Causes of Cat Wounds

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. August 12, 2018
Causes of Cat Wounds

See files for Cats

Some of the wounds we see on a cat's skin might be superficial and not cause much concern. They could be from being scratched on a fence or something else relatively innocuous. However, different wounds have different causes and they may not seem to heal as well as we think they should. The multiple causes of open wounds on a cat include parasitical reactions, wounds from fighting other cats, allergic reactions, various infections or even serious pathologies such as tumors.

The various causes of wounds in cats are detailed here on AnimalWised, but it is important to know that only a vet can give an accurate diagnosis. They will carry out a full examination and may even administer tests to find out if there is a root cause or infection which needs to be addressed.

You may also be interested in: My Cat's Wound Is Not Healing

Bite wounds on a cat

Perhaps the simplest explanation of why a cat has a wound on their skin is due to fighting. Cats are territorial animals and will defend their patch if they feel like another cat is encroaching on it. Fighting with other animals is also not uncommon if the cat feels threatened. Male cats are more likely to fight, particularly if they are unneutered. This is because their hormones make them more aggressive, even more so if there is a female in heat in close proximity. The cats don't always have to be truly aggressive as they may just get carried away while play fighting.

The wounds during these attacks are usually quite superficial. Often a fight will not even occur as the dominant cat will scare the submissive one away. However, if they do fight and injuries occur, there are issues which can arise. They mainly occur due to the wound not healing correctly or becoming infected. If this is the case a feline percutaneous abscess may present. This is when the cut becomes infected and an abscess which needs to be drained and/or removed occurs. Most cat bites and scratches, however, will scab over and heal easily.

If we see an open wound on our cat, we can disinfect them with an appropriate feline disinfectant. However, if we see that the wound is deep then we should take them to the vet. If an abscess has formed, then we definitely need to take them. They may need to stitch the wound, drain the abscess or provide antibiotics to fight infection. If you want to know more about how to treat superficial wounds in cats, you can take a look at this article on feline first aid to find a feline friendly disinfectant.

Cats which have been hit by a car and sustained blunt force trauma may also have wounds on their skin. Even if they don't have many obvious wounds on their skin, you should always take a cat who has been hit by a car to the vet. This is because they may have internal injuries or brain injuries which may not seem immediately evident.

Causes of Cat Wounds - Bite wounds on a cat

Skin infection in cats

Another reason for wounds on a cat's skin can be due to skin reactions or skin conditions. The skin condition doesn't usually cause wounds directly, although it is a possibility. Often, the accompanying itch of the skin problem leads to the cat scratching or biting the affected areas and opening the skin in the process. This can lead to alopecia (patches of hair missing), cuts, scabs or even ulcers. These patterns of skin reactions have different causes, but the following stand out:

  • Self-inflicted hypotrichosis: this disorder involves hair-loss, but it is also responsible for a condition known as itchy facial dermatitis. A symptom of this condition is the appearance of wounds on the face. This condition seems to appear most commonly in Persian cats in the form of idiopathic facial dermatitis. This means the reason for its appearance is relatively unknown, making it’s treatment difficult. However, there have been reported cases of successful treatment with cyclosporine[1]. It happens more commonly in younger cats.
  • Miliary dermatitis: this skin reaction produces variable pruritus (itching of the skin) and manifests itself on tiny wounds on the skin, especially on the neck and head. Scratching can cause alopecia and other skin problems. Miliary dermatitis develops due to allergic reactions, parasitical infestations, skin infections and other causes.
  • Eosinophilic granuloma complex: this is a form of skin reaction pattern which can present in different ways. An eosinophilic ulcer is possible, but can occur with varying degrees of intensity. Most common is eosinophilic plaque which appears as a rash which can develop into sore lesions. Hypersensitivity to mosquitoes can be the cause, but sometimes the skin condition is also idiopathic.

