Abscesses can be a frequent occurrence in cats that are allowed to wander. Cats can be very territorial animals and outdoor cats will often defend their territory or try to claim new territory from other cats. When this happens, violent cat fights occurr. An abscess is usually from a deep puncture wound, because the bacteria on the cat’s teeth are deposited deep inside the flesh.
Depending on the nature of your cat – and also the nature of the neighborhood cats, an abscess can be the result of each and every fight your cat is a part of. Preventing abscesses may sometimes mean you need to keep your cat enclosed on your property and safe from getting into any cat fights.
The original bite wound is often very small – it may be only a little nick or scratch. But, more often it is the result of a tooth puncturing deep into the tissue. This gives nasty bacteria access to the subcutaneous tissue or the space beneath the cat’s skin. After three or four days, the activity of the bacteria causes a large pocket of pus to form.
As the abscess forms the cat will often get a fever, which will make the cat feel ill and lethargic. The cat may hide from you and sometimes he will stop eating.
Note that anytime a cat stops eating there is a potential health problem and the cat should be observed very closely and probably taken to a veterinarian for a check over.
If a veterinarian is presented with an outdoor cat with a fever, the first thing they re most likely to do it to search for a cat fight abscess. An abscess can be recognized as a tender swelling that can occur anywhere on the cat’s body. Often with a close examination, a small, scabby wound can be seen. Sometimes the abscess will have ruptured leaving a larger, draining wound.
The most important step is to drain the pus out of the wound. This is usually a procedure done with the cat under sedation because the wound is painful. The scab is removed off the top of the wound or the vet may pierce a spot of skin. This is called lancing the abscess.
After lancing the abscess and draining all the pus and infection out of the wound, it will then be flushed out with an antiseptic. Antibiotics are usually used to treat the infection.
In the video below, you can see a vet lancing and draining a large abscess on a cat. Warning – this video is a little graphic and may upset some people.
The wound left by the abscess is usually dry, which means that it is no longer building up or discharging any pus within two or three days. Complete recovery depends on the size of the abscess, but you can expect to allow around one to two weeks for complete healing.
Any antibiotics that have been prescribed should be continued at home until healing is complete.