Can a Cat Bite Put You in the Hospital?
Cat got your hand? Careful—cat bites aren’t as harmless as some people think. In fact, according to a recent study, one out of three people who sought treatment for a cat bite were hospitalized.
The Mayo Clinic study, published in the Journal of Hand Surgery, also found that two-thirds of those hospitalized for a cat bite required surgery to flush out infection in the wounds. Although many cat owners don’t seek treatment for bites because they’re so small, study researcher and surgeon Brian Carlsen stresses that the damage can be great. Cats’ mouths have no more bacteria than those of dogs, but thanks to fangs that penetrate the skin deeper, bacteria is pushed deep into joints and tissue.
“The dogs’ teeth are blunter, so they don’t tend to penetrate as deeply and they tend to leave a larger wound after they bite. The cats’ teeth are sharp and they can penetrate very deeply, they can seed bacteria in the joint and tendon sheaths,” says Carlsen.
USA Today spoke to cat owner Dawn Bothun, who waited a week to seek treatment for a bite. Her bite got her $150,000 in medical bills, eight weeks in and out of the hospital, two weeks of surgery every other day to remove infected tissue, and antibiotics.
Of course, not every cat bite has serious consequences. Bites directly over the wrist or other joints carry a higher risk than bites on soft tissue. “When the cat bites the hand, the joints and tendons are protected with fluid and there is no circulation so bacteria can grow like crazy, making treatment longer in some case,” researcher Carlsen tells USA Today. He adds, “It may look like a pin prick, but rule of thumb go see a doctor if a cat bites your hand.”