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.”


Does Your Cat Bite While Being Pet?
Why Dogs Bite



Christine Jones
Christine J4 years ago

Yes indeed it can. I got a terrible bite from my dear cat Jaffa Cake. Totally my fault. A strange cat had come into our yard and Jaffa was trying to defend his territory by fighting and my maternal instincts overcame my good sense so I leapt in to break it up. He got me right on the wrist. Missed an artery by a whisker (pun intended!) but I still crashed to the ground from the sudden blood loss. So then I added bruised knees to my predicament! Had to have shots and stitches, got dreadfully infected despite antibiotics. So swollen and painful I couldn't even press a button on my remote control; sounds melodramatic but true I swear. Ended up with my arm in a sling and months off work and have a nasty scar. Lesson learned; break up cat fights with a hose, umbrella, or anything but your body.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

debby ro
Deborah ro5 years ago

Always treat a scratch seriously ,having two cats at home and some downstairs , wash the scratch immediately and clean with alcohol or any antibacterial solution as first preventative measure .For some water and soap will do ,depending the scratch .Biting should be taken even more seriously ! Also must update tetanus shots .

Carmen Harris
Past Member 5 years ago

Scratches from cats I know can land you in hospital, simply because an inspector I know from the SPCA in my area had to go to hospital to get the infection drained, cleaned out and stitched when a stray cat scratched her. So be careful around cats...I have cats myself, but I'm very wary when a cat's claws come out.

Sandi Deome
Sandi Deome5 years ago

A few years ago I found 2 kittens dumped by my home. I took them in, been doing that for a lot of years but with the one kitten I bathed her and she bit me, very small bits but they did break the skin. One bit over my wrist got infected and I treated it and it healed just fine. A few months later I started feeling sick. like a flu for a couple of weeks then feel fine only to have it repeated. I then got really sick and just could not function. A friend finally took me to a doctor and he checked my lungs to find I was in terrible shape. I was sent by ambulance from the doctors office to a local hospital. I had Bacterial Pnuemonia with Sepsis. This type is gotten from either kitten or puppy bites. I went into Respiratory failure with Sepsis in the ER. I ended up in the ICU on a respirator where they saved my life. I went through being on Oxygen, not able to walk, very 'rummy' for a long time due to the induced coma they kept me in while in ICU. It took a very long time to get off the oxygen, to learn to walk again, to even feel like the world did not live through a curtain. I still have cats. I won't go without them in my life but I am so much more careful now of any type of bites, including the gentle 'love' bites. If bitten by any animal I would say to get it checked out, to watch what happens to you and have someone to watch you if things get bad. I am glad for the friends who did watch me because if not for them I would of died in my bed and I would of missed so much of lif

Vicki F.
Vicki f5 years ago

There's an herb called Comfrey. Keep it handy. If you get a cat bite, or any bite for that matter, mix it into a paste, put it on the wound and put a band aid on it. Spritz it a few hours later. You will feel the Comfrey start sucking the poison out right away. Comfrey is a great herb for puncture injuries, you do have to put it on there right away or at least before the skin starts to heal over. I've had all kinds of critter bites and it has worked every time.

Hazel G.
Hazel G5 years ago


Brenda P.
.5 years ago

yikes, scary

Frank Hanline
Frank Hanline5 years ago

On a sad note, I came home to find my cat, or rather the cat that claimed me, Nala, dead. She was on the back porch, looks as though she went in her sleep.

She was very ill last May, almost died. I had to give her water intraveniously on her back between her shoulder blades for two weeks and anti-biotics (a bug was destroying her red blood cells) and she pulled through.

Unfortunately, Nala was never quite the same. I hope she went to sleep, dreaming of chasing birds and drifted off to do so, forever in her dream.....

Bye Nala

Christine Stewart

I got the tiniest scratch right at the base of my fingernail, into the cuticle. Pretty soon there was a never ending stream of pus that didn't go away even with antibiotics until the nail was surgically removed. So it is very important to use plenty of soap and warm water to thoroughly clean even the tiniest scratch or bite!