Many San Diego readers are aware that dog owners have a duty to prevent their dogs from biting and injuring innocent bystanders. What some people may not know is that the obligation to extends to any type of animal that someone chooses to keep as a pet or domesticated on their property for some other reason. When San Diego residents think about pets that might be dangerous or that might require special care, they often think of large dogs or exotic pets like snakes. However, many people overlook the possible danger that cats can pose.
Cats may be smaller than dogs and their teeth may be less fearsome looking, but someone who is bitten by a cat has a one in two chance that the bite will become infected. For some people, that infection can prove fatal.
An infectious disease expert told reporters that since people underestimate the danger of a cat bite, many fail to seek medical attention after they are bitten. A small nip is usually nothing to be concerned about, but if a cat has the opportunity to sink its teeth in and draw blood, then antibiotics are likely needed to stop the progress of an infection.
Unlike dog bites which can be gruesome because of their larger size but which are often superficial, cat teeth can cause deep puncture wounds that injects bacteria from the cat's mouth deep into a person's tissue. In fact, some severe cat bites can cause bone infections, which might require surgery to be effectively treated.
The important thing to remember is that cat owners, like dog owners, are responsible for the injuries caused by their pets, whether they are outside on the street or in the yard or inside the house with access to guests. A cat owner's responsibility for the damage extends to the medical treatment and the time away from work and emotional or psychological trauma that results from the bite.
Source: Washington Post, "Why cat bites can be more dangerous than you think," Marie Joyce, Jan. 23, 2013.
More information about pet owner liability for injuries is available on our dog bite injury page.