Cat Bites: A Case Study in Stockholm Syndrome -The Toast

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Large_Siamese_cat_tosses_a_mouse(The Toast does not actually support armchair diagnoses of personality disorders.)

I recently found myself reading an infomative article about cat bites in The New York Times. Cat bites, of course, being incredibly dangerous and prone to infection and hideously painful, as your vet and your doctor and the webby part between your thumb and forefinger can tell you.

(I have a cat, I am fond of her, she cares nothing for me, but there you have it. I like to stay informed.)

And then, I came to the comments section. Allow me to break it down for you into categories.

I. Did You Know That There Are Bad Things in the World Other Than Cats?

1. “any cut in the skin from an infected item either it is a cat or a piece of metal or a piece of wood can cause damage…and infection lets not spread fear towards our feline friends…infections can be cause from whatever is contaminated.”

2. “As an additional note, human bites have exactly the same impact as feline bites.”

3. “Meanwhile, our lives are becoming more disconnected from anything other than machines and other people. Has anyone studied the dangerous health effects of that?”

4. “Be careful you don’t get hit by a bus crossing the street to get to the ER after that cat bite!”

5. “Yes, some cats are crazy, just like some dogs, gerbils, raccoons, and members of the House of Representatives.”

6. “Still, I think it should be kept in mind, if people think this dangerous bite can be held against cats, human bites are far worse.”

7. “We don’t live in a risk free world, although many of us feel we should.”

8. “If you think cats are dangerous, climate change will cause a lot more human suffering and loss of human life; climate risks are much greater.”

9. “I’d rather be bitten by a cat than by most people I know.”

10. “There’s a valid point here and this is a legitimate topic. But why so little about consequences of OTHER animals’ bites?”

11. “The real fear, which almost everyone seems to ignore, is climate change.”

12. “Next article: “Beware of baby bites”.”

515px-Feral_cat_Virginia_cropII. You Brought This On Yourself

1. “Just as in human to human relationships, you need to know your partner, be aware, understanding, and behave in such a way that you are more likely to receive kisses rather than trips to the ER.”

2. “the main dangers of infection come from our own skin and failure to get the proper vaccines both for ourselves and our animals.”

3. “The lesson here is not the seriousness of cat bites, but rather your failure to get regular tetanus shots.”

4. “The reason of most cat bites is that people don’t understand cat “language”. Most cats give many warnings before they actually bite. Learn to listen/read your cat.”

5. “I don’t think people understand how to approach a cat and when to know to stop petting it. You never just immediately start petting a cat, any more than you would give stranger in the street a hug.”

6. “How would you like it if a person kept insisting on giving you a creepy neckrub? It’s the same thing.”

7. “People who know cat’s don’t start to pet a cat. Also cats (even your own cat) will tolerate just so much petting. Best to keep away and say, ‘nice kitty’.”

8. “Cats eyes dilate when they are interested in something (that bird outside the window), stressed, frightened or angry. Watch your cat’s eyes to see how it is feeling toward what’s going on. When my children were young, i always told them, “When the cats get Big Eyes, move away!””

9. “Don’t provoke your kitty! FELINES rule!”

10. “Also, unless it is an identifiably mean cat, cats don’t bite you unless they have a reason, like being terrified of something and trying to get away while you are holding them and you are not quick enough or smart enough to let go.”

11. “It doesn’t sound as if this house is a friendly or healthy place for them.”

12. “People who get bitten by cats are probably doing something cats don’t like. People need to smarten up.”

13. “Furthermore, having seen patients come into the ED with serious cat bites, all were young males that had questionable backgrounds and rather unbelievable stories. I’m not saying that everyone with a serious cat bite was abusing or provoking a cat, but all 8 of the cases I saw were extremely suspicious.”

14. “I hope you realize how vey lucky you were to even SEE a snow leopard.”

III. It’s Actually My Own Fault

1.  “I’ve learned when it’s time to stop being playful.”

2. “My present cat gives me very diplomatic warnings (very light chewing on my arm or hand with those needlesharp canines) if I make contact with the “wrong” part of his body.”

3. “I’ve had cats since childhood and had a few serious bites, always because I inadvertently scared the cat.”

