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Majority (about 80 to 90 %) of animal bites seen in the emergency department consist of dog bites. Only 10 to 20% of animal bites are due to cat bites, but experts warn that cat bites may be more dangerous than dog bites. While dog bites usually cause a crushing type of injury, cat bites leave puncture wounds that could be deceptively clean, but deep and infected. Studies show that middle-aged women are the most likely victims of cat bites. Most of these injuries occur while trying to hold their pet cats.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic published a study in the Journal of Hand Surgery, reporting that up to two-thirds of patients who sustain cat bites end up being hospitalized and needing surgery to remove bacteria and infected tissue. Most of these injuries occur on the hand and wrist,where there are many joints and tendons, which could get easily infected.

Since cats have small, but very sharp teeth, puncture wounds are likely to be deep but small.

These wounds may occur over tendons and joints, which have very little blood supply, so bleeding is not common. However, this is what makes it more conducive for bacterial growth. People may take their wounds for granted until redness, swelling and pain set in. Taking oral antibiotics may not be always helpful since blood circulation is limited in these tissues. Only surgery is effective in washing out and removing the bacteria from contaminated wounds. Serious complications may occur if treatment is delayed. This may include permanent loss of joint mobility, which may require reconstructive surgery.

How to Take Care of Cat Bites

Pet owners and their children must be aware that they may be bitten by their animals, even with the best of training and care. Animal bites increase your risk not only for bacterial infection, but also for tetanus and rabies infection.

Doctors usually recommend getting tetanus shots every ten years. If you got your last shot more than five years ago, your doctor may recommend getting a booster dose immediately, especially if your wound is dirty and deep. Pets that have not been immunized for rabies may carry the virus and get you infected, too. See a doctor immediately if you are bitten by a non-immunized cat.

If you or your child is bitten by a cat, examine the wound carefully. If your skin is barely broken and there is no danger of getting rabies, it may be treated as a minor wound. Thoroughly wash the wound with soap and water. You may apply an over-the-counter topical antibiotic to prevent infection. Cover the area with a clean bandage.

If the cat bite penetrates the skin and creates a puncture wound or tears the skin badly, apply pressure to control bleeding using a dry, clean cloth. Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water. Consult your doctor immediately.

If you experience signs of infection, such as increasing pain, swelling, redness, or oozing, contact your doctor immediately.

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