Having a cat first aid kit is crucial. Although you hope never to need it, preparation is always better. Keeping your cat safe and healthy is a pet owner’s responsibility. In this article, we look at what you should include in the kit. And the primary emergency responses you should know to provide the best care possible.
Let’s get started.
What Should Be Included in a Cat First Aid Kit?
You can put together your cat’s first aid kit by taking a trip to the local pharmacy or ordering supplies online. Be sure to include basic items like latex gloves, scissors, self-adhesive bandages, adhesive medical tape, gauze pads, and antibiotic ointment to take care of any cuts or bites properly.
In addition, you’ll want to buy a rectal thermometer, cotton swabs, a plastic syringe, tweezers, and a small bottle of feline wound wash. We’ll explain how to use these items in certain scenarios further below.
Can a Cat Be Given Human Medicine When Providing First Aid?
Cats aren’t humans. You can poison your cat if you give your pet human medicine. Never do this unless your veterinarian instructs you to, and always follow the prescribed dosage. For example, people commonly use NSAIDs for pain in humans. Veterinarians also use some NSAIDs to treat dogs and cats. However, medical professionals specially formulated these for pets. You can cause kidney failure if you give your cat Motrin or Advil.
If your cat shows signs of illness, be sure to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. First aid kits are for emergency purposes or to hold you over until you can get your pet to a vet.
Pro Tip: If you have a special support needs cat, having a stocked first aid kit on hand at all times is critical.
What Are the Typical Vital Signs for a Cat?
As a cat owner, you want to familiarize yourself with its vital signs to recognize when something is wrong and needs attention. When your cat is healthy, get its temperature, pulse, and respiration, so you have a guideline for what is normal for your pet.
Generally, a cat’s temperature should be around 38°C-39°C, its pulse should be 160-240 heartbeats per minute, and respiration should be 20-30 per minute. To find the pulse, press your first two fingers against the inside of the upper hind leg. To measure respiration, watch the rise and fall of your cat’s chest for a minute.
7 Essential Cat First Aid Basics
The hope is you’ll never have to need a cat first aid kit. However, situations can require you to apply first aid before heading to your local veterinarian. Let’s take a look.
1. My Cat Isn’t Breathing
You’ll need to do CPR. First, extend the cat’s neck as straight as possible. This opens your cat’s airway. Then, gently pull its tongue out of its mouth. Check for anything your cat might have swallowed that is in its throat.
Then turn your cat onto its side. Unlike CPR for humans, you don’t blow air into the cat’s mouth. Instead, hold its mouth closed and blow air into its nose. You should see your cat’s chest expand. Do this every 4-5 seconds until your cat starts breathing again.
2. My Cat’s Heart Isn’t Beating
Like the previous scenario, first, ensure there is nothing in the airway. You don’t want to start compressions before being sure. Turn your cat onto its right side because behind the elbow of its front left leg is its heart. Place one palm over the heart and your other palm underneath the chest.
Be very careful not to push too hard, but apply pressure by pushing down on your cat’s chest. Compress one time per second for five seconds and then breathe through the nose like in the previous scenario. If there’s still no heartbeat, repeat five compressions and then a breath. Do CPR for 20 minutes or until your cat’s heart begins beating again. Immediately take your furry friend to the veterinarian.
3. My Cat’s Bleeding
First, diagnose where your cat is bleeding and how much. If the blood is seeping through a towel, wrap it up tightly and immediately go to the veterinarian.
If the cut is small and shallow, you can probably take care of it with your cat’s first aid kit. You’ll start by trimming any excess fur around the wound. Then clean the wound the best that you can by using an antiseptic wash. We recommend getting a feline wound wash to have on hand ahead of time. Only use hydrogen peroxide sparingly and for short periods, as it can eat away more healthy tissue than necessary.
Allow the affected area to dry completely. Then apply a triple-antibiotic ointment like you probably already have in your medicine cabinet.
Using a non-stick dressing, place it on the wound, and layer it with bandages. Place another layer of cotton on top and cover it with a bandage. Use surgical tape to secure the dressing lightly. Then cover the tape with a self-adhesive bandage like vet wrap. After 24 hours, remove the bandage. If it hasn’t started to heal, call your veterinarian.
If the wound is in an un-wrappable location on your cat, consider using Vetbond liquid bandage or another cyanoacrylate super glue to bind the tissues together without bandages. In a pinch, we’ve found cyanoacrylate superglue in Walmarts and dollar stores practically everywhere. Just be sure not to get it on your fingers!
4. My Cat Has Been Poisoned
Anytime you think your pet has been poisoned, pick up the phone and call the vet immediately. If it’s during non-business hours, call an emergency animal hospital that is open 24/7. You can also call the Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680) or the ASPCA Poison Control Center (1-888-426-4435). These resources may be able to provide critical next steps for home care.
