The cat’s tongue is a cat’s most versatile tool. Besides the obvious eating and tasting function of it, you’ll also notice your cat uses that tongue to clean itself. Cats also tend to lick their wounds, which brings us to the question, why do cats lick their injuries and should we let them do it? Cat owners have worries that when their pets lick their wounds, they’re interfering with the healing process, like how we scratch a bug bite and make it worse. This concern and others are real and need to be considered while your cat is healing from a wound.
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If you’ve ever seen your cat’s tongue, or felt it when they licked you, you’ll know a cat’s tongue is lightly barbed. That scratchy tongue is great for cleaning, as it’s able to pick up and remove debris in their fur. As anyone knows, it’s important to keep a wound clean so in that way licking has its advantages. Furthermore, cat saliva contains compounds that can aid the healing process. A few compounds contained in cat saliva such as opiorphin, peroxidase, lactoferrin, and thrombospondin act as a pain reliever and antibacterial. In conclusion, cats lick their wounds because that’s their way of cleaning the wound and giving themselves comfort.
The problem is cats tend to be overzealous about licking. They can lick themselves sore and cause further discomfort in the long run. If it’s stitching that they’re licking at, they may be satisfying an itch, but there’s also a possibility that they will unravel all the good vet’s work and reopen the wound. Furthermore, as great as all the healing compounds in a cat’s mouth are, there are also harmful bacterias to go with it. If your cat licks at a wound, they may cause the wound to become infected, which is never good.
Your cat will likely interfere with the healing process, making it a much longer and harder road of recovery than it has to be. Because of all the risks that are involved with just a few cat licks, it is generally advised to cat owners to prevent the cat from licking the wound. The next problem is how to actually keep your cat’s tongue away from the affected area.
To make sure the healing process goes well, you may have to sacrifice your cat’s comfort for a short time. The reason being your cat is stubborn on licking that wound, and you’ll have to do a lot to ensure they are unable to. There are many types of wounds, and they can be anywhere on the body, which means there are many methods you can try to prevent any interference from your cat’s tongue.
The Elizabethan collar is the typical first thing to try, as it is effective at keeping the cat’s tongue away from most of its body. Unfortunately, your cat will likely not take the cone of shame very well. Many cats once the owners put them on do all that they can to take it off their head. It can make some cats nervous, anxious, and mad, and make them move around when they should be trying to stay still to let a wound heal. Therefore, if your cat has a reaction like this, don’t force it. If your cat doesn’t settle down after a while, you may have to give up the Elizabethan collar.
If you can make your cat tolerate it however, you’ll have a much easier job at preventing any cat licks. With the Elizabethan collar, you won’t have to constantly keep an eye on your cat. Make sure you get the right kind of collar for it to be effective, which means it needs to be long enough that your cat’s head can’t reach around it. Make sure you fit it around tight enough around the cat’s neck so that can’t remove it. Hopefully your cat will only need the Elizabethan collar for a few days.
You can try bandaging the wound to prevent cat licks. The bandage can be made from purchased bandaging or an old towel. It should be wrapped lightly to not suffocate the wound but tight enough for the bandage to stay on. A bandage may not be enough to stop your cat, as they may try to bite and lick the bandage. If you want to take a further step, you can try a cat lick deterrent. These sprays cover a bandage and make it taste bad so your cat doesn’t want to put its mouth anywhere near it.
In general, cat licks aren’t bad, and are in fact useful! However, when a wound is involved it’s best to prevent any cat licks to interfere with it. When a cat is experiencing an uncomfortable and painful wound, they’ll take licking too far and it’s your responsibility to step in and make sure they don’t make the wound any worse.
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