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Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook

Cat Skin & Wound Care Products


*Please seak veterinary help immiediately for any significant medical issue.


In the care of wounds, the two most important considerations are (a) first stop the bleeding, and (b) then prevent infection. Be prepared to restrain before you treat the wound (see Handling and Restraint).


Bleeding may be arterial (the spurting of bright red blood) or venous (oozing of dark red blood) or sometimes both. Do not wipe a wound that has stopped bleeding. This will dislodge the clot. Do not pour peroxide on a fresh wound. Bleeding then will be difficult to control.

The two methods used to control bleeding are the pressure dressing and the tourniquet.

Pressure Dressing: Take several pieces of clean or sterile gauze, place them over the wound and bandage snugly. Watch for swelling of the limb below the pressure pack. Swelling indicates impaired circulation. The bandage must be loosened or removed.

If material is not available for bandaging, place a pad on the wound and press it firmly. Hold it in place until help arrives.

An infected cat-fight wound. It should be treated as described in the text.

A method to temporarily control arterial bleeding is to apply pressure over the artery in the groin or axilla (armpits). To locate, see CIRCULATORY SYSTEM: Pulse. Often this action will stop bleeding long enough to permit an assistant to apply a pressure dressing.

Tourniquet: A tourniquet may be needed to control a spurting artery. It can be applied to the leg or tail above the wound (between the wound and the heart). Take a piece of cloth or gauze roll and loop it around the limb. Then tighten it by hand or with a stick inserted into the loop, twisting the stick until bleeding is controlled. If you see the end of the artery, you might attempt to pick it up with tweezers and tie it off with a piece of cotton thread. When possible, this should be left to a trained practitioner.

A tourniquet should be loosened every 30 minutes, for two to three minutes, to let blood flow into the limb.


All wounds are contaminated with dirt and bacteria. Proper care and handling will prevent some infections. Before handling a wound, make sure your hands and instruments are clean. Starting at the edges of a fresh wound, clip the hair back to enlarge the area. Cleanse the edges with a damp gauze or pad. Irrigate the wound with clean tap water. Apply antibiotic ointment. Bandage as described below.

Older wounds covered with pus and scab are cleaned with 3 percent hydro- gen peroxide solution diluted 1 part to 5 parts water. Hydrogen peroxide can damage tissue, so use it only once. Thereafter, cleanse with a Betadine solution (dilute 1 part to 10 parts water). Blot dry. Apply an antibiotic ointment such as Triple Antibiotic Ointment or Neomycin and leave the wound open or bandage as described below.

Dressings over infected wounds should be changed frequently to aid in the drainage of pus and allow you to apply fresh ointment.

Fresh lacerations over 1/2 inch long should be sutured to prevent infection, minimize scarring and speed healing.

Wounds older than 12 hours are quite likely to be infected. Suturing is questionable.

BITES are heavily contaminated wounds. They are often puncture wounds. They are quite likely to get infected and should not be sutured. Antibiotics are indicated. Most wounds incurred in a cat fight are punctures.

With all animal bites, the possibility of rabies should be kept in mind.


Bandages are more difficult to apply to cats than to dogs and, once applied, are more difficult to keep in place. Cats that do not tolerate bandages and continually remove them may be helped by tranquilization. Wounds about the head and wounds draining pus are best left open to help drainage and ease of treatment.

When a cat claws and macerates a wound or continually scratches at a skin condition, treatment can be facilitated by bandaging its back feet or clipping its nails.

Bandaging is made much easier when a cat is gently but firmly restrained as discussed earlier in this chapter. The bandaging equipment you will need is listed in the Home Emergency and Medical Kit at the beginning of this chapter.

Foot and Leg Bandages: To bandage a foot, place several sterile gauze pads over the wound. Insert cotton balls between the toes and hold in place with adhesive tape looped around the bottom of the foot and back across the top until the foot is snugly wrapped.

For leg wounds, begin by wrapping the foot as described. Then cover the wound with several sterile gauze pads and hold in place with strips of adhesive tape. Wrap the tape around the leg but do not overlap it because you want the tape to stick to the hair. This technique keeps the dressing from sliding up and down, which often happens when only a roll gauze bandage is used. Flex the knee and foot several times to assure that the bandage is not too tight and that there is good circulation and movement at the joints.

When a dressing is to be left in place for some time, check every few hours to be sure the foot is not swelling. If there is any question about the sensation or circulation to the foot, loosen the dressing. Cats will frequently attempt to lick, bite or remove dressings that are too tight and uncomfortable.

Many-Tailed Bandage: This bandage is used to protect the skin of the abdomen, flanks or back from scratching and biting and to hold dressings in place. It is made by taking a rectangular piece of linen and cutting the sides to make tails. Tie the tails together over the back to hold it in place.

A many-tailed bandage may be used to keep kittens from nursing on infected breasts.

A method of applying a foot bandage. Tape loosely to allow for good circulation.
--J. Clawson

Eye bandage.Wrap a gauze roll around the eye. A pad may be placed beneath. Secure with tape to the hair. The ears should be free.
--J. Clawson

Many-tailed bandage.

Elizabethan collar.

Eye Bandage: At times your veterinarian may prescribe an eye bandage in the treatment of an eye ailment. Place a sterile gauze square over the affected eye and hold it in place by taping around the head with one-inch adhesive. Be careful not to get the tape too tight. Apply the dressing so that the ears are free.

You may be required to change the dressing from time to time to apply medication to the eye.

Ear Bandage: These dressings are difficult to apply. Most ear injuries can be left open. To protect the ears from scratching, apply an Elizabethan collar.

Elizabethan Collar: The Elizabethan collar, named for the high neck ruff popular in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, is a useful device to keep a cat from scratching at the ears and biting at wounds and skin problems. These collars can be purchased from some veterinarians or pet stores or can be made from a piece of heavy flexible cardboard. Cut out a circle 12 inches in diameter. In the center, cut out a hole 4 to 5 inches in diameter. Cut out a wedge (like a piece of pie) one quarter of the circumference of the circle. Fit the collar around the cat's neck and secure the sides with adhesive tape. Make sure the collar is not too tight around the neck. Fasten the device to the cat's leather collar by strings passed through holes punched in the sides of the cardboard. Many cats cannot or will not drink while wearing an Elizabethan collar. In that case, temporarily remove the collar. Cats with Elizabethan collars must be kept indoors.

Dr. Dog Note: A viewer of our site commented that the cardboard collar did not work for her cat. However she had success "making one out of a hard plastic large butter dish and another later on out of a Cool Whip dish."


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