Abscesses in cats: how to avoid them?

Abscesses are very common in veterinary medicine. Cats are more affected than dogs because of their behavior and their commensal flora. It is important to know how to recognize an abscess and to quickly consult a veterinarian because management generally involves surgery and medical treatment.

What is an abscess?

An abscess is a lump filled with pus that forms under the skin or in organs. It is one of the consequences of the immune response produced by the body following an infection. Indeed, the mechanism of fight against microbes by immune cells will lead to the death of certain skin, blood and microbial cells (we then speak of cellular and/or tissue necrosis). The accumulation of these wastes will then form pus.

What are the symptoms of an abscess?

  • On palpation, there is presence of a masse more or less large, more or less soft and generally hot under the animal’s skin.
  • The palpation of this one is generally painful.
  • The animal has or has had a wound or bite marks: this is often the entry point for the infection.
  • If the wound is on a limb, the animal may limp intensely.
  • The cat is in hyperthermiaie he has a temperature, and seems tired.
  • During its evolution, the affected area loses its hair and the skin changes appearance. It can go as far as necrosis in the absence of care.
  • Once mature, the abscess can burst. Pus flows and the wound usually smells very bad.

As soon as you see your animal with one or more of these symptoms, you must call your veterinarian to take care of it quickly.


As mentioned above, the skin surrounding the abscess is often necrotic. However, healing can only occur on healthy skin. It is therefore necessary to carry out a minor surgery to empty the abscess, remove the necrotic pieces and put the healthy skin back in contact.

When the abscess is really large and has created too large a cavity, the veterinarian can place a drain that will allow the remaining serum to drain away. This can remain in place for 48 hours.
Similarly, the skin is often partially closed with a suture or staples, which will then have to be removed according to the recommendations of your veterinarian.

This type of surgery is done under general anesthesia or with strong tranquilization coupled with significant analgesia (pain management).


Depending on the condition of the animal and its injury, the veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to fight the bacteria that caused the infection, as well as painkillers. Like all treatments, it is necessary to respect their dosages and the duration of each treatment.


Wearing a collar is often essential to prevent the animal from licking the wound, which would delay healing and could lead to a recurrence.

Common causes of abscess


Cats are territorial animals which, according to their character, do not hesitate to choose direct confrontation to show the neighboring cat that they are going beyond their limits. Their claws and teeth carry many bacteria that will contaminate the tissues during the bite/scratch. Fights between cats cause bites and scratches mainly on the head, limbs, tail and the evolution into an abscess is almost systematic.

Foreign bodies

In summer it is not uncommon to find spikelets inside an abscess. These small, sharp blades of grass penetrate the skin and gradually sink deeper into the flesh. As they are composed of non-degradable materials, they will create a very persistent and painful inflammation: this is how an abscess can also form.

Other types of foreign bodies can cause abscesses such as pieces of glass, scrap metal, etc.

Regarding territorial fights, it is strongly recommended to castrate male cats. Indeed, these jealously watch over their territory and attack all foreign cats. This phenomenon is even more pronounced during breeding periods because the males will then fight to conquer the females.

Regarding spikelets and foreign bodies, special attention must be paid to sensitive areas and they must be monitored very closely. For example, for the legs, you have to spread your fingers well, cut the small wads of hair and remove the slightest bit of straw that you might see.

In conclusion, you must regularly tickle your animal in search of traces of fights, spikelets or injuries. If a suspicious area is discovered, disinfect the wound and promptly contact your veterinarian.

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