Cat Care

First Aid For Cats

Cat Care > First Aid For Cats

The aim of first aid, in cats as in people, is to provide effective, on-the-spot treatment for an injury, illness or disorder when this is appropriate. The circumstances in which first aid are appropriate are:

  1. When, without intervention, the cat is likely to experience greater suffering.
  2. Its condition might deteriorate further.
  3. It might die without immediate help.
In practice, it is not always obvious when these circumstances apply, and it can be difficult for an inexperienced person to know what to do. It is best, therefore, to carry out an immediate assessment based on common sense, provide treatment when it is judged to be needed and telephone and/or transport the cat to a veterinary surgeon.

First aid treatment varies from something as simple as keeping a cat still, warm and calm to giving artificial respiration because breathing has stopped. To minimize the risk of either personal injury or further damage to the cat, the animal must be approached and handled properly. A seriously ill or injured cat is less likely to be able to resist your attentions but this is by no means always the case. The following applies to simple measures that can be carried out by an inexperienced person, often in an emergency.

  1. Artificial Respiration
    Artificial respiration is needed whenever a cat has stopped breathing, and it may also be the case that the heart has ceased to beat. The heart's action pumps blood around the body, and the brain suffers irrevocable damage if it is deprived of oxygen for more than a few minutes. Artificial respiration may therefore be combined with heart massage in a technique known as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

    There are a number of circumstances that may cause breathing to cease, including anaphylactic shock, asphyxia, drowning, electrocution, accidental injuries, bleeding, choking, shock and concussion. If breathing is shallow and slight it can be difficult to detect. One way of checking is to place your cheek near to the cat's mouth and nose to feel expired breath on your skin or hold a piece of fine tissue there which will move when the animal breathes out. Proceed only if you are sure that breathing has stopped.

    First, hold the cat upside down by its thighs and swing it strongly from side to side about five times. This may be sufficient to restart breathing. If this fails, place the cat on its (uninjured) side (if applicable) with its head and neck extended forwards and any collar removed. The mouth and throat should be quickly checked for obstructions and the tongue pulled forwards. Ideally, the cat's head should be lower than its body, especially in cases of drowning. Both hands should then be placed over the ribs in the region of the chest and firm downward pressure exerted and then immediately released. The downwards pressure drives air out of the lungs, and these then expand and fill once more as the chest wall rises. Press sufficiently hard to depress the ribs but do not use excessive force.

    Repeat after five seconds and, following a few cycles, check to see if breathing has started and for the presence of a heart-beat-feel with your hand across the chest just behind the front legs. As long as the heartbeat continues, artificial respiration will ensure that vital oxygen is released into the blood. This technique is not effective, however, if the cat has a punctured lung or deep wound in the chest cavity when the mouth to nose method must be used instead.