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Is Neosporin Safe for Cats? Safety & Medication Advice

Neosporin is one of the go-to medications in most of our homes’ medicine cabinets. For surface cuts and scratches, this antibiotic ointment can work wonders to help them heal. It is also great for other skin conditions, like eczema, mild skin infections, or even mild burns and abrasions. We all know that our feline friends can suffer from the pain the same way we do, and it’s natural to wonder whether we can use the medication for our pets. Cats are especially prone to minor skin abrasion from scratches and bites from other cats, as well as the sometimes-dangerous places that their adventurous nature takes them. But is Neosporin safe to use on cats?

The answer is yes, you can use Neosporin on your cat. However, the real question is whether you want to. This is because Neosporin is not tailored toward feline use, and there are concerns around its safety when used for cats.

In this article, we’ll explore what exactly Neosporin is, what it’s used for, the potential harms and benefits of using it on your cat, and better alternatives to choose.

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What is Neosporin?

Neosporin is the brand name used for a topical ointment that is used to treat minor wounds, scratches, burns, and skin infections, but it is available under several other names. The product contains neomycin, bacitracin, and polymyxin, a triple dose of antibiotics that works by preventing the growth of potentially harmful bacteria. Thus, it is only suitable for bacterial skin infections and will not work for fungal skin infections.

The original ointment also contains cocoa butter, cottonseed oil, cottonseed oil, sodium pyruvate, tocopherol acetate (vitamin E), and petroleum jelly. These products are used as a base for the antibiotics and may vary depending on the manufacturer.

the doctor smeared an abdomen wound of the cat
Image Credit: Surkova.photo, Shutterstock

Should you use Neosporin on your cat?

Neosporin is easily and widely available as an affordable over-the-counter medication, so most of us have it laying around at home. This makes it tempting to use for any minor wounds or scratches that our cats may have, but there are a few things to consider first.

When applied topically, Neosporin works the same way on your cat as it does on humans, and it is perfectly safe. However, when ingested, it can cause serious issues. Cats love to lick themselves and do it constantly to clean their coats. They’ll likely do it even more over an injured area, and if you’ve just applied Neosporin, there’s a good chance that they will lick most of it off. It’s almost impossible to keep a constant watch on any cat, let alone an injured one, as cats are expert escape artists. Even if your cat is locked up in your home, they can find somewhere to hide and lick all the ointment off of their wound.

If you do decide to use Neosporin on your cat, we recommend using a tight-fitting bandage to cover the area up or even a cone collar to prevent them from ingesting the ointment. Additionally, use a smaller amount to be safe, in case they do manage to get to the ointment. Still, this is no guarantee that they will not ingest some Neosporin.

Neosporin should only be used for surface wounds and cuts and is not suitable for deeper wounds or abscesses.

Neosporin side effects for cats

If your cat does manage to lick off some Neosporin, there can be potentially serious adverse health effects, depending on the amount they ingest. This is why we recommend using as little as possible.

A domestic cat with a bandage
Image Credit: YuSafa, Shutterstock

The main ingredient in Neosporin to be concerned about your cat ingesting is the antibiotic polymyxin B. When ingested in large amounts, this substance is toxic and can be potentially fatal for your cat. Even smaller amounts can cause anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. In a study involving over 60 cats, anaphylaxis occurred in more than half the cats that the antibiotic was administered to. Although most of the cats survived and no causal association was proved, the administration of the antibiotic preceded anaphylaxis in all cats.

Besides polymyxin B, certain varieties of Neosporin have “pain-relief” chemicals in them, like pramoxine hydrogen chloride, which may cause further skin irritation.

Safe Neosporin Alternatives?

If you’ve decided that using Neosporin on your cat is not worth the risk, while there are no real Neosporin alternatives, there are other options available. After all, you still want your cat to have relief from pain and heal as fast as possible. We recommend taking your cat to the vet as soon as possible for a thorough check-up.

There are antimicrobial sprays and topical creams available that can provide relief and may do the trick for minor abrasions. Of course, you should always consult your vet first because a wound that seems minor to you may be more serious than you think.

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While Neosporin poses no threat to your cat when used topically, it can be dangerous when ingested, and it is difficult to keep your cat from licking it. For this reason, we advise against using it for your cat and instead, consult your local vet. If you do decide to use it, be sure to use as little as possible and do your best to cover the wound effectively to prevent your cat from licking it.

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Featured Image Credit: Ermolaev Alexander, Shutterstock