Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and author of the online dog training course "Brain Training for Dogs."
How to Help Injured Stray Cats
A stray cat may have seven lives, but because they tend to live on the wild side, it is not unusual for them to acquire injuries in their lifetime. A cat may have gotten into a fight, scratched its skin against barbwire, or worse—they may have gotten into a car accident. The protocol for tending to the wounds of a stray cat remains the same as that of a domestic cat; however, it requires an extra ounce of care.
What to Consider Before Caring for a Stray Cat
1. Safety First
If the cat is feral, many times it is best to simply call animal control or your local shelter. They are equipped with special cages and other equipment to restrain the cat and then provide it with the care it needs. Some stray cats can be hard to capture and may display aggressive behaviors, especially when they are hurt.
2. Assess the Injury
If the cat appears to have a good disposition and is friendly, you will want to assess the cat's injury first. If the injury appears to be bleeding extensively, if the cat is unable to walk, if there are signs of infection such as pus or odor, or if there is a large gap suggesting the need for sutures, try to place the cat in a carrier and take it to the closest veterinarian.
3. Wear Gloves
It is best to wear heavy-duty gloves when interacting with a feral cat because the cat may not be used to human touch and, therefore, may not understand that you are there to help. Cat bites can be serious because of the bacteria in their saliva and their needle-point teeth, significantly upping the chances for infection. Also, you never know the history of a cat. Though not as common, some cats could carry rabies (a deadly virus that is transmittable to humans).
If you own other cats, do not to take this cat into your home. Stray cats may transmit serious diseases and viruses such as distemper, feline leukemia, coronavirus, and so forth. So, keep your cats safe and far from harm's way.
First Aid: How to Care for a Wounded Cat
- If the wound is bleeding, apply firm pressure with sterile gauze for a few minutes to halt the bleeding. (A little bit of blood may help the body flush the bacteria out.)
- Some of the fur around the wound may be trimmed to help prevent infection and make the area easier to clean. This also increases airflow and may make recovery easier.
- Flush the wound with clean water or sterile saline, and if possible, wash it with some antibacterial soap to help clean the area and remove any bacteria or debris. It is sometimes okay to rinse the wound with diluted hydrogen peroxide and water if nothing else is available; however, undiluted hydrogen peroxide is actually cytotoxic and can damage tissue.
- Finally, a thin layer of cat-safe antibacterial ointment may be applied to prevent infection.
Should I Cover the Wound?
Wounds do best if left uncovered, but this often means that cats may abide by their natural instinct of licking the wound. An Elizabethan collar may be fit around the cat's neck if they will tolerate it and you can monitor them safely indoors.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: My cat was bitten by a stray cat and now my cat is not eating anything. How can I help my cat regain her appetite in spite of this wound?
Answer: Most bite wounds become infected due to saliva rich with bacteria being trapped deep in the skin and therefore antibiotics may be required. An abscess can be serious. Please see your vet.
© 2009 Adrienne Farricelli
Haydee Mato on July 10, 2020:
One of our yard cats has a serious injury, but I don't know what happened, maybe got into it with a raccoon. Upper skin/fur layer behind her right ear is gone (about 2 1/2 round). She is part of a colony of 4 cats, they are all fixed. She eats every day...hangs out....cleans her injury, and comes back in the afternoon to eat again.
The wound seeps watery and she cleans it when necessary, but I'm sure she also scratches at it. We tried to trap her but since she was trapped for spaying, as soon as she saw the trap, she split like a bolt. Please help! Thank you!
LINDA L TUTTLE on March 19, 2020:
IT IS SO DIFFICULT TO PROVIDE MEDICAL CARE TO STRAY CATS. AS A NURSE, I FEEL SO BAD WHEN I CANNOT DO ANYTHING. WE HAVE 2 STRAYS THAT WE FEED REGULARLY. ONE HAS BEEN IN A FIGHT AND HAS A WOUND BEHIND HER EAR. THESE 2 CATS DO NOT COME UP TO US. I AM TEMPTED TO TRY AND USE FOOD OR TREATS TO GET THE WOUNDED CAT, "POLLY" NEAR ENOUGH TO TRY AND TREAT HER WOUND. ANY SUGGESTIONS?
Pat on February 07, 2019:
This cat has a serious injury, but I don't know what happened. Upper skin/fur layer is gone about 2 1/2 inches wide.length and width....happened about 3rd Feb. I can't pick him up this way, but he comes a couple times a day...hangs around....cleans his injury. Eats kibble and turkey lunchmeat and yogurt. Not as much as usual but does have an appetite. He's not limping. The wound seeps watery and he cleans it when necessary. The upper layer of skin with fur is just staying there but not attached around the wound. Please help! Thank you!
Lucy Hightree on August 09, 2018:
Hi! New here. Not new to cats though. I just brought in a very docile stray cat. Scabs all over. I've washed her once, and things seem a little better.
I have her in a bathroom. Is that safe enough to prevent feline him or leukemia from my other cat? I'd like to keep her... I'm poor!!!! I don't know where to start...
Sandra on August 04, 2018:
An outside cat was dumped on me it left come back with a wound on neck hide is gone raw meat showing appears no infection?! How can I treat. He let's me and no one else pet and live him he had beautiful hair I only wish you knew how beautiful this cat once was. He's a msinecoon I believe I'm not a cat person just a lover of animals. Help me please
Hannah on December 26, 2017:
This stray cat is very friendly and is very attacthed to me. He didn't return the whole day and when he came back in the eveneing today, he hada wound on his back leg, with puss in it, i applied vaseline that he licked away but i don't know what to do, small portion of meat is missing from there. Guide me so i can treat him correctly. VET around my neighborhood don't treat strays -.- so do guide me what should i do. Should i put pyodine and wrap it in a cloth or should i leave it open?
Helen C ain on July 13, 2010:
A stray cat has been hanging around and I am feeding him and putting out water. He has lost weight and has some discharge around his mouth. (Now dry) His eye may be infected and ozing inside. What can I give him to help him?
advisor4qb from On New Footing on July 13, 2009:
Yet another helpful and interesting hub! Thanks!