Cat Bite Etiquette: What to Do, What to Say

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Cat fights and bites happen between cats or cats can be attacked by dogs. Injuries between companion animals such as from a dog can be a very big deal. There is potential for crushing injuries, broken bones, and bleeding lungs that are at hand when pets get into a fighting mood.

The worst cases of injury between pets are when cats find themselves on the business end of a dog’s maw. In these latter cases, the aggressors are usually out to kill and they can make pretty fast (and expensive!) work of their target when they have a mind to.

Then there’s adverse human-animal interaction; for example, a run-in with your neighbor’s severely aggressive cat.

Examples of Bite Injuries

In my experience, situations like these bring out the best and worst in humanity. Here are some examples:

  • A cat is brought in after being attacked by a wandering neighborhood dog. The cat has severe injuries the owner can’t afford to treat and the neighbor said was their fault because they let their cat outside.
  • An indoor only cat got outside and is brought in with bite wounds probably sustained from another cat while out. The owner of the other cat is down the street and has 8 cats all of which are not neutered and known to fight.
  • Cat Bite Etiquette

    With these real-life examples in mind, here’s my advice for cat bite etiquette on both sides of the equation:

    #1 Keep it civil!

    It’s my opinion that simple bites between friends, family, neighbors, and even strangers should be settled amicably with the biter’s family offering to pay for any reasonable expenses incurred.

    If your cat injures a human in any way, however, experts say you should talk to a lawyer as you may be liable for damages in both the present and the future.

    #2 Remember what’s reasonable

    It’s the norm for the biter’s owner to pay for any reasonable expenses. But what’s “reasonable”? This gets murky when you stop to consider the widening gap between what’s doable and what’s affordable.

    Ideally, the offender’s owner should be willing to pay for whatever costs the affected pet’s owner thinks is fair. But that might amount to $60, $600, or $6,000 depending on the situation and the level of care elected.

    Extreme expenses that cats can incur in a medical setting these days might include 4 days on a ventilator (if severe bites to the chest occur, for example). Is that “reasonable”? To you it might seem so, but to others it may not.

    #3 Do you call the cops?

    Sure, it’s acceptable to call the police if your cat gets bitten out in public –– especially by an animal whose rabies vaccination status is unknown. It’s the best way to be sure that the animal has been vaccinated, her status as a “dangerous dog” is reported (if warranted and the municipality requires it), and that you’ll be compensated for your veterinary expenses.

    But getting a response from law enforcement is another matter altogether. In most municipalities you won’t get one for most reports (using the word “rabies,” however, will probably improve your chances).

    #4 Whose veterinarian?

    Simply put, the injured cat should go to the vet of their owner’s choice. I’ve seen plenty of situations where the owners of the animals argue over which of their vets should handle the case and that’s not right. You wouldn’t take your kid to another’s pediatrician just because his patient treats the kid who bit her on the playground, right?

    #5 Whose fault is it really?

    Sometimes there’s plenty of blame to go around. Cats will be cats and when both are roaming, there may be no way to determine who’s at fault when something goes wrong. So why quibble? Most bites occur at night when no one is looking and it is impossible to prove who did what.

    Accepting responsibility for our cats’ foibles-and our own-is part of belonging to a civil society. If only more common sense and civility were applied to our pet-on-pet and pet-on-human interactions I wouldn’t have to write a post like this.

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