After a surgery, a local cat fight, or an accident, your cat will want to lick their wound. Although your cat has a natural tendency to want to lick their wound it is important to prevent them from excessively liking their wound for health reasons. If a cat is able to spend all of their time licking their wound they can actually inflame the injury and cause infections.
Cats have a natural aversion to revealing any sort of injury they have sustained or sickness they have. This is because when cats were evolving in the wild the presence of a visible injury made them an easy target for other territorial cats or predators. If they appeared to be injured, they look like an easy mark for another territorial predator. As such cats naturally lick their wounds because they don’t want to leave droplets of blood behind. If other predators could smell or see their blood it would leave a trail right to them.
By licking their wounds and making sure they aren't leaving a trail of blood, cats are ensuring their own survival. The cats that left the trails of blood weren’t as likely to reproduce as the cats that hid their presence from other predators. As such the cats that licked their wounds had plenty of kittens and the kittens that licked their wounds had kittens of their own. This cycle repeated for millions of yours until it finally arrived at your cat who just won’t leave his new stitches alone.
A cat’s saliva actually does contain several natural benefits for your cat. A cat’s saliva contains antibacterial properties that in the wild would have prevented their wounds from getting infected which would help ensure the cat survived its wound to fight another day. Additionally, cat saliva also contains natural painkilling properties for your cat. Since they don’t have access to tylenol or Advil they have to rely on the natural painkillers in their spit to help ease the pain of their injuries.
Despite all of these positive benefits, your cat’s saliva isn’t the only thing your cat leaves behind when they’re licking their wound. No matter how many antibacterial properties their saliva has, it doesn’t do anything to negate the fact that your cat never brushes its teeth or uses mouthwash. Meaning all of the bacteria from everything it puts in its mouth can be left behind when it licks its wounds negating the antibacterial properties of the saliva. Cats are notorious for being high maintenance with their self grooming but unfortunately that means your cat spends an awful lot of time licking places that aren’t so sanitary. This also contributes to the danger in letting your cat lick their wound as they're sure to have some unmentionable debris from time to time that you certainly wouldn’t want them to get near their wound.
Since the negative effects from your cat licking its wounds outweigh the potential benefits from their saliva you are going to want to prevent your pet from spending all their time licking at their wound. There’s a few different ways that you can do this. If you have used any type of clicker training with your cat then you can use a clicker. You can use the clicker to teach them to stop licking their wound.
If you have used any type of noise training with your cat then there are plenty of other options available.
If your cat isn’t too aggressive about licking their wound and only licks it occasionally, you can distract them from the licking. Treats can be a really effective way of doing this because not only will your cat become wholly focused on getting their favorite snack, the actual process of eating the treat not only distract them from the wound but literally keeps their mouth busy so there’s no way they can lick anything let alone their wound.
You can also distract your cat by using one of their favorite toys. Toys are a great way to keep their attention away from their wound. But be careful not to get them riled up and excited. If you get them running and jumping too much it can aggravate their stitches or reopen a wound.
Potentially the best way to prevent your cat from licking their wound is to cover it. This can be done by buying a feline “onsie” that slides over your cat’s torso. However, if you don’t have anything like that on hand don’t worry. You can make one at home out of an old sweater sleeve, a long pair of socks, or a child shirt sleeve. Really any fabric you can spare that will fit snugly around your cat's torso but won’t restrict their breathing.
If you don’t have any clothing you're willing to spare you can use bandages to prevent your cat from licking their wound. If you have cloth human bandages around the house you can use them to wrap your cat's wound. Again make sure you wrap it snug over the wound but not so snug that it restricts their breathing or aggravates their wound.
While it's perfectly natural for your feline friend to want to lick at their wound. Afterall, they evolved for millions of yours to do so. It's really in your pets best interest to keep them from licking at their wounds in order to prevent agitation, inflammation, or infection. Remember if your cat reopens their stitches or really aggravates one of their wounds from licking contact your veterinarian as soon as you can to get the wound taken care of in order to keep your pet happy and healthy.
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