Cat abscess is a common complaint that can cause a lot of discomfort for a cat. There are two main types, dental cat abscesses which are a lot like the dental abscesses that we humans can get, and general abscesses which will appear as a lump somewhere on the body. The head and tail are common sites for these lumps but they can be found anywhere.
Both types of abscess are caused by infection. Bacteria such as Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, E. coli and others enter the body and cause a mass of pus to develop.
In the case of dental abscesses there may be gum disease or damage to a tooth. The cat will need dental work which may include removing the affected tooth, and the infection will be treated.
The most common cause of cat abscess on the head, tail or body is an infected wound, often a bite from another cat. This may happen frequently to cats that fight. It is hard to prevent this, although having male cats neutered will make them less likely to fight.
Where the abscess has formed on the body, you will probably notice it quickly while petting or grooming your cat. The lump may feel hard to the touch or you may be able to feel the movement of the liquid pus. Be careful when touching the abscess because it is likely to be very sensitive and the cat may bite or scratch.
There may be a discharge of pus from the abscess, which usually smells bad. It may be yellow or colored orange or reddish by blood. In this case it is better if you do not touch it. Wash your hands with anti bacterial soap if you have any accidental contact with the pus.
You should not try to treat a cat abscess yourself but take your pet to the vet’s office. Vets may take a sample of the pus to establish exactly what the infection is. They may also take X rays to check for any foreign bodies in the wound. However, in many cases they will simply lance the abscess and drain off the pus, if it has not already burst. Often this is done under anesthetic to keep the cat still during the procedure, but it is a very simple operation. The cat will then be treated with antibiotics.
The vet may leave a surgical drain in the body but often times the wound is simply left open. This looks unattractive but allows the abscess to drain completely and it will heal much better than if it were sutured. So trust your vet on this one. You may be advised to keep your pet indoors until the cat abscess has healed completely.