4. “I made the mistake of being too aggressive with a neighborhood stray, and spent 5 days in the hospital and got six rabies injections for my lapse in judgement. The rabies shots are no big deal anymore; just six shots in the arm over a period of 28 days.”

CatjudgingIV. WHAT

1. “What my vet called “Redirected aggression” led my cat to bite my right thumb, through the carpal bone, marrow and joint. He was in a screened window staring down an outside cat. 5 trips to the E.R. led to 4 days in the hospital to find the best I.V. antibiotic. Then a catheter was put in my left arm ending 2 inches from my heart. For 70 contiguous days I visited the hospital for infusion of the I.V. antibiotic. After several years, I have 2 fused bones in the thumb (after 2 surgeries).”

2. “I have a crazy, lovable cat who bites every now and then. Most of my friends are afraid of her. We all respect her. She bit one friend on the veiny part of her hand and that friend had to have the IV drip and take home antibiotics. But the rest of us, and I’d say there have been at least 15 bleeding bites in all, have not required medical attention. I think for the sake of balance this is worth mentioning!”

3. “I bent to pick her up and “Isabelle” chomped me between my thumb and index finger. Fearful that she might get away, I didn’t let go of her and she bit down this time for real, sinking her teeth deep into my hand. I still didn’t let go, but she was satisfied and offered no further violence. I bled, but wasn’t too concerned. By the next day, I knew I had a problem. My hand had filled with fluid and if I turned it in any way, all the fluid would flow from one side of my hand to the other quite painfully.”

4. “Fast forward 40 years and I’m bitten on the arm with a friend’s house cat – never out of the apartment. He just hung there on my arm by his teeth while I tried to shake him off. Lots of blood to clean up, some pain, but didn’t think anything of it. When I spoke to my husband that night (a medical practioner), he told me I had to get on antibiotics. I scoffed. The next morning, I woke up in pain with a red line going up my arm.”

5. “I have been bitten many times by our declawed cat, Mr. Big. But only when another cat is crying and he believes I am the cause of the other cat’s distress.”

6. “The first time he bit me occurred while I was recovering from open heart surgery and still on coumadin, He got me in the tush, ruining my jeans.”

7. “My husband and I have been to the ER three times in our 26 year marriage, all three due to cat bites or scratches. The first time our cat, Cleo, nicked the inside of my eyelid with his claw and being allergic, my eye swelled close. The second time, our cat, Sammy, bite my husbands thumb and 2 days later his hand was twice it’s normal size and he was on IV antibiotics for several hours.”

8. “Yes, I was bitten on the right hand, fangs into the top and bottom of my index finger’s large knuckle and claws down the hand and the wrist. Cat scratch fever and infection set in and the hand swelled to twice the size. The surgery to clean, inspect, drain and repair the wounds and the tendons cost $12,000…ten years ago.”

9. “If you have a heart valve problem, or a heart valve transplant, you need to be especially careful of cat bites. My husband almost died from a cat bite, which gave him bartonella and infected his aortic heart valve, which had to be replaced again. He was bitten by a cat at the Humane Society, but we didn’t know for months that it had caused a problem until his heart began throwing clots and destroyed part of a kidney and a vein in his leg as well as the transplanted cow valve.”

10. “my healthy, vaccinated cat bit me on the hand after something startled him. I ended up in the hospital for three days getting intravenous antibiotics to stop the skin infection, “cellulitis,” from going into my blood and turning to sepsis.”

11. “The bite was deep and the wound was spurting blood all over the carpet. Jumped into the shower and washed it with Betadine. Within two hours, the bag of my leg was solid black and before it was done, it looked like someone had taken a football, cut it lengthwise, painted it black and pasted it to the back of my thigh. Had bright red lines leading up my leg toward my torso which indicated the infection was traveling north. Needless to say, we got to the emergency room fast where they instantly started intravenous antibiotics. As the E.R. doctors reminded me, “if you hadn’t have come in you were going to die”.”

12. “I wound up in the ER twice with cat bites from my cat. The second time, she was laying on my desk on top of some papers I needed to get to. I pulled one of the papers out as slowly and carefully as I could so as not to disturb her, and she bit me on the hand hard. I wound up in the hospital 3 nights with IV antibiotics as my hand swelled way up and took 3 days to go down.”

