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Q: My cat nailed me with her teeth recently, and I got an infection. How can I prevent future bites?

A: Ouch! Cat bites are not only painful, they are scary because they have the potential to become infected within hours. Anytime a cat bites, it's essential to clean the wound with soap and water and see a doctor immediately.

Let's hope this was a one-time occurrence. If you know why the bite occurred — for instance, you pet your cat for too long or on an area where she doesn't like being touched, such as the belly — don't do that again. But if you live with a bitey kitty, here are some tips to help you avoid those razor-sharp fangs.

  • Respect your cat's limits. Many cat bites are the result of pushing an interaction just seconds too long. Signs that a cat is getting edgy include tail swishing, crouching, ears rotated back or lowered, dilated pupils and hair standing on end. Tune in and end an interaction before your cat reaches her breaking point.
  • Freeze! If your cat does go after you, think fast to prevent serious injury. First, if you are holding it, let go. Second, don't move. Your cat's instincts are to fight until it wins, and lack of movement tells it you're not a threat anymore.
  • Get yourself to a doctor. Because cats carry bacteria on their claws, a high percentage of scratches become infected. If you get scratched or bitten, you'll likely need antibiotics to heal. Better to head things off at the pass by calling your doctor sooner rather than later. Cat scratches and bites can lead to nasty infections, disease and even hospitalization.

If the situation doesn't improve, ask your veterinarian for a referral to a veterinary behaviorist.

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