Dealing with an Abscess in a Cat

My poor little Mr. Bits had to take a trip to the vet this morning. He has an abscess behind his ear that burst last night. Which is weird because I was rubbing his ears the night before and he didn’t act like it hurt and I didn’t even notice a lump. I’ve been checking them because he’s already had two on the other ear. So he’s at the vet getting checked out right now.

What causes an abscess & symptoms?
Most abscesses are caused by a wound, more than likely from a fight. They can be caused by bite wounds or even debris that has been lodged under the skin. The debris and bacteria cause a pus pocket to form. If not caught in time, it builds up to the point where the skin breaks open, allowing the pus to drain.

Most times the area becomes swollen and hot to the touch. It can also cause your pet to limp if the abscess is located on one of its legs. Your pet may also run a fever and swollen lymph nodes.

How do you treat an abscess?
A trip to the vet is in order if you suspect your pet has an abscess. If it hasn’t ruptured, a needle will be inserted into the area to check for a pus pocket. If there is pus, the veterinarian will sedate your pet and lance the area, allowing the pus to drain.

Once the pus has been drained, either by lancing or if the abscess has been ruptured, the healing process can begin. The wound will be flushed with a disinfecting solution to remove any debris and any pus that might still remain. Your pet will then probably be given an antibiotic to prevent further infection and speed healing.

What should you do when your pet gets home?
The abscess will have to remain open until it heals, which means your pet might have to wear one of those funny looking collars to keep it from licking or scratching the wound. You may also want to apply a warm compress to the area to increase blood flow and help speed in healing. You will also want to follow any additional after care instructions that your veterinarian gives you.

How do you prevent abscesses?
In some cases this is hard, for example if you have two cats that play together, but there are a few things you can do. Limit your pets exposure to other biting and scratching critters, such as squirrels and other cats or dogs. If you have indoor only pets, you can keep your cat’s nails trimmed or use nail caps, such as Soft Claws. If you see your pet has a wound, clean it properly and monitor it to be sure that it doesn’t get infected.

For more information on cat care, please visit Cat Care 411 on


9 thoughts on “Dealing with an Abscess in a Cat

  1. graydon says:

    Hi: I have a cat that has a black hard crust on is outside of back toe. and in the middle of his paw there is a raw hole the side of a small shirt button. He limps alot. He has been to the vet but she seem to looks at it as a mystery. I am sure worried about my cat as this hole seem to be getting deeper. what should I do…thanks

  2. Lissa says:


    You really should have your vet treat his problem. If necessary, I would find a second opinion. Until then keep it clean and if you can put some neosporin on it and wrap it with some gauze and some vet tape (the stuff people use to wrap ankles, etc. it sticks to itself, no taping required. I think you can get it at wal-mart) to keep it from getting infected.

  3. Lissa says:


    It sounds like an abscess. You should have the vet look at her to make sure she doesn’t have an infection and also to get antibiotics and a stitching if necessary.

  4. Becky says:

    My cat is 7yrs old only ever been to the vets twice one for her injections and one to be neuted, last month she was i a fight and had 3massive lumps on her tail…abscuss she was on anitinflams and anitbiotics i also found that bathing the abscess in warm salty water really helped i even bathed the ones that hadnt burst and they cleared up well considering the vet was worried about the infection n said she could need an op to remove her tail.. Today i found a new one the vet is not worried as its fresh and the wound is clean so she’s on antibiotics for 6days and has to wear a cone on her head as she loves to clean herself i think she has O.C.D lol. I just wanted to post my story and to say cats do get better and salty water really does help oh and the cone on Boots head helps too!!!

  5. SuzyQ says:

    My cat had two abscesses on his back from a fight with a fox when he got out one day last summer. We took him to the vets, they lanced them, and put drains in them for a while, to continue to draw out the infection. He had a catheter placed in his leg, and was given intravenous medication for about 2 weeks. Then a strange splitting crust appeared on his abdomen, leading down to his tummy, right in front of his hind leg. eventually, the skin fell off, and it’s started to heal, but there is still a massive open flesh wound that seems to refuse to close. Why could this be happening?

    • Lissa says:

      It is possible that your cat is dealing with an uncontrolled bacterial infection that has taken this long to show severe problems. If that is the case, the constant irritation and infection from the bacteria could be causing sloughing of the dead tissue. Another possibility is Feline Leprosy which, in some cases can follow cat fight injuries. The infection can spread to subcutaneous tissues of the abdominal wall and cause problems underneath the skin. I also wouldn’t rule out Feline Leukemia or Feline Infectious Virus. If your cat has not been tested for either diseases, then I would strongly recommend getting those tests run. Bloodwork and X-Rays may also be indicated to attempt to rule out cancer as well. I would strongly recommend making an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss any of these possibilities and begin aggressive diagnostics and treatment as soon possible. Best of Luck.

      Lauren, LVT

  6. david says:

    My cat has a drain catheter in his paw inserted by the vet to drain an abscess after a fight. We are isolated and cannot get back to the vet. It is no longer draining and the paw seems fine..He is still on the antibiotics..DOES anyone know how to remove the drain catheter (tube)….I suspect it is sutured in. Any help will be appreciated. Although not a physician i have a great deal of experience with wounds, sutures etc. and am not worried about successfully doing the procedure but not sure how and if the holes for the tube then need to be sutured themselves. Help. Thanks. Smudge will love anyone who can help.

  7. Dawn says:

    Sorry, I can’t advise you about the drain in your cat’s paw,but couldn’t you phone the vet and ask for instructions about how and when to remove it? If your vet is unavailable I’m sure another could help. I hope it’s done its job and that Smudge is ok again now.

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