Cat Abscess: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

A cat abscess is a painful and serious bacterial infection normally caused by cat fights. Find out how to spot symptoms and get them the treatment they need

If you’ve noticed that your cat has been under the weather recently and constantly licking a swell on their back, they might have an abscess. If you’re worried that you have a cat abscess on your hands, make sure you know what symptoms to look for and when to call your vet:

What is a Cat Abscess?

A cat abscess is a painful infected wound that typically results from being scratched or bitten in a cat fight. Cats’ mouths are full of bacteria; so when one cat punctures another’s skin with their teeth, the bacteria can settle in a pocket under their skin. This can soon lead to infection: within three to seven days, the small bite mark will turn into a festering, pus-filled pocket that will cause your cat extreme discomfort.

Know the Signs

The minor wound which causes a cat abscess starts out as a small cut or a scab. You may notice a little bit of blood, or a slight swelling. As the abscess develops, a lump will develop under their fur, the area will become hot and painful, and their faces may swell slightly.

Additionally, keep a look out for some behavioural changes: your cat may act lethargic, hide, refuse to eat, shiver or breathe rapidly. They may also exhibit signs of a fever, and lick in or around their wound a lot. However, don’t worry: when a cat’s abscess is drained, their behaviour will quickly return to normal.

The abscess becomes even more obvious once the abscess erupts and begins to drain. If your cat’s abscess opens up, it will produce blood and pus and emit an unpleasant odour.

How to Treat an Abscess

As soon as you suspect your cat has an abscessed wound, take them to your vet immediately – this is a very serious condition and needs immediate treatment. Do not try to treat a cat abscess at home.

Your vet will treat, drain and clean the wound and will administer antibiotics to help your cat heal quickly and properly. Very rarely, a cat abscess can be life-threatening if it goes untreated. The bacteria can go into the bloodstream and cause sepsis.

Keep Your Cat From Licking Their Wounds

One of the toughest challenges you’ll face is keeping your cat from adding insult to injury — that is, by licking their wounds and making them worse. As mentioned earlier, cats’ mouths are teeming with bacteria, which means you want to keep them away from open wounds. The most effective deterrent is an Elizabethan collar. While most cats can’t stand the bulky cone, it really is the best way to prevent wound licking. A less bulky inflatable collar may work on cats who really can’t stand the E-Collar.

Prevent Fights

Of course, the best way to ‘treat’ a cat abscess is to prevent it to begin with. If you keep your cats indoors, they will be protected from fighting with other free-roaming cats and dogs. Make sure your cat is sterilised and make sure they are up to date on their vaccinations. And keep a close eye on any injuries, of course.


*This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.


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