Cellulitis and Abscesses in Cats - Symptoms, Types and Treatments
In this article
Cellulitis is an inflammation
involving the deep layers of the skin. Most cases are caused by animal bites or
scratches (such as wounds inflicted during cat fights). Puncture wounds
allow bacteria to become established beneath the epidermis. Infection can be
prevented in many fresh wounds if proper care is taken within the first few
The signs of skin cellulitis include pain (tenderness to pressure), warmth
(it feels hotter than normal), firmness (it’s not as soft as it should be), and
change in color (it appears redder than it should be). As the infection spreads
from the wound into the lymphatic system, you may see red streaks in the skin
and be able to feel enlarged lymph nodes in the groin, armpit, or neck.
First discovered in the 1960s, feline leukemia virus is a transmittable RNA retrovirus that can severely inhibit a cat’s immune system. It is one of the most commonly diagnosed causes of disease and death in domestic cats.
Because the virus doesn’t always manifest symptoms right away, any new cat entering a household-and any sick cat-should be tested for FeLV.
Skin abscesses are localized pockets of pus beneath the surface of the skin.
Pimples, pustules, furuncles, and boils are examples of small abscesses. The
signs are the same as those for cellulitis, except that an abscess feels like fluid under pressure.
Treatment: Localize the infection by clipping away the hair and applying
warm soaks three times a day for 15 minutes each. If hot packs are
applied to an area of cellulitis, the heat and moisture assist the natural
defenses of the body to surround the infection and make it come to a head. The
skin over the top of an abscess thins out and ruptures, allowing the pus to be
evacuated. Then the pocket heals from below. Ideally, an abscess should be kept
open so that it heals from the inside out and does not close over prematurely,
in which case a secondary abscess will form.
Pimples, pustules, furuncles, boils, and other small abscesses that do not
drain spontaneously need to be lanced by your veterinarian. He or she will
flush the cavity with a dilute antiseptic solution to keep it open and draining
until it heals from below. Foreign bodies (such as splinters) beneath the skin
must be removed with forceps because they are a continuous source of
Antibiotics are used to treat wound infections,
cellulitis, and abscesses. Most skin bacteria respond well to a variety of
antibiotics, but cultures and antibiotic sensitivity tests may be needed to
select the best drug.
WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"