Monday, July 13, 2015

Cat ear injuries: Do cat fights leave lasting scars?

cat torn ear flap
I took this photo several years ago, when Jasper had been in a scrape with a neighborhood cat (and he lost that fight, sadly). See that nasty-looking gash in his right ear? That's the injury he was left with when the fight was over, and as soon as I saw this thing, I whipped Jasper in for an exam.

My veterinarian told me, at the time, that bites and scratches like this aren't at all uncommon. When cats fight, they tend to grab and pull at anything that sticks out from an opponent's body. And unfortunately, that means that most cats that fight end up with ear injuries like this.

And sadly, those injuries rarely heal.

A cat's ear flap is full of visible blood vessels (that's why they glow pink when they're lit from behind), but there's just not enough blood in there to support new tissue growth. When these deep bites break through the upper layers of fur and skin, and those nasty teeth sink into the cartilage below, those bite marks stick around.

Many cats with a history of street life have ragged ears like this. Troy does.
Senior all-black cat with bite injuries
His left ear has two very distinct bite marks. To me, it looks an awful lot like two incisors went through his ear on the edge. He must have pulled back during the bite, and the other cat got a piece of his flesh in return.

The best way to prevent these injuries is, of course, to keep your cats indoors. But if you're caring for non-domesticated cats that can't come indoors, as I am, there are some things you can do to keep these fights from breaking out.

For starters, spay/neuter your pets. An altered animal is less likely to fight, and it's less likely to command attention from other pets. Plus, you'll help with pet overpopulation. (More on that here.)

Next, keep your outdoor cats confined at night. Fighting at dawn and dusk seems common for outdoor cats, and cats running across roads in the depth of night are very hard for drivers to see. By keeping your cats confined, you're keeping them safe.

Any other great ideas out there? I'd love to hear them. Share in the comments!


  1. I should probably find a way to keep our outdoor cat confined at night. He's always getting beat up, poor thing. But I also think he hunts a lot at night, too, and that's why he's out there.

    1. It's a hard call, I know, but putting them up does seem to keep them safer. They may not be hunting, but they're not getting hunted, either. Pretty good trade, right?