Is Neosporin Safe for Cats?

Neosporin squeeze packet in front of brown and white cat

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

It may be tempting to slather Neosporin on your cat when you see it has a wound. But this first-aid kit staple, otherwise called triple antibiotic ointment, isn't recommended for use on cats. Neosporin can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions in cats. If you want to create a first-aid kit for your feline companion, skip the Neosporin and keep an ointment from the vet on hand along with some other essentials for cat first-aid.

What Is Neosporin?

Neosporin is the trade name for a triple antibiotic ointment created by the Johnson & Johnson company. It is made up of three different antibiotics: neomycin, polymixin B, and bacitracin. Neosporin (or generic, non-brand name triple antibiotic ointment) that is labeled as "pain relief" contains a fourth ingredient: a topical analgesic (pain reliever) called pramoxine hydrogen chloride.

In combination, the three topical antibiotics in Neosporin are effective at keeping small cuts and scrapes bacteria free. They are very safe for topical use in people. In cats, topical application may cause mild skin irritation or an allergic reaction, if the cat is sensitive to one or more ingredients, but other than that there are no major side effects to topical usage. However, if ingested in large enough quantities, polymixin b can cause a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylactic shock or even death.

If Neosporin is meant to be used topically, how leery should one be if component has such an adverse effect only when ingested? Remember that cats groom themselves daily. Especially if they are feeling dirty from a greasy ointment that was just applied to them. Additionally, if you keep the "pain relief" variety on hand, the pramoxine hydrogen chloride additive can cause further skin irritation in cats.

For these reasons, despite the fact that Neosporin is technically safe for topical use in cats, it is not actually recommended for use in cats. The Animal Poison Control Center lists it as a medication that is toxic to pets.

Are There Alternatives to Neosporin?

Unfortunately there is no over the counter alternative to Neosporin in cats. However, there are veterinary specific ointments that can be prescribed in place of Neosporin. If your cat has a minor cut or scrape, schedule an appointment for your cat to be looked over by your vet. They can prescribe the right antibiotic ointment for your cat's scrape. In the event that your vet discovers that your cat's minor cut or scrape isn't so minor after all, you're already in the right place to have it addressed.

Can I Do Anything at Home?

If your cat does wind up with a small cut, there are things you can do at home, after consulting with your vet. If there is bleeding still, apply direct pressure to the cut with sterile gauze and tape in place with medical tape of cohesive vet wrap material so as not to remove any clot that forms once that bleeding has stopped. Once you have the bleeding wound under control, check your cat over for any other wounds.

If you find a wound on your cat but it is no longer actively bleeding and the cut appears to be minor – small and not deep—you can clean the wound with an antiseptic solution such as povidone-iodine. You can clean around the wound with sterile gauze and saline solution. If you have a syringe or similar tool on hand, you can use that to flush iodine over the wound itself as well.

If you find any wounds that are deep or long, or if it appears to be a puncture wound, simply clean around the wound with saline. Do not flush the actual wound out. Let your vet handle that part. Once you have cleaned out any and all wounds and stopped any and all bleeding your cat is stable enough to be taken straight to the vet.

Every cat owner should be prepared for an emergency that would require at home care. Keeping your cat's first aid kit stocked with Neosporin may not be recommended, but there are certainly plenty of supplies that you can and should stock it with. First and foremost, your cat's first aid kit should have the phone numbers of your veterinarian, local emergency vet hospitals, and ASPCA Pet Poison Control (1-888-426-4435).

You should also have a copy of your cat's vaccine history, pertinent medical records, a photo, and microchip number if your cat is microchipped. Your cat's first aid kit should have plenty of bandaging supplies, including gauze squares, gauze rolls, non-stick or telfa pads, medical tape (NOT band-aids), and cohesive vet wrap. Blunt ended bandaging scissors to cut these materials are also necessary. Povidone-iodine, saline solution, and syringes should be included in your kit to clean out any wounds.

If your cat allows you to take a rectal temperature, a rectal "fever" thermometer and water-based lubricating gel should be included. Make sure the thermometer is a "fever", thermometer as cats have a normal temperature that can be as high as 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, so regular thermometers may not be able to read your cat's temperature, especially if they have a fever.

These are just bare essentials to start your cat's first aid kit. Check out another great article on The Spruce Pets that details all the things that you need for a fully stocked, ready-for-anything first aid kit here.

Every cat owner wants to be able to help their pet when they need it. Keeping a well-stocked first aid kit is essential. Just make sure you keep the Neosporin out of the cat's first aid kit and in your own personal kit.  

Article Sources
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Antibiotics. Animal Poison Control Center 

  2. Fever of Unknown Origin in Cats. VCA Hospitals.