Health and Safety

The 6 Most Important First-Aid Tips for Cats

According to the adage, cats have nine lives, but they are not immune to injuries and illnesses. You may have a first-aid kit for your family and carry out regular fire drills, but it is important to consider a strategy for dealing with emergencies that affect your pets. It may be surprising to realize that cats can be recipients of many of the same kinds of lifesaving treatments that humans can, but there are essential differences. Once you feel confident that you know what to do if your pet has a wound, suddenly has difficulty breathing or is caught in a fire, you can breathe easier knowing that your best friend can be safe in any situation.

First, a common emergency for cats is bleeding or broken bones. As with bleeding in humans, the blood flow can be contained by applying pressure with a clean, wet cloth. A pet’s fur may make direct pressure on the wound a challenge, but it is a similar situation to stopping bleeding at the back of the head in humans. Use your hands to apply pressure and when the bleeding has slowed, apply a bandage. You can use a regular soft bandage that wraps around or, if handy, use a special variety designed especially for cats.

Direct pressure is the best way to care for a bleeding wound caused by a minor injury, a cut or a cat fight. However, bleeding can also signal more severe injuries, such as broken bones. If you suspect a rib is broken, make sure the cat gets care as soon as possible to prevent the rib from puncturing a lung. Apply dressing right away and give your cat medical attention. Broken bones and fractures should be dealt with immediately, particularly if the bone is poking through the skin. If the fracture is beneath the elbow or the knees you can give it a makeshift splint. Cardboard and newspapers can work as a temporary splint until you can get to a veterinarian.

Motor accidents may often cause a fractured pelvis. Pets experience a great deal of pain when they are hit by cars. Moving a cat or a dog with a fractured pelvis can be dangerous, but it if is absolutely necessary to get them out of the way before medical professionals arrive on the scene, you can move the cat using a splint.

Pets may often act as if they are not injured, and if your cat has received a light bump from a car, she may not seem to be sustaining injuries. Keep in mind that cats by nature tend to try to conceal what is wrong with them. This is because cats, in addition to being predatory animals, can also be prey and do not want to show weakness. Even human beings who get bumped by cars may feel fine right after the incident, only to experience swelling and extreme pain a few hours later. The adrenaline rush in humans and pets can act as a kind of pain suppressant and can temporarily disguise feelings of anxiety or trauma. If you know your cat has been lightly hit by a vehicle, don’t assume they are just fine if there is no blood or fractures, but keep an eye on them for a few hours following the incident. Signs that your pet has sustained damage include a feeling of disorientation or stumbling. Your cat may have difficulty breathing and may vomit. Cats spend most of the day sleeping, and this time spent in slumber may disguise symptoms, but notice if your cat spends more time asleep than usual. Your cat may vomit and seem a bit queasy after contact with a vehicle. If you notice your cat coughing or vomiting blood or if there is blood in the stools, take him to the veterinarian immediately to see if there has been internal bleeding. Keep in mind that it is highly unlikely that a cat who has been even slightly bumped with a slow moving vehicle won’t sustain at least some kind of injury, given its size.

Another common type of accident that can cause broken bones, fractures and wounds is something known as high-rise syndrome. Veterinarians have been raising awareness of this problem, which is the main cause of fractures, broken bones, punctured lungs and broken pelvises. As the name suggests, high-rise syndrome occurs when a cat falls out of a high window. Common misconceptions people have about cats may be one reason why it happens so often. While dog owners would most likely not allow their dogs to hang out around open windows, people seem to be less worried about cats. There is the adage about cats always landing on their feet which is not much closer to the truth than cats having nine lives. Cats do indeed fall and get injured but they tend to be nimble and can handle slips easier than other animals. Felines are adept at clinging to trees and other surfaces, but to say they can’t get injured falling is like believing a stunt man can never have an off day or end up in the hospital. As a result, people are more likely to keep windows open in the spring and summer time and allow their cats to lounge in the sun on the windowsill. Of course, felines love to bask in the sunlight but make sure your pet does so safely. While cats, because of their flexibility, survive these falls 90% of the time if they are from second story apartments, they can still break a bone which is unpleasant or a rib which can puncture a lung and be fatal. Adjustable screens are a good way to let your cat enjoy the sun without falling out of the window.

