If your cat has fought with a rival feline or bad fall, they’ll likely have cuts and grazes. Outdoor cats often return home with wounds and scrapes on their skin, proceeding to lick at them to remove any dirt and heal the lesion. There are pros and cons to a cat licking its wounds.
Cats don’t want your help in cleaning up their wounds as they are proud and independent animals. However, what a cat wants and what is good for a cat’s health are often very different matters. We’ll now explain why felines should not be permitted to lick their wounds.
- 1 Why Do Cats Lick Their Wounds?
- 2 Does Cat Saliva Heal Wounds?
- 3 Should a Cat Lick an Open Wound?
- 4 Why Do Cats Lick Open Wounds to Excess?
- 5 How to Stop a Cat Licking Their Wounds
- 6 How to Heal an Open Wound on a Cat
- 7 My Cat Keeps Licking Their Stitches
Why Do Cats Lick Their Wounds?
Cats are scrappy and hardy, but they are not stupid. If your pet gets into a fight and is wounded, they’ll know they need treatment.
This poses a problem for a typical feline. Their paws cannot operate a first aid kit, or bandage their injuries. All the same, they understand that open wounds must be addressed.
Cats like to remain undetected from anything around them. Bleeding will make this impossible. Not only will it leave a trail, but blood has a strong, distinctive scent.
Of course, there’s another thing that needs to be addressed here. Open wounds are frequently sore and painful. Your cat will be in some discomfort.
Your cat licking their wounds can theoretically resolve all of these issues.
- By licking their wound, cats also clean themselves up. This removes any lingering scents that could be detected by predators.
- Licking is self-soothing for cats. They’ll ease pain caused by the wound by licking themselves.
- Feline saliva can heal wounds.
All of this suggests that cats should be left to their own devices. If they can heal their wounds and ease their pain, why shouldn’t they?
Why Doesn’t My Cat Come to Me for Wound Care?
They don’t want to tell their humans that they’re in pain. As far as they’re concerned, you’re just another cat. As a result, you may steal their territory of they show any sign of weakness.
Even worse, you may pack them up in a cat carrier and take them to the vet. Cats are so independent that they’ll always try to resolve a problem themselves.
If they have a good relationship with another cat in the home, they may ask for help. This is rare, though. Implicit trust and observation of social hierarchy will need to be placed between the cats.
All the same, licking will quickly follow as your pet attempts to resolve their injury problems.
My Cat is Injured, and I Can’t Find Them
A cat will not want you to know that they’re injured. This means that they’ll hide.
If you believe that your cat is hurt, it’s essential to track them down. They may need first aid. What’s more, they may be hiding in an unsafe location.
Take your garage as an example. An injured cat may seek solitude in such a location. They know you don’t head out there much.
However, it will also be filled with potentially dangerous chemicals. If your cat starts licking their wound, they may accidentally ingest these.
What’s more, most garage floors are dirty. This grime could easily get into your cat’s open wound.
It can be tough to find a cat in the house, but it’s important. Your cat may not want your help, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need it. Get to them, and take the necessary action.
Does Cat Saliva Heal Wounds?
Cat saliva does have wound-healing properties. That isn’t a myth. Some of the healing properties of feline saliva include:
- Opiorphin, a chemical compound that acts as a natural painkiller.
- Thrombospondin, an antiviral protein.
- Lysozyme and peroxidase, enzymes that battle bacteria. Lactoferrin, cystatins, and defensins are also present, and serve the same purpose.
- Epidermal growth factor, which encourages healing of an open wound.
All this sounds great. On paper, it means that you should permit your cat to lick their wounds? The answer is no for a multitude of reasons.
Should a Cat Lick an Open Wound?
If your cat licks their wound briefly, it’s not the end of the world. They may just be cleaning it up. Cat’s tongues are rough, because they are covered in tiny barbs. These will collect and remove any dirt in the wound.
