Although they're more common in outdoor cats, even your indoor cat may suffer the occasional scrape or scratch -- especially if he or she plays rough, has a "spat" or gets into an out-and-out fight with another member of your furry family. The most common cause of abrasions (another name for basic scrapes and scratches) in cats is, well, other cats.
If you discover that things have gotten out of hand, make sure that you find all of the wounds. Your cat's fur can sometimes hide serious scrapes, so ruffle through it (this may require some assistance) to be sure that you don't miss anything. If there are just minor scratches, clean them up with soap and water just as you would your own. Don't try to keep the cat from licking the scrape, either. Keep an eye on it, but the abrasion should heal up fine on its own.
Anything that bleeds noticeably needs more attention than a simple scratch. First, stop the bleeding with direct pressure, using a cotton ball or gauze. Trim the hair around the wound, and wash thoroughly with soap and water. Most abrasions heal better in the open air, and your cat would just pull off a bandage anyway. Keep the wound area clean and watch it closely. If the wound won't stop bleeding with pressure, or there's a lot of blood, get your cat to the vet immediately.
Bite wounds can get infected easily, especially if they're caused by another cat. A cat's small teeth can create puncture wounds that may not look like much, but can be very dangerous. The wound can heal over on the surface, trapping dirt and bacteria deep inside the tissue. This can lead to an abscess -- a painful, swollen pocket of infection. If your cat gets into a fight with another animal, check closely on the base of his or her tail, back, face and legs -- these are the most common sites for bite wounds. If the site of a wound swells, leaks pus, or becomes hot or sensitive, your cat needs to be seen by a vet as soon as possible. He or she will need to have the abscess lanced, drained, and disinfected. He or she will also need antibiotics to clear up the infection. Bite wounds can transmit diseases like the feline leukemia virus, so keeping up with your cat's vaccinations is also important.
Hopefully, you'll never have to deal with a serious cat scrape or scratch, but if it does happen, take it seriously to avoid complications.
Originally Published: Jun 1, 2011