Wounds on a cat's skin caused by parasites

There are several types of parasite which can explain why our cat has wounds on their skin, whether open or scabbed over. The most common are:

  • Fleas: these tiny insects jump from host to host and bite the skin to feed on blood. This process causes itching and it is common to result in wounds or alopecia. The lumbosacral area of the small of the back and neck are most commonly affected. The fleas and their remains can be seen with the naked eye and need to be treated with anti-parasitical products.
  • Ticks: these arthropods mainly attack cats which have access to the outside world. If we do not see the cat being bitten by the tick, we might see evidence which suggests a bite site. These include areas with finer skin such as the ears, the neck or on the paws. We might see small bumps or even scabs on the cat's skin which correspond to the tick bite. It is necessary to see a veterinarian to confirm a tick bite if we suspect one.
  • Mites: mites are responsible for the disease scabies which is zoonotic (i.e. can be passed on to humans). it is characterized by intense itching, especially in the head region. However, it can migrate to other parts of the body. The mite Otodectes cynotis affects the ears, especially in younger cats. This can lead to otitis which produces a visible dark brown discharge. The Neotrombicula autumnalis shows itself as orange spots which cause a lot of itching and crusting. They can be eliminated with an anti-parasitic treatment once the vet has confirmed diagnosis.
Causes of Cat Wounds - Wounds on a cat's skin caused by parasites

Cat allergy wounds

A hypersensitivity to certain substances may explain why a cat has wounds on their skin. While we have already discussed how fleas can irritate a cat's skin, there is another way by which they can do the same. Some cats are allergic to the saliva of fleas and even a single bite can trigger a reaction which leads to wounds on their neck and lumbosacral area. This usually occurs between 3 and 6 years of age. As we state above, the use of anti-parasitics is essential.

Atopic dermatitis has a genetic predisposition, but it can be stimulated by food borne allergens. In these cases, the vet will need to be seen to confirm a diagnosis and initiate the correct treatment. Atopic dermatitis usually appears in animals under 3 years of age. It will always be accompanied by itching, but may occur in a localized or generalized way. Coughing, sneezing or conjunctivitis may also occur. The diagnosis is confirm by an elimination diet where the allergen is detected.

Causes of Cat Wounds - Cat allergy wounds

Cat skin wounds due to infection

Both bacterial and fungal infections could be the root cause of skin wounds on a cat. Some of these infections also explain the presence of sores on the skin as happens with pyoderma (pustulous skin infections). There are too many possible skin infections to list here, but the following are some common offenders:

  • Feline acne: this usually presents as black spots under the chin, but can progress to pustules. This requires disinfection and veterinary treatment. It can appear at any age.
  • Ringworm: probably the most well-known feline disease with the ability to infect humans. Although it usually presents as localized alopecia, it can also look very similar to miliary dermatitis or eosinophilic granuloma. It requires veterinary treatment and follow up hygiene measures to avoid contagion. It is most frequent in kittens, malnourished or sick cats.
  • Panniculitis: the inflammation of adipose tissues which produces discharging ulcers. As there are several causes of this inflammation, treatment will depends on its origin.
Causes of Cat Wounds - Cat skin wounds due to infection

Skin wounds on cats with cancer

Some tumor developments can also explain why a cat has wounds on their skin. Cats can get a type of malignant tumor known as a squamous cell carcinoma, something which appears on the nose, eyelids or ears. It is caused by the sun and is often localized to these areas as they are covered with the least hair. It first appears as a scab, but carcinoma can appear if the exposure is prolonged and treatment is not given.

Any eruption should be checked by the veterinarian as prognoses tend to improve with earlier diagnoses. It is necessary to keep the cat out of the sun and severe cases will require surgery. The risk heightens depending on the area on which it presents.

Causes of Cat Wounds - Skin wounds on cats with cancer

Diagnostic tests to see why a cat has skin wounds

Once we have seen the presence of wounds on a cat's skin, the vet will need to run diagnostic tests to discover the cause. They are the only ones who will be able to confirm a diagnosis, especially as many share symptoms. Among the tests to include are the following:

  • Sampling
  • Cutaneous (skin) scraping
  • Ear examination
  • Microscopic visualization of the hair
  • Cytological study
  • Observation with Wood's lamp
  • Biopsy
  • X-ray or sonogram

It is very important not to treat an animal with wounds on a cat's skin at home, other than aforementioned superficial cuts. This is because home treatment can often mean that the actual cause is not determined leading to a worsening of the clinical picture as well as the potential spread of many serious pathogens.

Causes of Cat Wounds - Diagnostic tests to see why a cat has skin wounds

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Causes of Cat Wounds, we recommend you visit our Skin problems category.


Write a comment

Add an image
Click to attach a photo related to your comment
What did you think of this article?
Causes of Cat Wounds
1 of 7
Causes of Cat Wounds

Back to top