Spring and summer are the seasonal breeding period for cats, so this is when the toms are out and about, looking for trouble and creating it where there's a lack. They will typically beat up on the spayed females and neutered males in the area, causing all manner of injuries.
We tend to see claw scratches on the face, and serious eye injuries can result. But claws do not deliver the most significant fight injuries - that honor goes to the teeth.
Cats have long, sharp, pointed fangs (canines in doctor-speak) which deliver small but deep puncture wounds. The fangs also do a great job of inoculating bacteria deep inside the wounds, which then seal up rapidly due to their small entry point. After a day or two of incubating, the bacterial population in the wound explodes, the cat's immune system throws a few million white blood cells into the mixture, and you've got a smelly, oozing mess full of pus.
Most people are more than happy to come running to Cat's Meow Veterinary Clinic at that point, which makes me a happy camper. I not only get to do surgery on an abscess that is enough to turn the strongest of stomachs, which is reward enough in itself - I also get paid to do my magic. In spite of their horrible appearance and nasty odor, bite wound abscesses are among the most rewarding and simple of conditions I am asked to treat.
The downside is this: abscess treatment easily runs $300-400, and can go higher depending on circumstances and if complications develop. It's not cheap, and in spite of pet medical insurance being available for decades, most clients still haven't jumped on board with the idea.
But it doesn't have to be like this. All bite wound abscesses begin with a bite wound. If clients were to bring their cats in within the first 6-8 hours of a fight and we had the chance to put it on prophylactic antibiotics, most of these would never develop into an abscess in the first place. And that's a whole lot less expensive.
So the next time you suspect or know that your cat has been in a fight, make an appointment for an immediate exam so we can assess the need for treatment before it ever gets icky.