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What to Do When Cats Attack

What to Do When Cats Attack

In the 1992 film Batman Returns, after being tossed off a building by evildoer Max Shreck (Christopher Walken), Selena Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer) is bitten by a cat and reawakens as Catwoman. Pretty good cinematic choices by director Tim Burton, since cat bites can pack a pretty big wallop and statistically most cat bites happen to adult women. (Pick up the cat? Zowie! Ouch!)

Why do cats attack women? We don't know. Maybe women are just more likely to be around them.

Related: Diseases You Can Catch from Your Pet

But whatever the circumstance, a cat bite may deliver KAPOW! an aggressive bacteria, Pasturella multocida, that can cause skin inflammation, infection, joint pain and swelling. And because cats’ fangs are sharp and pointed, they can deposit bacteria deep inside your flesh. Antibiotics, usually amoxicillin, are often administered to treat cat bites. But a recent Mayo Clinic study found 33 percent of patients who came to one hospital after they were bitten by cats on the hand had to be hospitalized and two-thirds of them needed surgery.

Related: Everything You Need to Know about Cat Scratch Disease

Does this happen with every nip? Reacting to the Mayo Clinic study, the UK’s National Health Service cautions that most cat bites go unreported and the study was not very representative of what happens.

We say the bottom line is that cat saliva carries nasty bacteria and any animal bite can cause a serious infection. So if you have any signs of infection or pain (or you just want to be careful), report to the ER or urgent care center. Remember, cats are the ones with nine lives, not you!

Related: Pets Can Be Good for Your Health Too!

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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