Cat bites are serious! A small bite from a cat or kitten may seem like not a big deal, especially if you were playing with your kitten and oops one of their teeth gave you a tiny pin puncture. But this is one situation where your immediate actions can be the difference between a momentary ouch – and days spent in the hospital with multiple surgeries. I am not exaggerating!  A cat’s teeth are like sharp needles. There is bacteria on your skin and a lot of bacteria in their mouth. When a cat tooth punctures your skin, it pushes bacteria into the wound, which because of the tiny opening size, often closes up quickly, sealing the bacteria inside. This is why even tiny cat bites should not to be ignored.  Bites to the hand are particular prone to getting infected, because hands have so many bones and lower blood circulation than other parts of the body. So what should you do if you’re bitten by your cat or kitten?

The Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine recommends taking these simple steps below if you are bitten by a cat. Disclaimer: The information presented here is not intended to take the place of professional medical advice. If you are bitten by any animal, always consult your physician for his/her recommendations.

1. Immediately and thoroughly wash the wound with plenty of soap and warm water. The idea is to remove as much dirt and saliva—and therefore, bacteria—as possible. It may hurt to scrub a wound, but an infection will hurt a lot more. Scrub it well and run water over it for several minutes to make sure it is clean and all soap is rinsed out.

2. It is a good idea to follow the washing with an antiseptic solution, such as iodine or other disinfectant, but always wash with soap and water first.

3. Apply antibiotic ointment and cover the wound with gauze or a bandage.

If the wound is severe, if you notice any signs of infection (pain, reddening, and swelling), or if you have any of the risk factors listed on their page here, seek medical advice at once. Your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics, and may have you come in daily for an IV antibiotic drip if the bite is infected.