What Causes a Sudden Swollen Face in Cats?

There are many illnesses that could inflict a cat, but there’s nothing as baffling as a sudden swollen face. It’s also equally alarming to see your beloved face have normal features one moment and have disturbingly disfigured facial features the next. The swollen face syndrome is more common with outdoor cats and for good reason. While indoor cats tend to be categorized as more docile, outdoor cats are generally more hostile and prone to injury. This is because outdoor cats actually have a natural tendency to fight with other outdoor cats. If there aren’t any cats around to fight with, they will actually go and search for a fight to satisfy their whim. Even when an outdoor cat is generally docile, it can still get provoked from another feline looking for an altercation.

This cat-fight tendency is actually one of the biggest causes of the swollen face syndrome in cats. To explain in medical terms, we can describe that facial swelling to be a facial abscess (any type of swelling is properly termed medically as an abscess). Abscesses are usually indicative of an infection, and a cat-fight abscess is most commonly the result of a cat bite injury to another cat’s head.

It’s a fairly common occurrence actually. Many cats that fight walk away with some type of injury, and a bit is one of the most common. We all know what cat teeth are like; they’re sharp, long, and completely capable of deep tissue injury. It’s important to note that much like human mouths, cat mouths are also full of large amounts of bacteria. Once a cat bites another cat, bacteria are transferred from the mouth of one to the tissues of another. This can happen to any part of a cat’s body, but the face is definitely a common spot. After a bite, it could take a couple of days for the tiny entry wound to heal, but this isn’t a necessarily good thing for the bitten cat.

Once the entry wound is completely closed, the bacteria that are sitting inside the wound gets cut off from oxygen. The most common bacteria that thrive in cats’ mouths is the Pasteurella multocida, which actually thrive in environments that are devoid of oxygen. Once this happens, then the inevitable also occurs—an infection develops.

A cat-fight abscess can be extremely hard to diagnose due to the fact that any evidence of a cat fight is long gone by the time symptoms of an abscess develop. An infection could take up to three days before it manifests. Most of the time the swelling will cause pain and fevers, but not all cases will bring lethargy or loss of appetite. The swelling itself is a result of a white blood cell build up. We all know that white blood cells fight infection, and these blood cells rush to the area of damage. When there are too many white blood cells in an area, they eventually get overwhelmed and die. Large amounts of dead white blood cells are basically the makeup of pus; and as an abscess continues to develop, more pus forms.

Due to the build up of pressure and the lack of blood flow in the swollen areas, the facial skin itself will begin to lose integrity. When it’s had enough, the facial skin will eventually rupture, letting all the buildup of pus out through a broken section.

Cat-fight abscesses will not endanger your cat’s life. However, the same abscesses could cause weakness and lethargy. For outdoor cats, this could become a life-threatening scenario if ever they come face-to-face with a predator while they are suffering from an infection or an abscess. In this event, outdoor cats will have a much more difficult time acting in defense against predators compared to if the outdoor cats were completely healthy.

Other causes of a swollen face in cats include internal bleeding or hematoma in the area, the existence of tumors, embedded foreign objects, or any abscesses caused by thorns or anything else similar to the bite of a cat. If you suddenly see a part of your cat’s face swell up in no time, make sure that you take it to the veterinarian right away. The sooner that your cat can get treated for the abscess, the less risky it would be in the long run. If ever you get bitten by a cat, whether or not it’s developed the cat-fight abscess, make sure that you head straight to the doctor’s as soon as possible. What not fatal to your cat is highly fatal to humans. You could risk death if you are not seen by a medical professional straight away.

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