Cats love to roam around and enjoy their independence, which is why as a cat owner you should know what to do in the event that something unfortunate befalls your feline friend. In the same way that we occasionally trip over and hurt ourselves, no matter how much you look after your cat chances are they will sustain an injury or become ill. Despite how you may feel at the time, when these things happen they do not reflect poorly on you as an owner, but can you imagine how much worse you would feel if you could have done something to help them but at the time you didn't know how?
Our guide to cat first aid will cover the most likely accidents and ailments, but as a rule of thumb if your cat is acting out of sorts or is clearly in pain take them to see a vet.
When cats are given the freedom to roam around there is always the chance that they could get injured by another animal, from a misjudged jump, or one of many other possibilities. When a cat has a bleeding wound it will be understandably be stressed and jumpy, so make sure you approach it slowly and try your best to keep it calm.
If possible, position the animal so that the bleeding area is raised, or facing upwards, and apply pressure with gauze, a clean cloth or tissue, leaving it in place for at least ten minutes or until the cat makes it apparent that it is not happy to be receiving your help. Remember as the administer of first aid your primary responsibility is to your own safety and health.
If the blood persistently soaks through the gauze, tissue, etc., is clearly not slowing or stopping, or you can tell from the offset that the wound is seriously deep, seek veterinary assistance at once. The same goes if the bleeding wound is located near the cat's eyes.
If your cat is bleeding internally there will be no outwardly visible sign and if left unchecked it can be fatal, so you must be vigilant. Internal bleeding can be caused by anything from a bad fall, to accidentally being kicked, to having a run in with a car; and though they may not initially appear harmed their symptoms may not appear until later.
Symptoms of internal bleeding include:
Giving your cat first aid is about preventing a bad situation from becoming worse, which is exactly what will happen if you attempt to splint or re-set a broken bone yourself. Irrelevant of whether your cat has an open or closed fracture, your only act of recourse should be to quickly, calmly and safely transport your cat to the vet whilst offering as much support to the affected area as possible.
If there is any bleeding you can cover the wound with gauze or a clean towel, but do not try to clean the wound.
Even cats who are familiar with you may lash out when in pain, and this is never more true than when they have been burned. Burns can be caused by anything from exposure to heat (open flames, scalding hot water, etc.), chemicals (bleach, disinfectant, etc.) or even exposed electrical conduits; and depending on which of these is the cause, you should carry out the following cat first aid procedures before, or whilst, you're contacting the vet.
Like humans, if a cat's internal body temperature rises more than a couple of degrees above normal it will become hyperthermic and may suffer from what is commonly known as heat stroke. The symptoms of heat stroke include dizziness, lethargy, fatigue, irritability, panting, excess dribbling, and fainting, and should any of these happen on an especially hot, sunny day the first thing you should do is take your cat and place it in a cool shaded area.
It is alright to moisten your cat's coat with cool water, but under no circumstances should you dunk it into a bath of cold/ice water in an attempt to lower its body temperature (as this will negatively affect its breathing and could cause it to go into shock). Even if your cat starts to show signs of recovery, seek veterinary attention.
Part two of our guide to cat first aid will follow shortly, and will cover what to do in the event that your cat is choking, ingests a poisonous substance, suffers from seizures, and more.