Is Neosporin Safe for Cats?
The day humans discovered bacteria, we became unstoppable—gone are the days when we treated infections with bloodletting, leeches, and vomiting. If you have an Internet connection, you are probably at a relatively low risk of dying after a wound becomes infected. We don’t even need to see a doctor to prevent and treat infections that may affect the small cuts and scrapes in our skin! Most of us have at least one tube of Neosporin sitting around, and we apply this ointment to our injuries liberally. Because Neosporin is so widely available and so frequently used, we often don’t even think of it as a medication. So, when our cat comes inside with an open wound on her leg, we reach for the Neosporin without thinking.
But is that actually safe? Should I treat my cat’s wounds the same way that I would treat my own? Can my cat have Neosporin?
The answer: technically, yes, you can give your cat Neosporin, but most experts would not recommend it. This triple antibiotic ointment may help prevent infection in minor cuts and scrapes, but it is usually unnecessary to apply any topical medication to such injuries. Unless you have reason to believe that your cat is at an increased risk of infection, there is no reason to use any medications on their cuts and scratches. Serious wounds, sores, or injuries that do not appear to heal properly should always be examined by a veterinarian. Neosporin is not approved for use in felines, so your veterinarian will be able to prescribe an antibiotic that is more suitable for your furry friend.
Neosporin and other triple antibiotic creams are only appropriate for use in small, recent cuts and scratches—when used properly, this drug may speed wound healing and reduce your cat’s risk of infection. If you decide to use this medication, it is important to clean out the cat’s wound with water or a gentle antiseptic product first (do not use alcohol or peroxide, which may cause unnecessary pain). If you have problems restraining your cat long enough to wipe away at the wound, it may be more effective to flush it out with a syringe. If you continue to struggle, or if the wound contains debris, defer to the expertise of a veterinarian.
Only after the wound has been cleaned may you apply just enough Neosporin to coat it. To aid in wound healing, you may want to cover the injury with a bandage. If it is in a spot your cat can lick (which is most of their body), it may be a good idea to make them wear a plastic cone to prevent them from ingesting any antibiotic ointment. An alternative to the cone is to monitor them for ten to fifteen minutes to prevent licking, and then gently remove the ointment that has not been absorbed.
Your cat is almost certain to lick and chew on their injury—especially if you put an itchy ointment on it. This is one reason to avoid these creams altogether.
Things to Consider
If your cat’s wound is anything other than a minor cut or scrape, do not apply any antibiotic ointment to their skin. Allergic skin reactions, flea or tick bites, bites and scratches from other animals, and severe or already-infected wounds should always be examined by a veterinarian. If your cat has been attacked by another animal (especially a wild animal), they should be taken to a veterinarian for quarantine and observation. Wild animal attacks often occur as a result of rabies, which is highly contagious. If your cat has been exposed to rabies, they need to be monitored and treated by a professional. Rabies is a virus and Neosporin, which is an antibiotic, will do nothing to protect against infection. Antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses.
Any triple antibiotic cream that includes a pain reliever is never safe for cats. Though some of these ointments may not cause immediate problems, many of them contain ingredients that are extremely poisonous to cats. As a general rule, human pain relief medications (topical or oral) should not be used on cats. In addition, Polymyxin B, one of the antibiotics in Neosporin, has been linked to sudden death in felines. These incidents are rare, but the risk remains. If your cat develops any new symptoms, such as vomiting or labored breathing, after coming into contact with Neosporin, seek veterinary care immediately. These may be signs of a potentially life-threatening reaction.
While Neosporin and other triple antibiotic creams may technically be safe if administered properly, it is generally a bad idea to use any over-the-counter medications formulated for humans on your pets without being instructed to do so by a veterinarian. If your cat has a mild cut or scrape, gently wash it out with water or an antiseptic solution. If the wound is serious, contains debris, or comes from some sort of animal bite, have a vet look at it. Your cat will thank you.