If your kitty has a boo-boo, you're liable to notice her licking away at it, even though cats try to hide their maladies. The notion of animal spit being antiseptic is age-old, but reach for antibacterial ointment in your medicine chest instead of letting your cat lick a wound clean.
All saliva, including your cat's, contains enzymes. These help break down food to help with the digestion process. One of these enzymes is "growth factor," a substance that among other things controls blood cell activity. In his book on enzyme therapy, Anthony J. Cichoke writes that growth factor promotes blood clotting and may help wounds to heal, explaining why your cat licks her wounds.
The good news/bad news issue with cat saliva is that, while saliva contains enzymes that encourage blood to clot and wounds to heal, it also contains harmful bacteria. Cat bites are dangerous because the bacteria in cat saliva can transmit pasteurellosis, strep and staph infections to the victim. Infection from bites isn't the only danger of cat saliva. Illnesses such as feline leukemia and rabies transmit cat-to-cat through saliva.
Many people who start to sneeze, itch and get watery eyes around cats mistakenly believe they are allergic to cats. The actual culprit is the cat's saliva. In addition to helpful enzymes, it contains proteins that cause allergic reactions. If your cat's saliva stayed in her mouth it might be easier to deal with, but she lavishly spreads it all over her body many times a day as she grooms, constantly replenishing the supply that causes your Aunt Harriet to succumb to sneezing fits every time she visits your home.
Take Precautions With Bites
Don't downplay a cat bite just because cat saliva contains enzymes that can help a wound to heal. Keep in mind harmful bacteria is also present. Not every bite from a cat becomes infected, but you should play it on the safe side and care for the wound properly. Wash the bite area immediately with antibacterial soap and water. Treat the wound with over-the-counter antibiotic salve. You may want to see your doctor for a tetanus shot if you haven't had one before being bitten. Meanwhile, take care of your cat's wounds, too. Even cats who get bitten by other cats can easily develop infection and abscesses, so clean your kitty's wound and get her to the vet immediately if she gets bit by another cat, even if during play.
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.