The second essential first-aid treatment is to know how to help your cat if he has a burn. Cats can be burned by being exposed to fire or corrosive chemicals. It may be difficult to recognize a burn through the cat’s fur. If your cat had direct contact with a fire, part of its fur has been burned. You may have to push back the fur to view the burn properly. Cats, like humans, can suffer from first, second or third degree burns. First-degree burns do not break the surface of the skin and cause discomfort. Second-degree burns may go through several layers of skin and third-degree burns eliminate the skin and often cause shock. Use a towel to restrain your cat so she can’t fight with you, bite you and otherwise resist treatment. Make sure the towel, however, doesn’t overheat your cat on the way to the veterinary office. Take a cloth soaked in cool water and apply it right to the burn to take the heat off the wound. Contact a pet emergency service and let them know you will be bringing the cat.

If your cat has a burn, there are a number of things you should avoid doing at all costs. Do not place ice directly on the burn. While restraining the cat is necessary, avoid using excessive force which may antagonize the cat, cause it to bite or scratch or run away. Some people may suggest applying lemon juice or vinegar to neutralize a chemical burn, but this should not be done because it can increase the heat in the area of the burn. Another thing that is erroneously suggested is to apply gauze right away to the burn. This should be down if bleeding has been contained, but in the case of a burn, gauze can prevent blisters from forming which provide the necessary protection. Resist the temptation to apply ointments intended to treat human burns on cats. Felines are sensitive to ingredients in treatments for humans.

Since most cats are indoor, domesticated pets, they may be exposed to a potential situation in which they can be burned. The kitchen is one of the most dangerous rooms in the home, and yet many people place food bowls in the kitchen. This may seem logical enough, but it can expose your cat to areas where they may be fire. Since cats have fur and may like to swing their tails, they may be more vulnerable to fire than humans. Consider placing your cat’s food bowl in another area of the home, or at least remain vigilant and never leave your cat alone in the kitchen when the gas is lit. Cats often beg for a bite of human food by jumping on counters, so keep these counters and tables away from your stovetop, if possible. Keep in mind that electric burners can also pose a risk, especially since your cat may have no idea it is hot. Put it in a cat-free area after using while it cools down. Also, be careful of candles and never allow your cat in a room where candles are lit. All the cat has to do is jump up close to the candles to risk starting a fire or getting burned.

When your family has its routine fire drill, it is an excellent idea to include your cat in the ritual. The most important step is to train your cat to enter its carrier when you need it to. This can make the difference between your being able to save your cat if a fire starts and having to leave the cat behind. Another misconception about cats is that they cannot be trained, but this isn’t true. With treats as a reward, you can teach your cat to move into the carrier when you ask it to. Keep the carrier and treats handy at all times in case the fire alarm goes off. Make sure you have stickers on your home telling firefighters how many pets are inside. This will increase the likelihood of rescue if your cats are left behind. Cats have a decent chance of survival in a house fire because they move close to the ground and are nimble. They can avoid smoke inhalation and jump out of the window onto a tree if an emergency strikes.

The third essential first aid strategy is to know how to deal with a cat that is choking. Obviously, a choking animal or human requires attention right away and seconds are crucial in ensuring its survival. First of all, rule out that the tongue is causing the obstruction. Cats, like humans, can have seizures and often swallowing one’s tongue is a major risk in these cases. If the tongue is causing the obstruction or if you see the object, carefully remove the object while making sure the cat won’t bite you. This can be an extremely tricky operation and may require someone helping you keep the cat’s jaws partially separate while you remove the obstruction carefully. This should be executed with care to prevent the object from going further into the throat.

The life-saving Heimlich maneuver can also be used to save cats from choking. Get your cat onto its feet and support its back with your chest. Reach to find the rib cage and locate the place where the ribcage meets the abdomen. Make rapid upward motions four times. If you absolutely cannot get your cat to stand on its legs, lift it by its hind legs and suspend it upside down and deliver four blows in the area where the rib cage ends and the abdomen starts. If successful, the object will become dislodged.

Signs of choking in cats includes drooling, difficulty breathing and anxiety. Choking is a relatively rare occurrence in cats, but it is worth watching out for because when it happens it can be deadly and the Heimlich maneuver should be performed in seconds to save your cat’s life. Just as you would avoid small plastic parts and tiny bells on toys to prevent your toddler from ingesting them, don’t buy these toys for your cat. Also, avoid giving your cats bones to chew on, since these are more appropriate items for dogs.

If the object is lodged in your cat’s throat but still allows them to breathe somewhat, take your cat immediately to the veterinarian. You may want to try the Heimlich maneuver first just in case. The veterinarian will perform an X-ray to find that object that is causing the obstruction. In extreme cases, neck surgery is required to remove the object. Cats can sometimes suffer long-term damage from having had an object lodged in their throat, even if it was removed successfully.

