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Cat Fight Abscess

Cat Fight Abscess – also referred to as CFA, is a common occurrence with those that live in a multi cat household or whose cat ventures outside. Fights are inevitable and unavoidable at times, but what exactly is a CFA?

A CFA is an abscess in a localised area that contains pus due to a bacterial infection.

Pus is an accumulation of fluid, toxins, white blood cells – both living and dead, dead tissue and bacteria. The bacteria involved are Staphylococcus a spherical bacteria that form in grape-like clusters and streptococcus a rod shaped bacteria that causes infections.

To prevent the infection from spreading, the body responds by fighting off the infection with a membrane known as a pyogenic membrane.

As the pus induced area starts to grow, it creates tension under the skin, which in turn, inflames the surrounding tissues. As the abscess grows, the skin starts to thin and eventually the abscess will rupture under the pressure and the pus will drain out.

An abscess can form anywhere in the body that includes under the skin, in the mouth due to poor dental hygiene and in the organs such as the pancreas and liver.

The most common abscess are the ones under the skin and you will see this type of abscess more frequently than the other types mentioned.

The majority of cases seen are caused by a puncture wound, which introduces and traps bacteria under the skin thus causing an abscess to form.

Bite marks are the main cause of abscesses as the oral cavity - including the teeth - harbour a huge amount of bacteria and once the skin has been ruptured, it becomes an avenue for the bacteria to enter.

Other causes of abscesses include deep scratch marks, puncture wounds from another species, objects that have penetrated the skin can also cause an abscess, grass seeds, thorns and glass are a few examples.

Types of infections.

There are several types of infections that are caused by cat fights. They include:

Abscess – If the size of the bite is covered by loose skin i.e. neck Cellulitis – If the size of the bite is covered by taught skin i.e. – Foot, tail

Septic Arthritis – Infection of the joint space

Osteomyelitis – Infection of the bone

Pyothorax – infection of the chest

Signs of an abscess

Abscesses can be located anywhere on the body. Usually the owner will notice a behavioral change in the cat that warrants a trip to the vet followed by a foul stench.

The common signs of an abscess include:

Temperate (indicates infection)

Loss of appetite


Painful to the touch

Swollen area


Change in behaviour

Aggression when touched

How to diagnose

Abscesses can be diagnosed with a physical examination. Once the patient’s history has been checked, will narrow down the conclusion. You need to go over the cat thoroughly as abscesses, especially in the early days, are very hard to find. You maybe looking for a puncture wound smaller than a pinhead. If the cat flinches when pressure is being applied to a localised area, chances are the abscess is there. It can take a long time to find a small abscess, but be patient because it will be there.

If the injured cat has not been vaccinated against FeLV or FiV, then it is recommended that the patient receives a test to rule out these infections. All outside cats should be vaccinated against FeLV and FiV.


Cellulitis results from a deep inflammation of the skin in the area of the wound, with each cell in the skin affected. The skin will feel hot to the touch and there will be localized swelling. The surrounding skin will be firm, and almost always a fever will be present. The cat will become lethargic and depressed.

The symptoms for cellulitis and abscesses are almost identical, except there's more pressure in the abscess. Cellulitis occurs in areas of tight skin, such as the tail or feet and cannot be lanced or drained. Untreated, cellulitis will progress into an abscess, so early detection is encouraged.

Septic Arthritis

Septic arthritis is an inflammation of the joint caused by a bacterial infection. It involves inflammation including the presence of a disease-causing organism within the fluid surrounding the joint. It is rare for cats to suffer from Septic Arthritis unless they have a compromised immune system or suffer from diabetes. The infection can occur after a puncture wound, where the joint is exposed to the environment or contaminated by potential pathogens. If the cat has an infection elsewhere in the body, it can sometimes end up inside joint fluid, which can also cause septic arthritis.

Symptoms of septic arthritis include pain, fever, lethargy, depression, joint swelling, and lameness and hot to the touch.


Inflammation of the bone is called Osteomyelitis and occurs due to a bacterial infection from a wound. Infections from other areas of body may reach the bones through the bloodstream, or the infection may come from another infection that is close in proximity to the bone.

Signs include:

Temperate (indicates infection)

Loss of appetite


Painful to the touch

Swollen area


Change in behaviour

Aggression when touched


Osteomyelitis Is considered serious and should be treated as aggressively as possible. The first step when cats are presented with wounds, is to clean the wound and allow the pus to continue draining away from the bone. Surgical removal of dead tissue and sequestra, which are dead fragments of bone, will also be required.

If the infection is bacterial, appropriate antibiotic therapy will be instituted and will be required for an extended period of time. While receiving antibiotic therapy, your pet should also be given a probiotic supplement. (Microbial food supplements, which beneficially affect the host animal by improving its intestinal microbial balance.)


Pyothorax occurs when pus, accumulates in the chest cavity. Pus, which is made up of white blood cells and dead cells, congregate to the site of an infection. Eventually, the white blood cells die, leaving the thick whitish-yellow fluid that is distinctive of pus.

Pus that has accumulated in the chest cavity forms into sacs that line the pleura (serous membranes lining the thorax and enveloping the lungs) resulting in scarring the cavity and severely impairing lung function.

This bacterial infection settles in the cat’s chest cavity from bite wounds and can cause the cats to display respiratory distress, shock and sudden collapse.

The bacteria that causes pyothorax include

• Pasteurella Multocida • Bacteroides • Peptostreptococcus • Fusobacterium

Cats that have developed this condition must be hospitalized for treatment. It may take several days to weeks to fully eradicate this infection. Drainage of the chest cavity through a tube is critical; otherwise, the condition cannot be resolved. The chest cavity will need to be rinsed out (through the chest tube) every six hours with warm, sterile saline.

Antibiotics and pain medication will be administered. An antibiotic regimen should be continued for at least a month after the infection has cleared. While there may be some lung damage remaining within the chest cavity, prognosis is fair to excellent if owners follow procedure correctly.

Pyothorax is a serious condition that can be fatal if not treated promptly.

The International School Of Veterinary Nursing has the leading edge in anatomy, physiology, pathology, radiology, surgery and dentistry. For more information go to

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