Despite these qualities, licking wounds should be deterred. The reasons for this are as follows:
- Cat’s mouths contain more bacteria than their saliva can combat. This makes infection of an open wound likely.
- A cat can lick a wound to excess. This can quickly aggravate a problem. Also, it can become a compulsion that a cat struggles to contain.
Infection in an open wound can become a severe issue. If bacteria gains access to the body through the wound, it can reach the bloodstream.
This, in turn, means that bacteria are carried throughout the body, infecting and damaging organs.
Why are Cat’s Mouthes So Dirty?
Cats are clean animals, so it’s hard to imagine any part of them being filthy. This does not change the fact that most felines have mouths filled with bacteria, though.
A big part of this is because your pet uses their mouth so much. Cats explore the world by tasting various things. Naturally, some of what they encounter will be unclean, especially outside.
Also, think about whether your cat is a hunter. If your pet brings you home vermin, they will have been killed with your cat’s teeth.
It’s no secret that rodents carry any number of diseases and infections. Your cat will have exposed their mouth to all kinds of unpleasantness. Just because your pet isn’t sick, it doesn’t make their mouth fresh and safe. Brushing your cat’s teeth will help with this.
This doesn’t mean that cats are safe to heal their injuries, though. Your pet will continuously find ways to get their mouths dirty again.
Why Do Cats Lick Open Wounds to Excess?
Cats find licking to be quite soothing. As a result, licking an open wound will feel good. It eases pain, and provides a comforting sensation.
We’re not advocating leaving your cat in pain. If a small amount of licking helps, then stand by. Cats will also still need to groom themselves.
You’ll have to be observant and ready to step in when it goes too far, though. If your cat shows any signs of thinning hair or red skin, they’re licking too much.
Once your cat gets a taste for licking, they’ll keep at it. They’ll likely continue long after the injury has healed, as it’s become a habit. This risks re-opening the wound.
This feels good at the moment, but it causes many longer-term issues. Keep an eye on your cat, and help them stay healthy.
My Cat is Licking an Open Wound Raw
If your cat is licking this much, it’s likely due to compulsion. What started as a positive experience has now become a habit that your pet cannot break.
Your cat may also be behaving this way due to anxiety. Whatever caused their wound, it was likely a frightening experience to be injured. Your pet may be self-soothing to calm down.
If this is the case, you’ll need to keep your cat calm in other ways. Try the following:
- Speak in a low, soothing and slow voice. Cats pick up on nervous energy from humans.
- Apply scents around the house that calm cats down. Lavender and chamomile can work.
- Play mid-tempo classical music. This is believed to slow and calm a cat’s heart rate.
- Ensure that your cat has at least one safe space that they can easily access. This area must be your pet’s sacred domain, where they will never be disturbed.
- Ensure that your cat is in a strict, unbreakable routine. This means feeding and playing with them at the same time every day.
If your cat seems determined to lick a wound raw, it may be worth seeing a vet. This behavior suggests that the injury site is causing irritation.
This may be just an itch. You have surely felt the itchy sensation of a healing scab before. In such an instance, your cat needs to leave the wound well alone.
Your cat may be living with inflammation or infection at the wound site. This will need to be dealt with through medication.
How to Stop a Cat Licking Their Wounds
This can be a tricky balancing act. Injured or not, your cat will always have a natural urge to groom themselves.
Denying a feline the ability to groom can cause them a great deal of stress. In addition, if your cat has an open wound, their instinct will be to clean it.
This is fine in short, small doses. Any more than this does more harm than good. If you are to convince your cat not to lick their wound, you’ll need to clean it for them.
Of course, this is only half the battle. Once you have cleaned your cat’s wound, you need to stop them licking until it’s healed. This will require the assistance of external materials.
