Cats fight for a variety of reasons, even when they live in the same home. Outdoor cats are particularly likely to be involved in a feline-on-feline altercation. Cats are small, yes, but they can inflict a lot of damage on each other; results of a fight can often be hard to detect.
If your cat has been in a fight it’s important to know what to look for. Here’s what to do during the critical first two hours.
0-30 minutes in: Assess the Damage
If you know your cat has been in a fight, check his body fully for damage. The most common result of a cat fight is bites; biting is how cats typically inflict the most pain on another in the absence of strength. Visually inspect your cat for bite wounds paying close attention to the extremities, facial area, and the ears.
Next check to make sure your cat isn’t exhibiting any other symptoms of serious injury. Is he limping? Does he favor one side all of a sudden? Is he having trouble breathing? If your cat seems to be suffering from some kind of injury you can’t see, he may have internal bleeding or other serious injuries. Carefully transport him to an emergency vet’s office right away.
30 minutes – 1 hour in: Treat the Bites
If you’ve determined your cat has only suffered bites as a result of his fight, take stock. If any of the bites are serious enough that they won’t stop bleeding or you can see tissue or muscle through the skin, the cat may need stitches.
Cat bites are highly susceptible to infection. In fact, cat bites are one of the main routes of transmission for several feline illnesses including FIV and feline leukemia virus. Bites heal rapidly, sometimes trapping infectious fluid inside the wound itself. Once you’ve identified bites, clean them thoroughly by soaking the affected area in clean salt water – a solution of 1 pint water to 1 tsp. salt should do the trick. Do not cover the wound; a humid, moist environment is exactly what bacteria needs to thrive.
1-2 Hours in: Talk to Your Vet
It’s a good idea to let your vet in on what’s going on with your cat. Tell her about the injuries your cat sustained and make sure she doesn’t want to schedule an immediate appointment.
Your vet will likely encourage you to keep a very close watch on bite injuries for at least a week. When infected, bite wounds can swell, result in abscesses, and even induce septic shock. If left untreated, a serious infection could turn into osteomyelitis (a bone infection) or even pyothorax (a pus-filled chest cavity.)
The best treatment for cat fight injuries is prevention! Cats fight because they’re marking their territory. Consider keeping your cat indoors, walking him on a leash, and/or talking a vet about behavioral issues between two cats in the same home.