Cat bites are not generally thought of as very serious. After all they are not like a digs bite, where you could be seriously injured or even in some cases involving babies, killed. But never the less a bite from a cat should be taken seriously as between 20 and 80% of all feline bites may cause infection.
First of all, please remember that most cat bites are inflicted by stray cats and that only 1 in five bites are inflicted by a domesticated cat. So please don't become overly worried about your sweet little kitty sitting in the corner of the room.
Also it is reported that of the bites caused by stray cats they are mainly caused by females. Why mainly females? I will discuss this in the section about petting aggression.
There are several reasons a cat will bite in a domestic situation:
Fear - Sometimes the act of biting simply comes about due to the cat becoming suddenly afraid and lashing out at the nearest thing.
Pain - a cat in pain may suddenly lash out too (well we all do don't we)
Over excitement - This bite usually comes from a kitten during play. Hen cats play with each other they will often nip at each other and this can become a little more aggressive at times. This can then happen when a kitten plays with us, especially if we are using our hands to tease and play with them.
Petting Aggression - Or the sudden cat attack as I like to call it for no apparent reason. Here is a sample of a question I was once asked about this behaviour.
"I was sitting with my cat on my lap gently stroking and tickling her, which she seemed to be enjoying very much, when all of a sudden my cat grabbed my arm and started to bite it quite hard. I quickly moved my arm away and she jumped down onto the floor and looked like she was in a daze and not sure where she was for a second. Then just like that she was fine again, smiling at me and rubbing round my legs".
This is a common story and one which I'm sure many cat owners can relate to. The cause seems to be that cats from birth do not like to be groomed for very long periods of time. Females are the main groomers of their kittens and so are only used to grooming and being groomed for short periods of time. Our stroking and petting can feel like grooming to our cats, but when we do it for too long (especially when it's to a female cat); they can suddenly feel trapped and want out.
Also cats will often go into a dream like super relaxed state when being groomed and likewise display the same relaxed behaviour when being stroked. So when we stroke for too long they can suddenly feel trapped and come out of this dream like state suddenly and lash out. Then they quickly come round and realise that it's only you and return to a happy state. Confusing to us right, but hey they're cats.
Have you ever had a cat softly bite your hand when you are stroking them? A bite so soft that it does not hurt or break the skin?
This bite is a stop what you are doing bite. It comes from when the mother cat wants to groom a kitten and to stop it wriggling around she bites the back or their neck which makes them go limp and relaxed for awhile. She will then groom them. Every time they start to misbehave and wriggle she will bite them again to stop them doing it. This memory or the soft bite to stop something happening continues into adulthood.
So when you get one of these soft bites, your cat is simply saying to you. "Please stop what you are doing".
A cat bite can look fairly innocent; you may have a couple of puncture wounds at most. However a cat's mouth is home to many bacteria and these bacteria can be easily passed on via a bite.
The main bacteria which can cause an infection are the Pasteurella Multocida bacteria which can be found in up to 90% of healthy cats mouths. If this becomes infected it can spread to surrounding tissue and cause cellulitis or spread through the body and cause blood poisoning.
Needless to say that ALL cat bites no matter how insignificant you may think they are, need some sort of treatment.
If either you or another pet is bitten you must wash the area immediately under running water. Do not scrub at the area as this will make it worse. A mild salt and water solution can be dabbed on the area and if the wound is deep and bleeding, a bandage should be applied.
If you notice any signs of infection such as swelling, redness, pain, discharge or is warm to the touch you should visit your doctor immediately. Likewise in other pets, any signs of infection should be treated by a vet as soon as possible.