The fourth essential first-aid treatment for cats is for convulsions or seizures. It may be troubling to witness a cat having a seizure, but often you have to wait it out. However, do not leave a cat unattended while it is having convulsions because it might start to choke and require intervention. When you notice that a seizure is coming on, clear the room of any objects that may injure your cat as he rolls around on the floor. In many cases, seizures happen when the animal is not conscious. If your cat has lost consciousness make sure it is breathing without obstruction. Make the room dark and avoid touching your pet while it is having a seizure. When the seizure stops, approach your cat slowly and calmly and help reassure it. Take your cat to a veterinarian as soon as the seizure is over. Sometimes the seizures do not stop and continue or one convulsion comes after another. These are known as “cluster seizures and are usually serious. Most seizures, however, last just a couple of minutes. If your cat does not stop having convulsions, you will have to take it for emergency care.

Seizures result from an electrochemical irregularity in the brain. They usually begin with the cat going stiff and collapsing on the ground. The cat could snap back on its feet, move its jaws uncontrollably or engage in other unusual behaviors. Prior to a seizure, a cat may show signs of restlessness, circle the floor, vomit and seem anxious. After the seizure, cats may show signs of temporarily paralysis, disorientation and may act as if it is blind. Cats may develop the tendency to have seizures because of brain damage or epilepsy.

If your cat is having cluster seizures and you take it to the veterinarian, the cat will most likely be injected with diazepam or a similar substance to stop the convulsions. The cat may be given blood and urine tests as well as X-rays to determine the cause of the convulsions. In addition to epilepsy and damage to the brain, seizures can be caused by kidney and liver disease, hypoglycemia, tumors, infections, and meningitis.

Unfortunately, a seizure is not usually a one-time phenomenon. Living with a cat that has seizures requires care and attention. Many cats with chronic seizures are not given medications because these can cause liver problems if taken long-term. There are few ways, aside from medication to prevent seizures, but if you know what to look for and what to do when your cat has convulsions, you can at least keep your pet safe and ensure she gets the right care.

Fifth, eye injuries in cats require immediate attention to ensure they don’t result in blindness or loss of the eye. Cat’s eyes are famously powerful and capable of great detail and night vision. However, the power of a cat’s eye is combined with fragility. Feline eyes are vulnerable to damage and blindness is common in cats. One way to prevent an eye injury from developing into permanent damage is to know what to do when faced with an eye emergency. Anything from a small grass seed to perforation of another cat’s claws in a fight can lead to severe eye problems.

There are a number of signs your cat’s eyes need immediate attention. If your cat’s eyes are red, swollen nearly shut, your cat should be taken to a veterinarian. In addition, increased fluid from the eyes, cloudiness, and change in the size of the pupil can signal severe issues. It may be tempting to put eye medications in your cat’s eye, but avoid doing so unless told to by a medical professional.

There are different types of eye problems in cats, and each variety needs to be treated distinctly. Cats might experience irritation or may suffer from a large or small object perforating the eye. If foreign objects are causing eye problems, there is a distinction made between a penetrating object that goes into the eye but does not go through the cornea and a perforating injury in which the object actually goes through the cornea. If your cat’s injury is the penetrating kind that doesn’t go through the cornea, it may be sufficient to give your cat a collar to wear to prevent it from further irritating the eye. The veterinarian may prescribe eye drops to fight infection. If the cornea is lacerated, more complex treatment is needed. The deeper the injury, the least likely it is that your cat’s eye and vision will be salvaged.

The sixth important first-aid strategy is CPR or cardiopulmonary resuscitation. CPR can be performed on cats as it is with humans when there is a lack of breathing and a loss of consciousness. It is necessary to act within minutes to save your cat’s life. If there is no heartbeat, perform a cardiac massage by rubbing the area. If there is a heartbeat but no breathing, put your cat on its right side and check its mouth for any obstruction. Pull out the cat’s tongue as far as it can go and close the mouth without hurting the tongue. Clear the nostrils and put your mouth over the cat’s mouth and nostrils. Blow into the mouth and nostrils and watch the chest rise. Blow every 3-5 minutes and see if the cat has resumed breathing in a minute. Take the cat to a vet as soon as you can and continue performing CPR during the journey.

First-aid is important to learn so you know what to do in an emergency. Not many people realize that first-aid is essential for pets as well. Many of the same principles of first-aid are similar for cats as they are for human beings. It is possible to perform CPR, the Heimlich maneuver, and bleeding is stopped, as it is in humans, by applying pressure. Avoid using medicines used for human beings for cats, since they may have an allergic reaction. Preventing emergencies in the first place is the best way to avoid injuries, but if something happens, knowing what to do is the best way to save your cat’s life.

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