What is an abscess in cats?

A feline abscess is a response to a wound or some foreign substance in the cat's body that occurs as part of the healing process. Basically, the cat will have a bunch of pus and other gunky fluids build up at the site of an injury of some kind. This is a natural response of the body to a "foreign invasion" that can be a splinter, bacteria from the bite of another animal, or really just anything that is not supposed to be inside the cat.

   

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The pus and other fluids are the way the cat's body gets rid of both the foreign substance and the dead white blood cells that build up around any infection site. Essentially, the pus will build pressure on the skin that at some point causes it to rupture. Then, the pus comes out, and so do the dead cells and hopefully the foreign substance as well. Cats are prone to get them because they tend to fight a lot. They're territorial animals, and they are also hunters. So they will get into fights with other cats and will attack rodents, both of which can fight back with claws and cause one if they puncture the skin.

While this is a natural process, and it happens in people and other animals too, it's not good to let it go on. Why? Because your cats don't live in nature. As a response to a wound, it works, but it's crude and much less effective than just having a vet clear out the wound. And it has health consequences for the cat - the cat will run fevers, may stop eating, will be in pain, and will sleep more - and saying a cat is sleeping more is saying a lot. They are something that happens in nature only because the alternative is to die. You should always get them treated - the symptoms can be bad even if the cat heals, and it's important to remember that sometimes the foreign substance is more than just a splinter - it could be an infection that's dangerous all on its own.

Sources and Useful Links:

http://sc.essortment.com/catsabscesses_rkxd.htm

http://www.thepetcenter.com/sur/abcat.html

http://www.petplace.com/cats/abscess-in-cats/page1.aspx

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