for human pediatric patients and cats can take it. After mixing powder with water give approx. half a small dropper full twice a day in it should help cat battle infection until a vet can look a cat to determine if he need other medical help.

  • Pet meds
    06/30/2014 01:48am

    We have been able to get most pet meds at Big R. They have a variety and can answer questions. You can also buy and old time remedy book. It will tell you to use things like Epsom salts, hydrogen peroxide, Iodine, turpentine and lard, liquid baby Tylenol or ibuprofen. We took one cat to the vet. The bill ended up being around $500.00. The main reason was all the test they "had" to run before they could render treatment. The treatment was a bolus of salt water under the hide cause he was dehydrated. There was no good reason to run all those tests first. Most vets are way over priced and want to do more that is necessary. We have doctored two others ourselves. One pulled through twice from horrible foot wounds. The current one has an abscessed wound on her leg. This one is going to be more difficult. Fortunately the antibiotic at Big R was less than $10.00 and the the syringes 25 cents each. I hope she pulls through it. The baby Tylenol is helping her rest. We cannot afford $500.00 or more ever again.

  • Integrity
    07/29/2014 11:16pm

    My comment is not to side with any of the previous comments, but just to give a different perspective. I work at an animal hospital and see lots of things. I know a good many vets and most of them are caring, people that are doing an honest job trying to help the pets, and people that come looking for their help. I, personally am not rich, and God forbid a major expense came along, I'd have to really figure out how to take care of it. So many people assume that Vets are money hungry, shysters that are just trying to screw people for no good reason. A good vet will do a holistic exam, and depending on the case, recommend other diagnostics. Many people think that a vet is a guy with a crystal ball and will automatically know what's wrong just by looking at the presenting problem. Truthfully, a vet is not doing his job if he's not giving you the big picture. No person should be coerced into doing something that they are not comfortable with, or cannot afford. Sharing with the vet your concerns is an important part of making an acceptable plan of treatment. Some things are cheaper, but may take longer. Some things are just a band-aid on a larger problem. But as long as a person is aware of what may or may not happen, you can make a more informed decision and decide what's best for your situation. The vets are not, in most cases, the problem. They are there to help, by applying their very specialized know-how to a problem that can easily be misdiagnosed. Lots of human medications may seem to help, but will cause other problems further down the road. Aspirin, and NSAIDs can cause liver damage or toxicity. So, be very careful about the info that you get from the internet. Yes, I use this website to get small doses of information when necessary. For instance, triage. But a good vet, is worth their sometimes, high price.

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