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Dog bites are more common, but cat bites pose unique threat

When you think of animal attacks, your mind likely goes straight to a dog bite or a dog attack. You probably picture a large, vicious-looking pit bull with a spiky collar, barking and snarling at someone for seemingly no reason. The dog's owner is nowhere to be found, and the person the dog is targeting finally attacks, sinking its teeth into the person's arm. This experience can be traumatic, causing not just physical pain, but mental and emotional anguish as well. Someone injured in a dog bite incident may fear dogs for the rest of his or her life.

Yes, dog bites make up a large part of "animal attacks" -- but a recent report indicates that cat bites actually pose a significant threat too.

Roughly 10 to 15 percent of emergency room visits due to "animal bites" are caused by cats. But these complications can range from irritation and swelling, to serious infection and the need for surgery. The study looked at 193 people who went to the Mayo Clinic for cat bite treatment. 36 people stayed for three days for treatment; another 154 were treated with antibiotics and left the same day (although 21 of them eventually came back for hospitalization).

The issue is that cat bites usually cause injuries to the hand, where a lot of tendons and soft tissue can be easily infected by a specific type of bacteria, Pasteurella multocida, which is present in the mouths of up to 90 percent of "healthy" cats.

Regardless of what kind of animal attacks someone, that person should consult an attorney with experience dealing with animal bite cases. The animal's owner could be held responsible if he or she failed to properly care, train or vaccinate their pet.

Source: New York Times, "Beware of a Cat's Bite," Nicholas Bakalar, Feb. 13, 2014

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