Last month I adopted a new kitten. His name is Yoda. He came with that name, which naturally felt like destiny, since we already have a Chewbacca.
Cute little thing, isn’t he? He’s had a rough life. He was removed from his original home twice for neglect, and has been sickly his whole life, in and out of cages at the shelter where he could be isolated while he recovered. He’s about a year old (so not really a kitten) but he’s maybe half the size of Maya, the smaller of our other cats.
Since we got him home he’s been very slow in getting comfortable, and has so far only let me pet him once. His digestive problems disappeared as soon as we got him on a specialized diet, which was a good sign. Here he is in his favorite hiding spot under my printer:
He’s had the sniffles for a while, and it seemed to be getting worse. Last Wednesday he seemed to really be having trouble breathing, and I decided I could not wait any longer to get him to the vet. I got the cat carrier out. I put food at the back of it and waited. He went right inside to eat, so I started to shut the door. He bolted faster than I thought possible.
I had to start blocking his hiding places off. That took a while. Meanwhile, he completely panicked. He threw the books off my shelves trying to get behind them. He knocked the lamp off my desk trying to get out the window. Pretty much anything that could be knocked over or strewn around, was. He got to the window and promptly got his claws stuck in the screen, because he had never let me touch him so I could trim them. I carefully got him unhooked, and I thought we were home free, but then he saw the carrier again and this time jumped for the closed half of the window. I was able to retrieve him from there, and again thought it was about over–and then he transformed into a twisting, hissing, biting, scratching, fanged tornado of doom. He sank his teeth into me, and HARD. All I could think was Oh shit I need to get this cat off me.
I managed to get him into the carrier at that point, and then the adrenaline let-down set in and I just shook as I rinsed my hand in the sink. I couldn’t really tell how bad it was at first. And in the picture it doesn’t look too bad, but those holes and that tear are deep. This happened at noon.
Brooke Bolander told me to go to the ER immediately. I didn’t listen. She warned me about cats’ native bacteria and the extremely high risk of infection. I still didn’t listen.
By nine o’clock that night, my hand was swelling and oozing pus. I promised Brooke I would go to Urgent Care first thing in the morning.
By 6 o’clock the following morning, half my hand was swollen and it hurt like hell. I went to Urgent Care. This picture was taken 20 hours after the bite:
They gave me an injection of Rociphen and an Rx for Augmentin, an antibiotic I’d never had before. That was Thursday. Friday morning I was back at Urgent Care, with my hand now looking like this. You can see where the doctor had marked the boundary of the infection the previous day:
Another Rocephin injection. I was told to continue with the Augmentin, and was given an Rx for a pain killer. I had laid in a supply of yogurt and probiotic supplements, since I’d been told the Augmentin was high-test stuff.
Saturday I got up and my hand was noticeably better. But by noon, I was experiencing the side effects from the Augmentin where in the the documentation it says “stop taking Augmentin and call your doctor immediately. Do not take over the counter medications for the symptoms.” I called my doctor immediately. She did not call back.
By Saturday night I was so sick I was actually scared. I called our health insurance’s Nurse Healthline, and she told me I could either wait to go to Urgent Care first thing, or go to the ER now. Urgent Care didn’t open until noon on Sunday, which was thirteen hours away and also roughly when my daughter’s birthday party would start. So we went to the ER, where they switched the Augmentin to Doxycyline and told me it was fine to take OTC meds. (They did not help even a little.)
Sunday and Monday I could not eat without pain and having to immediately spend long periods of time in the bathroom. On Tuesday we added vomiting and nausea to the pain and extreme lower GI distress. I left work early and went back to Urgent Care, where I was cleared to quit the antibiotics since my hand was clearly now infection-free and the wounds were healing up nicely. Wednesday was more of the same, but by Thursday I was starting to feel a lot better. Today is Friday, and I feel pretty much normal apart from the sore hand. (That one on the knuckle really hurt!)
All of this is to say: If you are bitten by a cat, RUN DON’T WALK to Urgent Care and get on prophylactic antibiotics immediately. Anywhere between 50% and 80% of cat bites become infected. As Brooke put it, “They’re like fluffy little komodo dragons. Closest thing to being venomous without the actual venom.” My doctors (all three of them) concur. I’ve had cats since I was a kid and I had no idea. I was talking to a friend who actually rescues feral cats, and she had no idea. My sister is an EMT, and while they covered wild animal bites in her training, nobody ever mentioned cat bites.
And it turns out that I was quite lucky. Brooke pointed me to this article about someone who ended up having to have surgery because the infection ravaged the sheaths of her tendons.
Meanwhile, Yoda spent the week in hiding. You’d think I bit him, the little monster. But yesterday he came out and played with some packing tape, and I think we’re back on the road to friendship. And I’ve even stopped having to remind myself that he’s cute.