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The Dangers of Cat Fights

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 28 Jul 2020 | comments*Discuss
Cat Fights Injuries Cat Bites Wounds

Mention the word “dog fight” and most pet owners will be cringing in horror – but many overlook the fact that cat fights can be very serious too. Your pet feline may look like a docile “pussycat” but a ferocious tiger may be lurking under that tabby fur, capable of inflicting serious wounds and injuries, if he or she gets into a fight with another cat. In fact, cat fight injuries are one of the most common reasons cats are seen and treated by veterinarians.

Why Do Cats Fight?

While cats may fight to defend themselves, especially if they are cornered (e.g. by a dog), most adult cats fight with other adult cats over resources such as territory, food, preferred sleeping and toileting areas, mates and even owner attention. Fighting also often occurs when two adult cats meet for the first time and are trying to assert their dominance. Un-neutered cats, especially tomcats, are much more likely to get into fights as they are more aggressive and more likely to challenge other cats for territory and access to mates.

Can My Cat Really Inflict Serious Injuries?

Cats may be small but they have some serious arsenal in the shape of teeth and razor-sharp claws. All cat fights usually involve biting. Although cat teeth are smaller, they are still extremely sharp and capable of inflicting puncture wounds. While these may not be as deep or hard – and therefore won’t cause as much extensive underlying tissue damage as dog bites – the very small size of these bites means that they are often overlooked until they have developed into large, painful, infected abscesses.

And even if they are small, cat bites can still be serious. Cat mouths are full of bacteria, thus contaminating any bite wounds they inflict. In fact, cat bites have a higher chance of becoming infected than dog bites, especially because they are often overlooked until infection has set in. In addition to basic infection, cat bites can also transmit many of the deadly feline viruses, such as Feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukaemia. In countries where it is present, cat bites can also transmit rabies.

How Do I Know if My Cat Has Been in a Cat Fight?

If you haven’t caught your cat actually fighting, it can often be hard to know if they have been involved in a cat fight. Because cat bites are small, they often do not bleed a lot. However, there are some signs you can look out for which may prompt you to examine your cat more closely yourself or even take him or her for a vet exam. Obviously, any signs of bleeding or limping are an obvious giveaway but other more subtle signs include your cat becoming suddenly lethargic or having unusual swellings or lumps in the skin. If you suspect anything, check your cat over carefully for any puncture wounds or scratches. Puncture wounds are usually small red or blue-tinged holes in the skin and while they are usually found in pairs, if the cat only managed to hook one fang into the skin, there may only be one hole. Cat bites are very painful so your cat is likely to flinch (or possible even bite itself) when touched.

How Bad Can Cat Fight Injuries Get?

Puncture wounds are also usually accompanied by redness and swelling – if the wound is infected, it might even be seeping pus. If the infection becomes serious, it can lead to fever, aching joints and occasionally even permanent injury to the tissue. In some cases, cat bites have been known to not only cause soft tissue infection but even infection to nearby bones and joints too or in some severe cases, cause blood poisoning. Unlike dog fights, bone fractures are less common as the cat jaw isn’t strong enough to fracture bone when it bites down – however, if cats are fighting on an elevated surface (e.g. roof), there is a likelihood that one may fall and injure a limb in the process.

How Are Cat Fight Injuries Treated?

All injuries should be cleaned and protected from further contamination by removing any dead tissue and treating for infection through antibiotics. For the best chances of healing, wounds should be treated within 12 hours of injury. Some cat bites may need to be sutured but usually they are open to drain and heal of their own accord. Beware, though, that if you live in a hot climate, you should keep your cat indoors and away from flies during the healing process maggots may invade the wound.

How Can I Protect My Cat From Further Fights?

Having your cat neutered if it is not already goes a long way toward preventing fights. Keeping your cat indoors, especially at night, to prevent it roaming and encountering other strange cats (especially feral cats) will also make a big difference. Finally, if you have a multi-cat household, ensuring that you have more than enough resources to go around (e.g. litter boxes, food bowls, beds) and give your cats lots of choice and access will help to preserve a harmonious atmosphere.

