If your cat is injured, carrying out some basic cat first aid checks may make the difference between life and death. Be prepared for emergencies and follow these guidelines to keep your cat safe until you reach the vet.
Keep the telephone numbers for your vet and the emergency vet service where you can easily find them. Call a vet immediately if your cat has any of the following signs.
■ Loss of consciousness
■ Rapid breathing, panting, or struggling for breath
■ Fast or weak pulse
■ Hot or cold temperature – feel the ears and pads of the paws
■ Pale gums
■ Limping, diffculty in walking, or paralysis
■ Diffculty in standing, or collapse
■ Serious injuries
Handling an injured cat
Check the cat for broken bones and open wounds or bleeding, but try not to move him. Take care – even the most loving pet may bite or lash out if it is in severe pain.
If the cat has a fracture or severe wound, lay him on a blanket with the injury uppermost and wrap the wound up gently. Do not try to splint broken bones yourself.
If your cat has a hemorrhage (severe bleeding), raise the bleeding area above the level of the cat’s heart, if possible, and apply direct pressure with a pad of cloth, to stem the blood ﬂow.
Lift the cat carefully, with one hand under the shoulders and the other under the hips, and place him in a carrier.
Loss of consciousness
If the cat is lying motionless, check for consciousness. Touch the corner of the eye to see if it blinks, ﬂick the tip of the ear to see if the ear twitches or pinch the skin between the toes to see if the cat ﬂinches. If the cat is unconscious, check “ABC” – airway, breathing, and circulation.
■ Airway – open the mouth and pull the tongue forward. Gently sweep your little fnger over the back of the tongue to check for anything blocking the throat.
■ Breathing – look for chest movements and feel for breath from the nostrils.
■ Circulation – feel the chest for the heart beat, and the inside of the back leg, near the top, for the pulse.
If there is no breathing or pulse, give heart massage by squeezing the chest under the forelegs with one hand, at two compressions per second. Every 10 compressions, give a “breath” – press the chest with both hands, or cup your hands around the face and blow into the nose. Continue for up to 10 minutes or until the cat starts breathing.
Shock is a life-threatening loss of circulation caused by severe injury or heavy internal bleeding, poisoning, or a severe allergic reaction. The cat will feel cold to the touch, breathing and pulse will be weak and rapid, and the gums will be very pale. Wrap the cat in blankets to preserve body heat, but do not constrict the chest. If he is having problems breathing, lay him on his side with the head tilted downward. Monitor ABC.
Abnormally low body temperature can develop if a cat spends too long outside in cold weather or falls into freezing water. Bring the cat into a warm room and wrap him in warm, dry blankets – warm the blankets first in a tumble dryer. The cat will need urgent veterinary attention.
A cat can easily develop heat stroke on a hot day if he is shut in a room or a vehicle with no access to water. The cat may be panting and distressed, with red gums. This needs urgent action, heat stroke may quickly progress to collapse, coma, and death. Lower the body temperature by placing the cat in a cool room with a fan, or placing cool, damp towels on the body, especially around the armpits and groin.
If you can reach a drowning cat, pull him to safety and dry with a towel. Check If he is not moving, hold him by the hind legs, with his body hanging down, then shake him up and down to clear water from the lungs. If he is not breathing, try resuscitation.
Accidents are the main cause of serious injury and death in cats. Minimize risks by keeping your cat indoors at busy times and at night, and have your cat neutered – neutered cats are less likely to stray and get into danger. Sadly, many accident victims do not survive. If you find a body, check it for a collar and take it to a local vet to be scanned for a microchip. If the cat is alive, move him only if he is in danger of being hit by another vehicle, or if you feel that moving him will not worsen any injury.
First aid kit
A first aid kit for your cat will enable you to deal with minor injuries yourself or, in emergencies, provide care until you can reach a vet. Some pet shops sell veterinary-approved kits. Keep the kit easily accessible at all times.