How to Heal an Open Wound on a Cat
A cat’s wound will need to heal by itself. You will not be able to fix the issue immediately. You can, however, clean up the wound minimize the risk of further damage. To achieve this:
- Assess the wound. If you are comfortable that you can deal with it yourself, continue. If you have concerns about the depth or severity of the injury, seek professional help.
- If required, trim hair from the injured area using clippers. This will prevent fur from growing inside the wound.
- Rinse the wound with plain tap water. This will rid the area of dust, dirt and other unwelcome intrusions.
- Apply a cat-safe antiseptic to the wound to banish any stubborn bacteria. Cat World has a list of products that non-toxic to felines.
- Pat the area dry. Once you’re confident that the area is dry, apply a bandage.
You’ll also need to monitor the site of your cat’s wound. Do this at least once a day, and ensure that it is healing appropriately. Ensure that your cat is not licking the wound through a bandage.
How Long Does it Take a Cat to Heal an Open Wound?
This depends on the severity of the wound. How your cat was injured also plays a part. Any infection will naturally slow the process down, too.
Most non-serious open wounds on a cat will heal within a week. Non-serious means a cut that does not lead to any significant blood loss, and is not deep enough to cause concern.
As the Mar Vista Animal Center explains, there are four cat wound healing stages. These consist of:
Inflammation begins as soon as you start treating your cat’s wound. Blood clots start to form to slow down the bleeding. It’s advisable to prevent them from doing so. At this critical stage, mouth bacteria can be very harmful.
Debridement begins not long afterward. This involves any undesirable bacteria being discharged from the wound as pus. Your cat will want to lick at this, but again, prevent them from doing so.
Within a day or two, the wound will start to repair itself. This will involve the site of the injury shrinking as new flesh is generating. This is also when the cat’s skin will begin to scab over.
This phase will itch and tickle. Avoid letting your cat lick this scab, and certainly stop them scratching and biting. The skin needs to be permitted to heal appropriately.
Finally, your cat will heal completely. A minor injury will see the skin return to its former strength. A more substantial wound will heal to around 80% of its previous vigor.
What to Use to Prevent a Cat from Licking a Wound
Once you have covered up an open wound on a cat, you’ll need to deter them from licking it. The most effective way of achieving this is by applying a taste-deterrent flavor to any bandage.
You can pick up products that will provide this service at a pet store. Alternatively, apply a citrus aroma. Be careful with this, though. If you use a fresh lemon, it may seep into the wound.
If all else fails, you’ll need to prevent your cat from gaining access to the wound. You have two options for this; an Elizabethan collar (aka the collar of shame), or clothing.
Once extremely commonplace, Elizabethan collars are used less now. This is due to the restriction they place upon a cat’s mobility. A vet will be able to provide one upon request, however.
Clothing is easier to manage. You could apply a sweater from a pet store, or ask a vet for a medical onesie. This will cover the wound, and prevent your cat from gaining access to lick.
My Cat Keeps Licking Their Stitches
Stitches and sutures are a common treatment for injuries in cats. They will not be necessary for a minor cut. More substantial wounds will need to be stitched up, however. Cats will also require stitches after surgery.
A common issue for pet owners is a cat licking stitches after spaying. This will be a result of your cat’s skin itching. Your cat will also instinctively attempt to clean the impacted area.
You must prevent your cat from licking stitches as licking leads to chewing. This will see the stitches eventually falling out. This will not do.
You could use an Elizabethan collar or clothing, as we have previously discussed. Alternatively, resort to traditional corrective training.
This must be handled carefully, though. The negative stimulus will be unwelcome, and potentially harmful.
Most stitches are removed after two weeks. Beyond this, your cat can lick and groom themselves at their leisure. Keep an eye on them, and ensure that licking does not become obsessive.
Once a wound is covered with a bandage, access to your cat’s tongue is restricted. This, in turn, allows a wound to heal unencumbered.
Tempting though it will be for your cat to lick their wounds, stop them from doing so. They’ll be grumpy initially, but they’ll thank you when the injury heals without infection.