13. “My run-in with a feral about a decade ago when it broke into my basement through a coal window reflects this data. Once caught, it was like holding a tiny chainsaw and my wounds reflected such. I was spirited away to the ER where the attending told me that cat bites are much like being injected with fecal matter, and even with all the precautions taken in the ER including the first of the rabies series and injections of antibiotics to the wounds themselves, I still ended up a few days later on a regimen of IV antibiotics in order to save my life (or at least my limbs). It took at least a year to regain the full range of motion and strength in my right thumb that was mangled particularly badly.”

14. “My cat hurled himself against the sreen door, howling and stating to break through the screen. Silly me grabbed him to try to pry him loose when his head whipped around and he bit me three times on the wrist. Two hours later I was in the ER, soaking my twice normal sized wrist in Epsom salts, then receiving an antibiotic injection and finally released with a prescrition for more antibiotics. It took three days for the swelling to go down. The ER physician said that I was lucky to have come in quickly-otherwise would have had to be admitted.”

15. “Now I have a youngish cat who is the first real “biter” I every had. He bites and hisses when he doesn’t want to be moved, and sometimes he bites when he is being ignored. I drench every bite with hydrogen peroxide, and so far none of his bites over the last 4 years or so has caused infection.”

16. “Two days ago my cat bit my nose while I was asleep. Made it bleed.”

V. Cat Bites Aren’t That Bad, You Pussy (See What I Did There?)

1. “as an active volunteer in cat rescue org. ive been bitten several times…none had caused me skin infection”

2. “Remember that the study examined people who went to the hospital with a cat bite — obviously these people are already suffering.”

3. “I have had cats all my life, and I have been bitten and scratched (never a deep bite, but enough to draw blood). I wash the bite/scratch and put some polysporin on it, and I have never had an infection.”

4. “This was hardly a random sample of people bitten by cats. All of the subjects had already decided to go to the hospital to have the bite examined, so they probably had serious bites to begin with.”

5. “Serious infections from cat bites are unusual.”

6. “You’re still alive, standing and able to write a comment, I’d say stop worrying!”

www.heikkisiltala.comVI. This Whole Article Is Alarmist Anti-Cat Propaganda and Will Kill Innocent Cats

1. “This strikes me as just another overblown, alarmist article that conjures up fear about nature and animals. I wonder how many people will get rid of their cat, or reconsider having a cat based on information like this?”

2. “my first thought after reading Mr. Bakalar’s article was Oh,my God now we are going to have a big problem with the already over crowded animal shelters.”

3. “Mr. Bakalar’s article is very interesting with all his facts, but to me it also sends out a very negative message that cats are to be avoided and just get a dog.”

4. “Never the less-I think this is a “vilify the cat” article.”

5. “I wonder if the anger (or fear) level of the cat that was biting was taken into consideration for this study? Obviously an angry or frightened cat will tend to sink its teeth and claws in deeper so as to deposit that bacteria in its bite to a out of reach place that can’t easily be cleaned where it’s more certain to grow and cause infection.”

6. “This article is unnecessarily inflamatorry, particularly with what seems like an epidemic of incidences of cat torturing, cat poisoning, cat murders in the five boroughs of nyc.”

7. “I have seldom read such a bizarre, extremist article and the comments about it are no less peculiar.”

8. “The only thing this article may accomplish is to make people dislike or mistrust of our friends, housecats.”

9. “And what about the “victims” (a loaded term, that?) who required NO medical or hospital aid? Seems like skewed numbers, as this info stands now.”

10. “Yet another Well blurb encouraging paranoia over a relatively mundane occurrence.”

VII. MRAs Show Up Where You Least Expect Them

1. “My vet compared that to hugging a badly PMS-ing woman. She may like you, but she’ll become very moody and impatient with you for no apparent reason.”

2. “A real man won’t share his space with a cat. Any man who will is whipped, period. Dogs are a man’s natural companion, right after women. Cats are parasitic vermin, that no real man will tolerate. Cats are one step above rodents on the food chain, and are a huge disease vector.”

VIII. Cat Names Referenced

1. Robespierre

2. Isabelle

3. Tom Cat Guy

4. Mr. Big

5. Cleo

6. Sammy

7. Ally

8. Mookie Wilson

9. Oliver

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