The small, neighborhood, stray cat seemed hungry. The Good Samaritan thought he’d give it some nourishment. Instead of being thankful, the puss nearly bit the hand that was feeding it.
We are often moved when we see a furry feline who appears neglected. It may remind us so much of our own pet, who we may consider a part of our family.
But cats are still animals and when they are spooked or frightened, they can react with scratches and bites, which if untreated, can often lead to serious health care concerns.
Our Good Samaritan, who preferred not to be identified, had seen the stray in his neighborhood a lot. He merely thought it looked hungry, so he approached it with some food.
“I was wearing a robe,” he explained. “I wonder if the movement frightened it in some way.”
Rather than being appreciative, the cat attacked the Good Samaritan, biting and scratching his leg. Then, it ran off, leaving the Good Samaritan, bloody, sore, gouged and flabbergasted.
What happened when the Good Samaritan went to the emergency room was even more astounding.
After cleaning the bites, wounds and scratches, the Good Samaritan expected some prescription antibiotics. Instead, he was told to return at eight-hour intervals to receive an IV drip of antibiotics.
“We are aggressive in our treatment of cat bites,” explained Dr. Joseph Liewer, medical director of the emergency department and trauma center at Mercy Medical Center. “With any bite there is a threat of infection, but cat bites have more potential for problems.”
The reason is the cat’s teeth are sharper, Liewer clarified.
“A cat bite is more like a puncture wound,” he said. “It’s almost like injecting bacteria right into you.”
Dog bites have long been feared as problematic, Liewer acknowledged.
“It’s not a question of a cat’s mouth is dirtier or a dog’s mouth has more bacteria,” he said. “A dog bite is more of a tearing wound that may not lead to a serious infection because it would likely be cleaned more appropriately either at a medical facility or at home, thus decreasing the bacterial contamination in the wound.”
Other factors can go into how serous the nature of a cat’s scratches and/or bites are, Liewer pointed out.
“The hands and extremities are at higher risk for infection partially because their blood supply is not as good as other parts of the body,” he said. “Also, we look at one’s personal health. There may be health issues that would make them more prone to infection.”
Liewer has seen more dog bites than cat bites in the emergency room.
“I think it’s because dog bites typically need laceration repair,” he said. “But we do see more infections when someone comes in with a cat bite.”
The IV approach to treating the wounds has to do with getting a higher concentration in one’s system, Liewer said.
“Certainly oral antibiotics or a one-time shot of antibiotics may be appropriate,” he admitted, “but it really depends on the severity of the bite and subsequent infection and the personal health of the patient.”
The situation is not something to take lightly, Liewer stressed.
“Usually people don’t come in until infection has developed,” he said “The infection could go into a tendon or joint or travel into the deeper structures of your hand, which is a valuable part of your body. It certainly has the potential for a serious situation.”
Rabies is certainly a concern if the cat isn’t known, Liewer said, and shots may be needed.
“Most likely you would also need a tetanus shot,” he added.
Clearly one should exercise caution when helping any animal in distress, Liewer recommended.
“Animals may not understand that you are trying to help and may possibly take it out on you,” Liewer said. “As much as people interact with cats, their bites should always be responded to with concern.”
It was probably best the Good Samaritan didn’t pussy-foot around with his injuries.
“The cat was caught in a trap and did not have rabies,” he said. “There have been no other side effects from the bites and scratches, so all is good.”