It can be a worrying time if your cat is injured or becomes suddenly unwell. From burns and scalds to suspected poisoning and even road traffic accidents, the best response to any scenario is to call your vet for advice. However, if you’d like to be prepared, take a look at our tips on some common emergencies below.
It is worth mentioning that you should never give your cat medicines intended for human consumption, as this could harm them.
First of all, make sure your cat is somewhere safe. Some cats, when frightened, may attempt to run back outside or hide, so try to confine them to a single room where you can prepare for the next steps.
There are several common cat injuries or illnesses that may benefit from basic first aid. However, if a cat is unwell or hurt, they may resent handling or restraint and avoiding further stress is vital. Prioritise getting them safely and quickly to the vets.
If your cat has a wound that is actively bleeding, a tight bandage or applying firm pressure with a pad can be used to stem the blood flow.
If you have dressing material, apply a non-adhesive dressing first, then use bandaging to firmly hold this in place. A small amount of dressing tape such as micropore tape can be used to secure the bandage material. If blood is coming through the dressing, another layer of bandage can be applied tightly over the top.
Pressure bandages should not be kept in place for long, but it can help control bleeding during travel to the vet.
If there is evidence of blood but no active bleeding, then move your cat very gently to avoid stimulating blood flow.
This can be caused when something is stuck in the windpipe, resulting in difficulty breathing. Cats can also appear to choke with respiratory diseases such as asthma.
If you can see an object in their mouth you can try to pull it out. If there is a string attached to something in the throat (such as on a toy) grasp this and gently pull. If an object is not visible do not put your fingers down their throat to try and find it, this may push it further down and make matters worse. Seek veterinary attention immediately for all breathing concerns.
If your cat is lame and you fear they may have broken a bone, move your cat very carefully into a lined carrier. Do not attempt to bandage the affected limb.
Limp tails, even if they appear non-painful, need a veterinary assessment. Tail pull injuries (where the tail gets pulled or trapped and damage occurs to the nerves at the base of the tail) are common in cats and can be associated with an inability to pass urine or faeces/poo.
If a cat is vocalising or distressed, and unable to move one or more legs, this may indicate a blood clot, which is a painful emergency condition and requires immediate veterinary care.
If the injury is fresh and your cat allows it, run cold water over the burn for at least five minutes before seeing your vet.
Do not apply any creams or treatments and ensure you keep your cat warm and calm.
If you can, take the plant or item that you suspect has poisoned your cat with you to the vet. More information on signs of poisoning in cats.
Do not try and hold your cat - instead, darken the room and reduce noise and stimulation. Remove any items that may cause accidents, place cushions or pillows to pad around furniture and contact your vet.
Move your cat very carefully, wrap them in a blanket and place them in a carrier before taking them to the vet.
Although heatstroke is rare, it might occur if a cat has been trapped in a hot space for a considerable amount of time. In this case, wet their coat with tepid water and put your cat somewhere cool before phoning your vet.
If the sting is visible and your cat allows it, use a credit card or a similar blunt object to scrape the stinger out, without squeezing the area. Otherwise, book your vet to do this. Monitor closely for any signs of an allergic reaction and contact your vet for further advice.
Cats, usually male cats, can develop a blockage which means they are unable to urinate. Their bladder will continue to fill, and in time this will cause damage to the kidneys and secondary changes which are life threatening. Cats will often go in and out of their tray frequently, cry out in pain, and you may notice them cleaning themselves excessively. If your cat is attempting to urinate and not passing a steady stream, contact your vet as soon as possible.
All cats who have been involved in a road traffic accident, or fallen from a height, should be checked by a vet. Cats may appear uninjured but have significant internal injuries.
Although sometimes it can be tricky to decide whether the situation is an emergency, your vet is there to help you decide so if in doubt, call them to see if they recommend an appointment.
If your cat displays any of the following behaviour, it is recommended that you call the vet immediately:
Remember to keep calm, approaching your cat carefully and slowly. A sick cat has the potential to lash out if they feel threatened. For more advice on common cat illnesses, take a look at our guide.
Whether your cat is an eager outdoor explorer or only stays indoors, it would be useful to have a cat first aid kit for any unexpected injuries or illnesses when you don’t have immediate access to the vet. However, we still recommend contacting your vet as soon as possible when the incident happens.
Your first aid kit could include:
When it comes to helping your pet if they become unwell, it might be tempting to look up home remedies online or ask friends or family for advice and try to treat them at home. However, it’s very important to speak to a qualified vet before any treatment for your cat is carried out. Each case of illness is unique and appropriate treatment can vary; some might require further examination by your vet.
Human medications including painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen should never be given to cats as they can be extremely toxic to them. Many essential oils and other natural products are also not suitable for pets.
If you’re concerned about the cost of veterinary treatment, let the vet know and they should be able to provide you with a range of treatment options that can be tailored to you. We recommend taking out pet insurance which can reduce the stress of worry about how to pay for vets bills.