Cat Abscess: a Complete Guide to Effective Treatments

The Animalista Abscesses in cats treatment
By: Chris
An abscess in cats resemble open sores or painful swelling on your cat's skin. There may or may not be oozing foul-smelling pus which might include blood. Abscesses in cats treatment would typically involve the use of antibiotics and dental extraction if it’s a dental abscess.

Dealing with cat abscess can be difficult, as it’s often not clear what the problem may be. Abscesses are pretty common with cats, and there are several reasons why these localized pockets of pus may appear. However, knowing what signs to look out for and how to go about abscesses in cat treatment goes a long way in keeping a healthy and happy cat.

What is an Abscess?

The Animalista visible abscess on cat's neck

The simple definition of an abscess is a “pocket of pus”. That develops when your cat gets punctured or scratched by other cats, animals, or objects. This injury results in an inflammatory reaction causing cells to liquify into pus, breaking through the surface of the skin leading to pain, foul odor and discharge. In some cases, these abscesses are hidden underneath the cat’s body, with no obvious signs of swelling, while in others, they can grow so large that they burst, causing the pus to leak out. 

Common Causes of Cat Abscess

There are many potential causes of abscess in cat, but most commonly is a bite from another animal. The bite introduces bacteria to the wound, and depending on the depth of the bite and the bacteria involved, an abscess may result. In addition to bites, penetrating injuries from inanimate objects like sticks or other sharp objects can create cuts, leading to an abscess. Bacteria species notorious for resulting in abscesses include: 

  • Pus-forming bacteria like Staphylococcus, Streptococcus species, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas, Corynebacterium, Mycoplasma, Nocardia, Pasteurella multocida, Actinomyces, and Bartonella. 

Bacteria that thrive and grow only in the absence of oxygen, including Fusobacterium, Clostridium, and Bacteroides. Dental abscesses which result from the buildup of bacteria on the surface of a tooth results in the inflammation of gums and eventually, gingivitis. The accumulation of bacteria on the surface of the teeth causes plaque and, sometimes, abscesses under the gumline. If the bacteria get into the root canal of a broken or diseased tooth, it can result in tooth root abscess. Dental abscess is common in cats, but sadly, it’s difficult for the regular cat owner to notice when it occurs. 

Signs of an Abscess in a Cat

The Animalista abscess on cat waiting for treatment

Abscess often appears as open sores or swellings on the skin of your cat. Although they can go unseen inside the body, mouth, or under the gums. As a skin swelling, it looks just like a lump, and if the abscess is sustained. It may cause the skin to start oozing pus resulting in a foul smell around the area. 

If the abscess is inside the mouth, it may cause in the cat not eating or drinking for 3 days, cause it to develop bad breath, and become lethargic. If the abscess is inside the body, it may result in lethargy and decreased appetite. When systemic, it causes the cat to develop a fever. 

Common signs to watch out for include: 

  • Localized swelling
  • Foul smell
  • Bad breath
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Oozing from swelling
  • Lack of appetite

Diagnosing Cat Abscess

Typically, when you arrive at the veterinarian’s, they would perform a diagnosis of the abscess and the cat’s health overall. They may stick a needle with a syringe in the pus to see what’s inside. If the abscess is open and draining, the veterinarian would be able to treat your cat without sedating it. But if the abscess is closed, your veterinarian may have to sedate your cat and lance the abscess. 

If a dental abscess is suspected, the cat’s mouth is examined for evidence of pus. However, X-rays and anesthesia will have to be performed to inspect the mouth thoroughly. Abscesses will come up on X-rays, while dental probes will be used for examination. If an internal abscess is suspected, ultrasound may be required for diagnosis and visualization required for use in the operating room. 

Samples of the pus will be required for your veterinarian will be informed as to the antibiotics that work best. 

Abscesses in Cats Treatment

Antibiotics are critical in abscesses in cats treatment. In cases of dental abscesses, tooth extractions and thorough teeth cleaning is required. Surgery may be needed to lance abscesses on the skin so the infection can be drained (usually for 4-5 days) or removed if internal. 

It may be necessary to clean the area for a couple of days post-surgery, salt and water should be used for this, not disinfectants. Antibiotics will be required, as well. General abscess on cat will heal fast, but in cases where large areas of the skin have been lost, it may take a while longer. 

ABSCESSES AND FELINE IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUS (FIV) Feline Immunodeficiency Virus has a direct link with the development of abscesses as they’re often inlets for immune comptonization. FIV is a lentivirus that affects about 2.5% to 4.4% of cats worldwide. It is closely related to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Bite wounds are the main routes of transmission of Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, and for cats that fall victim to this infection, a 2-3-year life expectancy is not uncommon. If you notice your cat had a fight, a blood test for FIV is recommended 3-6 months later. 

How to Prevent Cat Abscesses

You can prevent catfights by desexing them and keeping them confined at night, especially when most fights occur. Also, consistent dental care prevents abscesses from forming cause. Although some cats are more prone to dental issues than others, keeping the teeth clean helps a lot. It’s also important to purchase good kitten food as this is what builds the cats immunity to combat infections when they gain entry to their bodies.


By: Chris

Contributing Professional

The Animalista professional contributors are comprised of licensed Veterinarians and certified Veterinary Technicians who have been vetted by our team and have either authored or reviewed this content for accuracy. 


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