Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: In a new and strange place
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Cat bites can be serious things, but not because of tetanus. The bacteria in a cats mouth can cause major infection in a wound, especially a puncture wound. In my days of being a vet tech, I have had many a cat bite, but managed not to need abx for any of them (including one through my fingernail into the nail bed-ouch!). One of the most important things to do when you get a cat bite is to *immediately* wash with soap under running water, and squeeze the area to encourage bleeding (helps get the bacteria out). I would continue this for about 5 minutes or so. As the wound is healing keep a very close eye on any swelling or signs of infection, and I would put some antibacterial ointment on it (but BM would be great!). I can usually get away with eventual mild swelling under the wound and some pink coloration and warmth of the skin as long at it doesn't start up right away, but would not recommend someone without experience with cat bites to let it get too bad. They can get bad quickly. Most definitely go to the doctor if you see purple/red streaks under the skin, moving away from the wound, this can indicate blood poisoning and will need treatment ASAP.
Aside from the infection issue from the cat's saliva, there is also the question of the cat's rabies status. Any bite by a cat or dog needs to be reported. If you know the owner of the cat well, they can get with their vet for the proper procedure. If the cat is up-to-date on rabies vaccine, all they should need is a 10-day in-home quarantine (that means no exposure to any other people or kids). If the owner will not cooperate with you, you can contact animal control to initiate the bite report proceedings. Rabies is rare, but pretty much 100% fatal, and not eradicated from our domestic pet population. There have been cute little kittens in shelters with rabies, resulting in a lot of people exposed to get rabies prophylaxis (which isn't fun).
If it's been a day or so and there are no signs of infection and wasn't all that deep, I wouldn't be too concerned, but still keep an eye on it to be on the safe side.