Is It A Good Idea To Use Neosporin on Your Cat?

box of neosporin isolated on white background

Is your cat constantly testing that “nine lives” myth? Does she overestimate her parkour skills? Do you have a tomcat who tries a little too hard to impress his lady friends by picking fights with toms bigger and meaner than him? Does your cat get a little too curious about what local wild life is up to? Did he mistakenly believe a cactus would be tasty?

Some cats think it’s funny to trespass in a dog’s territory and then teasingly jump up on a fence where the dog can’t reach. Unfortunately, some cats aren’t quite nimble enough to pull this trick off effectively. Chances are good your kitty has come home looking like, well, like something she dragged in.

You might’ve turned to your medicine cabinet for something to treat her wounds with. Chances are you have that big, familiar yellow tube of Neosporin. If you’re a mom, you may even have a sprayer on your keychain. It’s good for when you or your kids get scraped, but is it good for your cat?

What is Neosporin and what is it used for?

Neosporin is a Johnson & Johnson brand name for an antibiotic cream that is made up of  Neomycin, polymyxin B and bacitracin. This is a topical agent recommended to treat minor skin infections, mild burns and superficial dermal abrasions to prevent infection and promote healing. The “Pain Relief” brand contains pramoxine hydrogen chloride as an external analgesic.

It is also not to be used near the eyes or mouth. The warning against ingestion of Neosporin makes one wonder if it’s safe to use on an animal that uses their tongue for soothing wounds and general grooming.

Neosporin is not to be used on very deep wounds, puncture wounds or wounds caused by animal bites. The product manufacturer even warns against this on the label. A deep wound or any wound caused by an animal bite should be treated by a professional. 

There is also a warning against using it on children under the age of two, which brings into question if it should be used on a cat that has an even smaller and more fragile system.

Watch out for Pain Relievers in the Ointment

In the event of a mild head or neck wound that the cat can’t lick, it may seem like a good idea to put on a tiny bit of Neosporin. On an obviously minor wound (it can be hard to tell just how serious a wound is on long haired cats) it may seem like a good idea to use Neosporin, slap on a Band-Aid and pull on the Cone of Shame to further guarantee Kitty won’t lick off the Neosporin.

If you choose to do that, do not use the Neosporin labeled “Pain Relief”. The pramoxine hydrogen chloride that reduces pain in humans may cause irritation in cats. 

Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Use Neosporin On Cats

Picture of fat gray cat with yellow eyes

There is an antioxidant called Polymyxin B in Neosporin that is linked to anaphylaxis and death in cats. Keep in mind that medicines that work on people and dogs might not work on the delicate system of a cat. Also, it is technically illegal to put Neosporin on a cat.

The FDA prohibits using any drug in a manner inconsistent with its labeling and Neosporin is not labeled for cat use. Because of this and practical reasons, your vet is very unlikely to recommend using Neosporin on your cat. Ask your vet for a cat safe antibiotic ointment and keep it separate from your other first aid items.

Cats and Cuts

a picture of a cat napping

Your veterinarian will be able to recommend an ointment specifically formulated for cats. The first thing you want to do for any open wound is clean it. Maybe being injured has taken the fight out of your cat and she’ll let you do it. Or maybe it’s put her in such an extra cranky mood that it’s become a two person job, preferably while wearing long sleeves.

Ironically, it’s the ones with no fight left to complain that may be the worst injured. If she’s lost a lot of blood or the wound looks like an animal bite or there’s a discharge of pus, take her to the vet immediately. A minor flesh wound can be treated with povidone iodine that has been diluted to the color of weak tea or chlorhexidine diluted to a pale blue.

For a minor skin irritation, use something mild like petroleum jelly or benzoyl peroxide of 3% solution or less. It is also prudent to learn what is causing your cat’s skin irritation and try  to solve that problem. She may have fleas or she may be allergic to her plastic food bowl. Don’t merely treat the symptoms, remove the cause as well.

Conclusion

Neosporin is a must for every human first aid kit, but keep in mind your cat is a very different creature. While there’s a chance that your cat is not sensitive to Polymyxin B, is it really worth it? Particularly when she’s already in pain? Diluted iodine is the better choice.

The best choice would be an antibiotic cream formulated specifically for use on cats. You can treat minor wounds yourself, but have the discretion to know when it’s time to see the vet.

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  • April 30, 2018
Mary Nielsen
 

A huge animal lover, born and raised around dogs, cats, chickens... Self-educated pet care nerd. Currently parent of three adopted cats and one small mutt. Animal adoption advocate. Loves a good book (about animals) and playing the piano.