We are seeing an increased number of cat fight injuries, most commonly abscesses. The reason we get more in mid winter/spring is that from around the shortest day (21st June) the tom cats in your neighborhood start searching for mates and securing territory for themselves. Even though your cats are neutered, the tom cats invade your cat’s territory. This upsets the usual territory boundaries that neighboring cats have set up and where a growl and hiss have previously sorted challenges they now find themselves needing to fight again.
An abscess forms when an infected bite wound heals over on the surface, sealing the infection inside. Fever is generated as the infection incubates. Diseased tissue and the inflammatory cells liquefy into pus. The pus breaks through the overlying surface skin and drains, leading to foul odor, pain, and discharge. The area may or may not heal on its own.
What to Look for at Home
A fluid-filled swelling
If the abscess has not yet ruptured, the cat will most likely be feverish, which means you will see listlessness and appetite loss. Depending on how long the area has been swollen, the skin involved may be very tender or fragile. If you look closely, a small scab from the tooth mark that caused the abscess may still be visible on the surface of the swollen area.
A smelly, draining sore
The fluid pocket will eventually rupture and release foul-smelling pus. The fever may break once the rotten tissue is able to drain. You may not see the sore but you probably will smell it.
A wound that is not healing
Some cats will lick the fur away from the wound, making the area more visible. At this point, it is likely to look raw and may no longer be actively draining pus. Sometimes the overlying skin is especially fragile and simply tears away leaving a large raw area.
A tender area
Sometimes the wound is buried in the fur so deeply that it is not apparent. You may only find a tender area and possibly notice the odor characteristic of deep infection.
Common areas for bite wound abscesses include the facial cheeks, the legs, and the base of the tail. These are the areas where fighting cats tend to bite one another.
Other Important Things
feline immunodeficiency (FIV) viruses represent serious contagious infections spread by bite wounds. The American Association of Feline Practitioners has guidelines for viral testing. Testing, accomplished by a simple kit that can be done in your veterinarian’s office, ideally should be done 60 days or more from the time of the bite.
If your cat has not been vaccinated for rabies, it is especially important to make sure this vaccine is current.