If you can find what your cat might have ingested and how much, this will be very helpful for the veterinarian or nurses. Do not try to make your cat vomit unless instructed to do so by a professional, as this may make this worse in many cases.
Activated charcoal is often a useful first-aid supply to have on hand for absorbing poisons in the digestive tract. Dosage is 1-3 gms/kg body weight. However, according to the ASPCA Decontamination Information: “Activated charcoal should not be given to animals that have ingested caustic materials. Other chemicals not effectively adsorbed by activated charcoal include ethanol, methanol, fluoride, petroleum distillates, most heavy metals, iodides, nitrates, nitrites, sodium chloride, chlorate, and xylitol.”
Pro Tip: Only buy pet-safe ant killers to deal with those pesky insects. Otherwise, your cat may get accidentally poisoned.
5. My Cat Has a Broken Bone
Broken bones cannot be fixed at home and need immediate medical attention. However, there are some steps you can take to help your cat stay more comfortable until it can get professional help.
Pain can cause cats to act aggressively. So if you have an Elizabethan collar, a cone-shaped collar, place it around your cat’s neck to help restrain it. Speak softly and tenderly to soothe your pet. Put them in a small, comfortable carrier that will restrict their movement during transportation to your vet.
Sometimes, it may make sense to fashion a stretcher out of a board. You don’t want to injure the fracture further or cause more pain. Wrap a blanket around your cat and the stretcher and head to the vet’s office or emergency animal hospital.
6. My Cat Is Choking
Be prepared for a bite if this situation occurs. You’ll have to stick your finger into your cat’s mouth, and sometimes its natural reaction is to bite. To perform first aid on your cat, put one hand over the top of its muzzle. Apply gentle pressure to its upper lips with your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other. You must pull its tongue forward to see the back of its mouth, so use your other hand to coax its lower jaw down.
If you must do the Heimlich maneuver, put your cat’s back against your front. Next, find the soft spot below its ribcage and position your fist there. Pull towards yourself and slightly upwards quickly, two or three times. If this doesn’t work, you’ll need to head to your veterinarian’s office immediately.
7. My Cat Has a Fever
If you notice your cat acting lethargic and unwell, it may have a fever. Fevers can be symptomatic of a variety of ailments. Like humans and dogs, cats can catch colds and sicknesses periodically and have immune systems that will fight what’s going on. However, it’s important to keep an eye on your sick cat and note its symptoms and progress in case you need to involve a veterinarian later.
Always use a thermometer if you think your cat has a fever. This is typically done by using a normal thermometer inserted rectally. Sanitize the thermometer before and after use.
If it reads 39.4°C (102.9°F) or higher, your cat has a fever. You can try lowering your cat’s body temperature by dampening its fur with cool water. You can also put your cat near a fan as first aid. Keep an eye on your furry friend, so it doesn’t play with the fan and injure itself. Make sure they have access to plenty of fresh, cool water to stay hydrated.
However, if your cat’s temperature reaches 40.6°C (105.1°F) or higher, immediately take your pet to your veterinarian, as this could be life-threatening.
What Is the Most Common Cat Injury?
Because many cats are inside pets and tend to be more picky eaters than dogs, it’s less likely that they’ll get into something outside that might cut them or swallow something they shouldn’t. This is more common in dogs. However, that doesn’t mean this never happens.
Veterinarians commonly see obstructions in the digestive tract if they chew on toys, string, cords, tissues, and other small items that can be played with. For instance, we know a cat who loved playing with hair ties. Once, she got into and ate a pack of 14 hair ties and needed to get emergency surgery to remove them.
Indoor-outdoor cats can also get bite or scratch wounds from interactions with other aggressive animals, particularly other cats. They also may get stung by a bee, wasp, or other biting bugs. First-aid wound care can usually be enough to mend these, just keep an eye out for infections that may need oral antibiotics.
A fractured tooth is also a common cat injury. However, it’s hard to detect because cats hide their symptoms. If you notice your cat isn’t eating normally, chewing on one side of its mouth, or drooling, call your veterinarian.
Pro Tip: For canine owners, learning dog first aid is important too as it has some variations from cat first aid.
Be Prepared, Know Cat First Aid Essentials
Being a pet owner is a huge responsibility. Prepare to provide the best care possible for your cat. Put together a cat first aid kit and know basic procedures should you face a life-threatening or severe injury.
Protect your furry feline by keeping human medicines and other harmful substances hidden. And give your pet the love and care it deserves so you can quickly recognize if something is wrong.
Keeping regular check-ups with your veterinarian and providing your cat with nutrition and exercise will help it live a long and healthy life.
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