Blue Cross shares first aid and life-saving tips for cat guardians this summer
As a cat guardian, one of the scariest things can be if you witness your pet getting hurt. There are many situations where cats may need quick-thinking first aid before you are able to get to a vet. This can be particularly true as we approach summer and felines fall foul of broken bones after tumbling out of windows or are surprised by stings after chasing a bee.
National pet charity Blue Cross has provided some top tips for basic first aid for your cat, in a bid to help cat parents have more chance of saving their beloved animal from even more harm.
Caroline Reay, Clinical Lead at Blue Cross pet charity, said: “Not a lot of people are aware of the important and sometimes life-saving first aid they can give to their cats. Though the first point of call always needs to be phoning your vet, we have a great array of basic first aid instructions, so cat parents can feel confident to give the initial help to their feline friends, if needed.”
Always phone the vet first to make sure help is available at the clinic, for advice and to book in an emergency visit; always keep a pen handy to write instructions, follow the advice given and keep calm.
First aid for cats – top tips
- Don’t Panic!
- Be prepared! Create an animal first aid kit for your home, pressure bandage material, saline/hibiscrub solution, old sheet as a stretcher, etc.
- Be careful when handling your pet as animals may bite suddenly when they are injured. Use gloves, towels or blankets to protect yourself although cat teeth can easily penetrate even a thick blanket. If you do get bitten contact the NHS for advice – cat bites can be dangerous
- Never give human medicines, including painkillers to a cat, and do not offer food or drink in case your pet has to have an urgent anaesthetic
- Any cat that is collapsed or unable to stand should be handled carefully and gently, particularly if they have breathing difficulties or are breathing with an open mouth. Many of these patients are dangerously ill and can collapse suddenly if upset
- Casualties should be kept warm
- 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
Basic resuscitation – Put the animal on their right side and check that breathing has definitely stopped (hold a wisp of fur to the nostrils). Open the mouth, pull the tongue forwards and check for obstructions, such as blood. Be careful not to get bitten when removing any material.
If breathing does not start, extend the head (pointing the nose forwards). Hold the mouth closed, and blow into the nose about ten times per minute. If you cannot feel a heartbeat, push on the chest just behind the forelegs every one or two seconds. Give two breaths into the nose for every 15 pushes on the chest. If after three minutes, your cat has made no improvement, sadly you may have to consider that there is nothing more you can do.
Broken bones – Deal with any serious bleeding by applying a bandage but do not apply a splint – it is painful, and can cause the bone to break through the skin. To put a bandage on your cat apply a layer that won’t stick to the wound such as a clean towel or cloth, add a layer of padding such as cotton wool to protect the wound, secure in place with a bandage that isn’t too tight and get to a vet as soon as possible. Confine the patient to a well-padded carrier for transportation to the vet.
Burns and scalds – Immediately place the area under cool running water and contact your vet. Do not apply ointments or creams, although you can cover the wound with a saline-soaked gauze pad while awaiting treatment. Remember to keep the patient warm.
Poisoning – Some of the common symptoms of poisoning are staggering; vomiting; dribbling; collapsing; and difficulty breathing. Try to find packaging from the substance swallowed and have it with you when you phone the vet. If chewing of plants is suspected, try to find out the name of the plant, and cut a sample. Call the vet immediately and do not make your cat vomit unless the vet says to do so. Take any packaging or plant cuttings with you to the vet.
Coat contamination – If a substance such as paint or tar has got onto your cat’s coat or paws, prevent your cat licking it as the substance may be toxic. Use an Elizabethan collar if you have one but do not delay veterinary attention to obtain one. You may be able to clip off the small areas of affected hair, but never use turpentine or paint remover on your cat. Contact the vet, as bathing may be necessary. Sedatives may be required to do this thoroughly.
Stings – If the stinger is visible it can be removed by pressing below the poison sac (try to avoid expressing more venom), then bathe the area in water or a solution of bicarbonate of soda. Soothe with ice. If the sting is in the mouth or throat, contact the vet as it may swell and interfere with breathing. Keep a watch on your pet for signs of weakness, breathing difficulties or severe swelling which could indicate an allergic reaction.
For more first aid tips and additional advice on many other medical emergencies, please visit www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-advice/basic-first aid-cats
To find out more about the pets we help, or to help them yourself by making a donation towards their care, visit www.bluecross.org.uk or contact your local centre.