Infected Cat Bite Caution

An infected cat bite on a thumb

This is a cautionary tale about an infected cat bite.

How Not to Say “I Told You So”

I’ll preempt this by saying that I’m terrible at saying “I told you so” without coming across as a Know-it-all.  This is definitely a “what not to do” situation.  My fifty plus years of life have not made me any better at it.

As a background to the tale, I’ve been a nurse for about 35 years.  Family members often come to me for health advice, and I will tell them straight up what I think they should do.  My mantra is don’t ignore symptoms, don’t put your head in the sand, seek medical advice early because it is easier to treat illness early rather than when you develop complications.

I am happy and grateful that my sons do take my advice, especially my older son.  They could never pull the wool over my eyes when they were younger as I could always tell when they were faking symptoms to get out of school.  My sons are proactive with their health and really compassionate with other people when they are sick.  They would have made awesome nurses except for their blood and needle phobias.

My husband remains stubborn however.  We’ve been together almost ten years so he had forty plus years without my knowledge to guide him.  This has been frustrating over the years because he’s a workaholic and will not take a sick day even when he should.

Cat Bites Can Lead to Nasty Infections

A couple of weeks ago he got a nasty bite from our cat on his thumb.  She’s 19 years old and only weighs about 3 kg but she’s as feisty as a young cat.  Phil was trimming her nails and, because she’s deaf and blind she panicked and chomped down on his thumb.  The two teeth marks were deep and bled profusely.

I told him that cat bites often become infected because they’re deep and transfer bacteria from the cat’s mouth deep into the wound.  I regaled tales of patients I have cared for that were in hospital for days on intravenous antibiotics after cat bites.  My advice was to go to his doctor and start antibiotics as soon as possible, and have a tetanus vaccination as well.

Infected Cat Bite Wounds Should Never Be Ignored

Phil did not take my advice.  The following day was a Monday – he went to work.  I looked at the wound that evening and it was purple and looked nasty.  I reiterated that he needed antibiotics.  He again ignored my advice.

The following day was Australia Day, a public holiday.  He would have gone to work as usual, so it is just as well he didn’t.  His wound looked really nasty.  A pustule had formed at the puncture site. The surrounding area was purple and his thumb joints were swollen and he had difficulty bending them.  It was obviously infected.

Infected cat bite wound on a thumb
The infected cat bite on my husband’s thumb. This was after the staff at the hospital had cleaned the wound, but before he had been to surgery

To the Hospital Emergency Department He Goes

We phoned all the GP clinics on the after hours list and none of them were open.  We were due to spend Australia Day with his family so I went there while Phil went to the hospital emergency department.  Over the next few hours he had an XRay, was given a tetanus shot and was commenced on intravenous antibiotics.  

As the wound had gone close to tendons and bone the doctors decided it could not be cleaned enough without surgery.  Cat bites on the hand can lead to nasty infections that can affect your body systemically.  They should never be ignored.

My husband ended up staying overnight in hospital, having surgery to open up and clean out the wound, followed by oral antibiotics and two weeks off work.  This is my “I told you so” moment.  I find it difficult to be patient and calm with him because it’s so frustrating to know that this situation could have been avoided if he’d listened to me.

My husband in hospital.  His infected cat bite wound on his thumb required intravenous antibiotics, cleaning out under anaesthetic and a course of oral antibiotics.  The bandage had to remain intact for two weeks.

My husband in hospital. His infected cat bite wound on his thumb required intravenous antibiotics, cleaning out under anaesthetic and a course of oral antibiotics. The bandage had to remain intact for two weeks.

His Dressings Need to Be Kept Dry and Intact For Two Weeks

Even more frustrating is the fact that he still thinks it’s overkill to make him have two weeks off!  There is no way he could work and avoid getting dirt and muck into his wound.  I have banned him from cleaning the cat litter trays, picking up dog poo, doing any gardening or any other dirty jobs around the house.  This has taken considerable effort because he’s so bloody stubborn!  I feel like I have a child who won’t listen!

Now if that doesn’t take the romance out of a relationship I don’t know what will.  I spend more time keeping an eye on him to make sure he doesn’t do anything he should do, than being productive myself.  He is not good at finding things to do to occupy his time so he’s been driving me nuts.  I hate being a nagging wife.

How Do You Occupy a Bored Husband?

I would love to know if any of my readers have any ideas for keeping a bored husband occupied.  Most of all, how do I say “I told you so” without completely losing my cool?!

Note:  I love my husband dearly and our relationship is strong.  This is very much tongue-in-cheek and meant to amuse my readers as I’m sure some of you have had similar stories to this.

Post cat bite infection.  Two weeks after the wound was cleaned up in hospital.  The wound on the thumb has two sutures
The Great Reveal! After the bandages were removed. There were two sutures which were removed and he has been given the all clear to return to work.

The Outcome of The Infected Cat Bite

Update – After two weeks convalescence at home, Phil was given the all-clear to resume work.  The post-op appointment at the hospital went well.  He had two sutures which were removed and now has full use of his hand again.  Our marriage survived intact!

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