If I own a cat or dog, what steps can I take to prevent bites?
Cats and dogs should be "socialised" early. That is, if you have a new puppy or kitten in your home, get them used to people, so they do not find strangers scary. Visit the vet regularly for check-ups and vaccinations for your pet, so they keep healthy. Dogs should be trained early, which helps them be more confident and less likely to bite as a result of being scared.
Never leave young children alone with a cat or dog. Teach your children how to handle pets safely and in a way which your pet enjoys rather than finds unpleasant or scary. Teach them not to disturb a pet who is sleeping and how to handle animals gently and kindly.
What else can I do to avoid being bitten by a cat or dog?
Avoid patting or stroking a dog or cat who doesn't know you. Check with the owner that their pet likes this before doing so. Be very wary around stray dogs or cats, particularly if they look ill or neglected. Do not approach stray animals in countries where rabies is a risk. Avoid approaching animals that look aggressive. For example, cats who are hissing or who have the fur on their tail sticking up, or dogs that are snarling or baring their teeth. Avoid approaching dogs that have puppies, or cats that have kittens, as they may bite if they fear their young are at risk from a stranger.
Try to avoid running from a dog, as their natural instinct may be to chase you. Stay still and keep calm if approached by an unfamiliar dog.
Further reading and references
Bites - human and animal; NICE CKS, July 2015 (UK access only)
Ellis R, Ellis C; Dog and cat bites. Am Fam Physician. 2014 Aug 1590(4):239-43.
Morgan M, Palmer J; Dog bites. BMJ. 2007 Feb 24334(7590):413-7.
Abrahamian FM, Goldstein EJ; Microbiology of animal bite wound infections. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2011 Apr24(2):231-46. doi: 10.1128/CMR.00041-10.
Animal bites; World Health Organization (WHO) Fact sheet, February 2013
Controlling your dog in public; GOV.UK
Pasteurellosis: characteristics, diagnosis and management; Public Health England, May 2011
Dog bite prevention; American Vetinary Medical Association (AVMA)
Be safe with dogs; Blue Cross
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