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New research has shown that cat bites, though they seem less serious, can lead to serious infections, especially when the bite occurs on the hand.
A Mayo Clinic study showing the effects of cat bites was published in February in the Journal of Hand Surgery. According to the study, one out of three people were hospitalized for a cat bite to the hand.
Though cat’s mouths are no dirtier than those of humans or dogs, their sharp teeth can inject bacteria deep into the skin and joints, according to HealthDay. Dogs have “blunt” teeth and leave a large wound, but cat teeth penetrate much deeper into the skin.
"It can be just a pinpoint bite mark that can cause a real problem," said Dr. Brian Carlsen from the Mayo Clinic, "because the bacteria get into the tendon sheath or into the joint where they can grow with relative protection from the blood and immune system."
USA Today reported a specific incident with Dawn Bothun who waited a week to go to the hospital after her cat bit her. She spent $150,000 and eight weeks in and out of the hospital.
"I washed the wounds on my wrist and put antiseptic on them," Bothun said. "I thought I could manage them on my own but I couldn't move my wrist after a week."
Carlsen says the rule of thumb is that if your cat bites you, see the doctor and be sure to monitor it closely.