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Hi there.I need some advice.We have 2 male cats and they are 3 years 11 months.They are getting neutered on Thursday this week.But recently they have started fighting badly.The vet has advised us to rehome one.Please can you advice.We live in the uk
Shortie - 28-Jul-20 @ 10:43 AM
My cat got into a fight with my dog when I was around 10. Dumb me tried to break the fight up and my cat must’ve thought I was another dog or something and bit my arm around three times. Didn’t go to the doctors or anything even though there were small holes in my arm but it ended up healing without infection thank god
Zyski - 5-Apr-20 @ 11:32 AM
Hello I wonder if anybody can help my cat came in yesterday with blood on his neck when we bathed this with salt water it was bleeding rather a lot, couldn’t see any puncture marks but he did pull away when we attempted to touch him. He hasn’t been to the vet at the moment as he escaped last night about 4am through an open window and only came back this morning at 10am, had his food and has been laid on our balcony under the garden swing since then I call him but he won’t come out...I cannot see any swelling should he see the vet? Because he suffers from feline asthma and any stress (I.e. a vet visit) causes him to become breathless...please help any advise is appreciated
Stormcat - 27-Aug-19 @ 5:41 PM
our calico cat was in a fight last monday morning and we had to take her to the vet. We had to put her down because she had a deep gash in her chest and one of her lungs was collapsed, to say the least. Because she was 17 years old, the thought was that it would have been too much for her system and we were given a bill of $1,900 for one day and $3,900 for the second day and that was not even including the surgery yet and the surgeons fees. Can a cat-5 get some bad two word one cat has a collapsed lung? This seems kind of extreme, but when we look back on our video cameras, it showed a black larger cat pouncing on her and really doing a number on her. Couldn't really see how bad it was but it was an altercation none-the-less and 20 minutes later she came in howling and bleeding from her chest. Can a cat fight get that bad?
sherrie - 12-Jun-19 @ 9:35 PM
We recently moved into an apartment that has lots of outdoor cats I don't know if these are ferel cats or pets my cat Kiki likes to go outside at night my concern is this one cat seems to I guess bully is the word to use, Kiki . I mean Kiki doesn't usually back down but this cat follows him right to our door. I had been leaving a window open in the kitchen for Kiki to come and go as he pleases but tonight the other cat actually came into our home. That was VERY unsettling to say the least as I've always believed ferel cats or outdoor cats tend to shy away but this one seems to have no fear of human or animals. What do I do.
Kiwi - 26-May-19 @ 12:24 PM
Just herd me cat (maui) and another tabby fighting opened the door and both cats scattered I do have a female tabby (tiger-lily) who does like to hang around with this other cat on more than one occasion when I call tiger lily home to come in for the night the tabby always comes home with her Maui is neuted
Soph - 11-May-19 @ 10:08 PM
With the antibiotic jab at the vets, Quin recovered really quickly. I think it's inbuilt resistance, especially with moggies (crossbreeds/heinz57s) ??
Fin - 25-Apr-19 @ 7:01 PM
I have been seriously mauled - on both hands - by a cat, that I was putting into a carrying box... My comment to the paramedic/practitioner was "at least my tetanus jabs are up to date" to which he said "tetanus is the least of your worries - watch out for stappolocupus etc." and wrote me a prescription for some heavy antibiotics ???? And then there was the time I came home to find Quin all listless and tender at the rear - I wondered about a kick, or kidney disease?? Vet found abscess on tail, probably from a fight with another cat...
Fin - 25-Apr-19 @ 6:55 PM
@Potli -You haven't said whether the cat is looking after its own wound or how serious the wound is. Much depends on what the vet says. I hope his wound clears quickly :(
Misty - 29-Mar-18 @ 10:10 AM
My cat is bitten by another cat (wild cat). I took him to the Doctor n gave antibiotics. He has a big wound on his stomach. I am applying medicine. Please advise in how long will the wound heel. Is that a problem. Trust it will recover soon.
Potli - 28-Mar-18 @ 2:21 PM
@MarieMations - glad your cat has made a speedy recovery. Cats are quite good at sorting themselves out. Sounds like she'd been in a fight
Jess <3 - 19-Dec-16 @ 12:32 PM
My cat got in a fight a couple weeks ago. She came back one night with a limp and a huge gash in her front left leg. We cleaned it up and took her to the vet. We put her on a medication and a pain reducer. She would bite if her leg was touched. She got better but now she has a scar. Love you Katrina!
MarieMations - 17-Dec-16 @ 4:58 AM
@Flopsy - it should go back to normal. If your cat doesn't seem in significant pain then I would let nature take its course. My cat injured its tail afte being bitten by a dog, and it healed with a slight bend, but it never bothered him. Naute has its way of sorting these minor issues out. I hope your cat recovers soon. Jill
JDH - 28-Nov-16 @ 2:06 PM
My cat had been in a fight and 2 bite wounds have appeared on the top flap of his ear! I have bathed this wth warm water etc and although nearly healed I have noticed my cat is walking around with his top part of his ear bent slightly! Can anyone tell me what this is? As I am concerned and whether this will go back to normal.
Flopsy - 25-Nov-16 @ 3:23 PM
This might be dangerous but is not it in the cats nature to fight over territory? My cat is nine years old and I think she fights two or three times a week. The result of this is one infection in her ear, and one twisted leg in her whole lifetime so far. That is a lot less than being imprisoned for her whole life. Furthermore, if I try to keep her inside, hell breaks loose. She starts nagging 24 by seven until I open the window for her.
CatOwner1 - 30-Nov-15 @ 12:09 PM
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