Home Medical Care: wounds and bandages


Wounds that require repeated cleansing at home are infected traumatic wounds and abscesses. These wounds are left open or partially open when treated to allow pus drainage and cleaning. Other fresh wounds usually need only a simple disinfection and/or cleansing when they are physically contaminated with foreign material such as dirt, plant parts, or hair.


Solutions of povidone-iodine (0.001% to 1%) or chlorhexidine (0.05%) can be made up at home from stronger antiseptic solutions purchased in a drugstore or directly from your veterinarian. (For information on hydrogen peroxide.) If the opening of the wound is large enough, you can pour disinfectant directly into it. A bulb syringe or turkey baster can be used to flush the solution into smaller wounds, providing you are careful not to build up excessive pressure that could force foreign material further into the surrounding soft tissue. The disinfectant can be applied to a gauze pad or cotton-tipped swab that can be inserted into very small wounds. As the solution is instilled, it may sting.

Some cats find this uncomfortable. Clean the wound until the visible tissue looks free of foreign debris and/or until the solution runs clear. Repeat the cleansing once or twice a day if there is a tendency for debris to reaccumulate. Since the stronger antiseptic concentrations also damage normal tissues, stop the daily application as soon as the wound has finished draining.

Simple wounds usually heal most rapidly when left uncovered. In cases where the wound is continually becoming contaminated or when the cat licks at the area so much that it cannot heal or is made worse, it must be protected. Fortunately these occasions are rare with cats because bandages are more difficult to apply and to keep on these small animals than on larger ones such as dogs.


A light bandage for a foot can be made by placing an infant’s or doll’s stocking over it and taping the sock to the leg with several wraps of adhesive tape applied to the top of the sock and the leg. (Be sure the tape is loose enough to allow normal blood circulation to the foot.) This type of wrap leaves most of the sock loose and allows some air circulation. It is best for covering the nails of the rear feet to prevent damage when a cat is scratching an area or to protect the bandaged foot from licking. Ointments can be applied under such bandages, and the sock will keep the medication on the foot and off the carpet.

When cats object to a lightweight bandage such as the stocking and repeatedly tear it off, a more substantial foot bandage can be made by covering the whole stocking with tape or by using roll or tubular gauze and adhesive tape. Before applying a substantial bandage try to pad the areas between the toes with small pieces of cotton. Depending on the site of the wound, you may want to cover it with a gauze or nonstick wound pad. Wrap the foot firmly with the roll gauze applying several layers vertically as well as around the foot. Follow the gauze with adhesive tape. First apply several tape strips vertically, then wrap more tape around the area to be covered.

The long vertical strips not only form the end of the bandage, but help prevent it from wearing through. Try to apply even pressure from the toes to the top of the bandage so normal circulation to the foot is maintained.

Don’t be too concerned if your first bandage doesn’t stay in place. A little practice is required to learn how to apply a bandage to a cat’s paw properly so it won’t slip off, and it is much safer to apply a bandage too loosely than too tightly.

home-medical-care-wounds-and-bandages-218x300 Home Medical Care: wounds and bandages

Flexible wire or electrical tape may be wrapped over the bandage to help prevent your cat from chewing at it and removing it. Usually, however, such measures are not necessary. After a few minutes of vigorous objection, most cats begin to tolerate these artificial coverings. Bandages should be changed at least every third day unless your veterinarian directs
you differently.


Many-tailed bandages can be made from any rectangular or square piece of clean cloth. These bandages are best used to try to prevent a cat from licking at a wound (e.g., incision following surgery) or to help cover open wounds such as abscesses to prevent wound drainage from damaging carpeting or furniture. If necessary, gauze or cotton padding may be placed between the wound and the bandage.

This type of bandage is useful to help you cover an area on the neck, abdomen, or back, but don’t be surprised if your cat wriggles out of even the best one. An infant T- shirt can serve the same purpose as a many-tailed bandage and usually remains in place better. It is especially effective if a string or ribbon is run through the hem tunnel to provide a drawstring.

home-medical-care-wounds-and-bandages-picture-1-209x300 Home Medical Care: wounds and bandages

A rare cat will not leave wounds or other irritations alone no matter what bandaging method you try. Also, there are occasional wounds, such as those on the head, that cannot be easily protected by bandaging. In these instances you can try an Elizabethan collar.

home-medical-care-wounds-and-bandages-picture-2-258x300 Home Medical Care: wounds and bandages


Ready-made plastic or cardboard Elizabethan collars can be purchased at some pet stores or from veterinarians. Or you can make one from heavy cardboard as illustrated. This device will prevent most cats from disturbing wounds on their bodies and will prevent the scratching of head or ear wounds. A determined cat can usually wriggle out of even the best applied collar, so be prepared to apply it several times and to administer tranquilizers if recommended by your veterinarian while your cat adjusts to the collar.

Also, many cats cannot or will not eat or drink while wearing an Elizabethan collar. Be sure to allow for this by removing the collar when you are home to supervise the cat. Also be sure you know the cause of the problem. A collar will prevent your cat from scratching at his or her ears, for example, but if ear mites are present it won’t eliminate them.