Looking after your cat
Basic first aidDownload pdf
Make sure you’re always prepared for an emergency. The best action for all emergency situations is to contact the vet, so find out the name of your local practice and keep your vet's phone number to hand.
Always phone first, whatever the situation, as there may not be a vet constantly at the clinic. However, staff may be able to suggest immediate action to take. Have a pen handy in case another number is given. Treatment can usually be provided more quickly if the cat is taken to the surgery, rather than calling the vet to your home.
First ensure the safety of yourself and others. Keep calm and assess the situation before acting. Injured animals are frightened and in pain, and may try to bite anyone who touches them. Approach your cat quietly and slowly, avoiding sudden movements. The best way of lifting an injured cat is to put one hand under the chin on the front of the chest, and the other behind the hindlegs.
If the cat seems frightened and potentially aggressive, it is better to lift the cat in a thick towel, but be careful as cats can bite through towels. If you are dealing with an unknown cat, you may be able to encourage the animal into a shed or garage before seeking help. Sometimes cats can be persuaded to run into the safety and security of a cat box, if there is no other obvious escape route. If you are bitten, see your doctor.
- Never give human medicines to a cat, and do not offer food or drink in case your pet has to have an urgent anaesthetic
- Any cat with breathing difficulties should be handled carefully and gently, particularly if they are breathing with an open mouth. Many of these patients are dangerously ill and can collapse suddenly if upset
- If you have to put an Elizabethan collar on your cat, do not let the cat outside afterwards, as it may prevent your cat seeing traffic
- Drive carefully when going to the surgery and always have the cat in a closed box or carrier for transport.
Is it an emergency?
Sometimes outside normal hours it is difficult to decide whether urgent attention is needed. You can always call to ask for advice.
- your pet seems weak, is reluctant to get up, or is dull or depressed
- there is difficulty breathing, the breath is noisy or rapid, or there is continual coughing that is causing distress
- there is repeated vomiting, particularly if the animal is young or elderly. Diarrhoea, however, is less serious (except in kittens) unless it is severe, bloody or the animal seems weak or unwell. Feed small amounts of a bland diet (boiled chicken or white fish) and see a vet if it persists more than a day.
- your cat appears to be in severe pain or discomfort
- your pet suddenly has difficulty with balance
- your pet is trying to urinate or defecate but is unable to pass anything. Blockage of the bladder sometimes occurs, especially in males, and can kill if not treated urgently.
Burns and scalds
Items for your cat’s first aid kit:
- Bandages – a roll of self-adhesive or crepe bandage (five centimetres width)
- Conforming or open-weave bandages (two and a half centimetres width)
- Surgical sticky tape
- Box of cotton wool
- Box of sterile absorbent gauze or a packet of swabs
- Some non-adhesive absorbent dressings (five centimetres square) to cover open wounds
- Blunt-ended scissors, preferably curved
- Thick towel
- Elizabethan collar
- Bottle of sterile saline solution