Abscesses in Cats: Symptoms and Treatments

Abscesses in cats are a common yet concerning issue many pet owners encounter. These painful, pus-filled swellings can cause significant discomfort for your feline friend and may lead to more serious health problems if left untreated. At Keystone Animal Hospital in Bradenton, FL, we are dedicated to helping you understand the symptoms and treatments of abscesses in cats. Call us today at (941) 741-8445 if you suspect your cat has an abscess or needs veterinary care.


What is an Abscess?

An abscess in a cat is a pocket of pus that forms under the skin or within the body due to infection. These infections are typically caused by bacteria entering the body through a wound, such as a bite or scratch. Abscesses can develop quickly and may go unnoticed until they become significantly swollen or painful. Understanding the nature of abscesses and how they develop is crucial for early detection and treatment.

Types of Abscesses

Abscesses in cats can be categorized into two main types: external and internal. External abscesses are more common and easier to identify, as they appear as visible swellings on the skin’s surface. Internal abscesses, on the other hand, occur within the body and can be more challenging to detect without veterinary intervention.

Common Causes of Abscesses in Cats

Abscesses in cats often result from bacterial infections. The most common causes include:

Cat Fights

Cats are territorial animals, and fights between them are not uncommon. During these altercations, bites and scratches can introduce bacteria into the body, leading to abscess formation. The bacteria most commonly involved in these infections are Pasteurella multocida and Staphylococcus species.

Foreign Objects

Occasionally, foreign objects such as splinters, thorns, or other debris can penetrate a cat’s skin, introducing bacteria and causing an abscess. These objects can be difficult to detect and may require veterinary assistance for removal.

Dental Issues

Dental abscesses can occur when a cat’s tooth becomes infected. This type of abscess can cause swelling around the face and jaw and requires prompt veterinary care to address the underlying dental problem.

Symptoms of Abscesses in Cats

Recognizing the symptoms of abscesses in cats is essential for timely treatment. The signs of an abscess can vary depending on its location and severity.

Visible Swelling

One of the most apparent symptoms of an abscess is swelling in the affected area. This swelling may be warm to the touch and can increase in size as the infection progresses.

Pain and Discomfort

Cats with abscesses often experience significant pain and discomfort. They may exhibit signs of distress such as licking or biting at the affected area, reluctance to move, or vocalizing when the area is touched.


An abscess is an infection, and it’s common for affected cats to develop a fever. This can result in lethargy, loss of appetite, and general malaise.

Drainage or Pus

In some cases, abscesses may rupture, leading to the drainage of pus. This can be a foul-smelling, thick discharge and often indicates that the abscess has burst and needs immediate veterinary attention.

Diagnosing Abscesses in Cats

If you suspect your cat has an abscess, it is important to seek veterinary care promptly. At Keystone Animal Hospital, our experienced veterinarians will perform a thorough examination to diagnose the abscess and determine the best course of treatment.

Physical Examination

A physical examination is the first step in diagnosing an abscess. The veterinarian will check for signs of swelling, pain, and discharge. They will also assess your cat’s overall health and look for any underlying issues that may have contributed to the abscess formation.

Diagnostic Tests

In some cases, additional diagnostic tests such as blood work, X-rays, or ultrasounds may be necessary to identify internal abscesses or to assess the extent of the infection. These tests help provide a comprehensive understanding of your cat’s condition and guide the treatment plan.

Treatment Options for Abscesses in Cats

Treating abscesses in cats involves addressing the infection and providing supportive care to ensure a full recovery. The specific treatment plan will depend on the abscess’s size, location, and severity.

Draining and Cleaning the Abscess

For external abscesses, the primary treatment involves draining and cleaning the abscess. This procedure is typically performed under sedation or anesthesia to ensure your cat’s comfort. The veterinarian will make a small incision to drain the pus and then thoroughly clean the area to remove any remaining debris or bacteria.


Antibiotics are commonly prescribed to treat the underlying bacterial infection and prevent the abscess from recurring. It is important to administer the entire course of antibiotics as prescribed to ensure the infection is fully eradicated.

Pain Management

Pain management is a crucial component of abscess treatment. Your veterinarian may prescribe pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medications to help alleviate your cat’s discomfort and promote healing.

Preventing Abscesses in Cats

While it is not always possible to prevent abscesses in cats, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk.

  • Regular Check-Ups: Regular veterinary check-ups can help identify potential issues before they develop into abscesses. At Keystone Animal Hospital, we recommend routine wellness exams to monitor your cat’s health and address any concerns early on.
  • Monitoring Outdoor Activities: If your cat goes outdoors, monitoring their activities can help prevent fights and injuries that can lead to abscesses. Consider keeping your cat indoors or providing a safe, enclosed outdoor space to minimize the risk of altercations with other animals.
  • Dental Care: Maintaining your cat’s dental health is essential for preventing dental abscesses. Regular dental check-ups and cleanings can help keep your cat’s teeth and gums healthy and reduce the risk of infection.

When to Contact Keystone Animal Hospital

At Keystone Animal Hospital in Bradenton, FL, our team is dedicated to providing compassionate and comprehensive care for your pets. If you notice any signs of an abscess in your cat, such as swelling, pain, fever, or discharge, it is important to seek veterinary care promptly. Early intervention can prevent complications and ensure a quicker recovery for your feline friend. Call us today at (941) 741-8445 to schedule an appointment or if you have any concerns about abscesses in cats.