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Vet's Corner

Essential first aid you can do for your cat

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From choking and collapsing to bleeding and broken bones, Petplan veterinary expert Brian Faulkner tells us the ways you can help and comfort your cat if she's in trouble.


You do everything you can to keep your cat safe, but sometimes accidents happen – even to the healthiest of animals. While it’s always best that your feline receives professional treatment from a vet as soon as possible, you’ll be reassured to know there are still some key first aid techniques you can use to help them your pet after an incident.


My cat…. has collapsed

‘While CPR may be common practice with humans, I don’t recommend doing mouth-to-nose CPR with your cat. Not only is there risk of contamination, but fragile rib bones can be easily broken, the heart and lungs may be accidentally punctured during compressions, and your cat may bite you if she becomes panicked.

‘Instead, try to put your feline into the sternal position (pictured above). This involves arranging your pet on her front with her paws out ahead. This helps straighten the airway, enables your cat’s ribcage to move unobstructed against the ground, and allows for air to flow better. If your cat doesn’t let you do this, don’t try to force it – the most important thing to do in this situation is to make sure she isn’t stressed, excited or forced against her will.’


My cat… is choking

‘Cats have very well protected airways, so they very rarely choke on round objects, like dogs. Cats prefer to chew things like string, so firstly, look for any string to remove. Pieces of grass stuck in the back of their throats can also cause them to have a persistent cough. And fluid around their lungs can cause breathing symptoms similar to choking – such as gasping or panting, or their tongue turning a dark purple-blue colour.

‘Whatever the situation, don’t try to put your hands into their mouth to help them breathe – cat’s teeth are contaminated with lots of bacteria, so you don’t want to get bitten. Take your cat to the vet as quickly as possible.’


My cat… has stopped breathing

‘Your cat’s breathing can be subtle, but there are a couple of things you can do to check for it. First, simply look to see if there is a rise and fall of the ribcage. When animals panic, they breathe more quickly, which can be easy to see. If it’s not obvious though, you can check for breathing by putting a cold mirror in front of their nostrils – as their breath hits this, you’ll see condensation form. If you’re worried that your cat has stopped breathing, take her to the vet as soon as possible.’


My cat… might not have a heartbeat

‘Feeling for your cat’s heartbeat is more straightforward than it sounds. Simply place your fingers on either side of her ribcage, at the point just underneath her front legs. Once you’ve found the right spot, don’t squeeze – just gently apply pressure and from this you’ll be able to feel if the heart is beating. If you’re worried about your cat’s heartbeat take them to the vet immediately.’


My cat… is bleeding

‘Remember that a little blood goes a long way! One of the most common causes of bleeding in cats is when they accidentally pull out a claw or badly cut their pads. If your cat lets you, the best thing to do is apply some pressure (but not too hard) by wrapping the injury. Use a clean white tea towel or handkerchief, depending on the size of your cat’s paw, as these have a good absorption capacity and allow you to see the bleeding more clearly. It’s best not to apply a tourniquet (a very tight bandage to stop the blood flow) to the leg, as this can cause more harm than good.

‘If your cat has been bitten by another cat, which is a fairly common injury, the bleeding from the injury usually stops quite quickly. However, the wound will be very sore – as deeper tissues may have been torn as either cat pulled in a different direction. People sometimes give their cat aspirin or paracetamol, but unfortunately this makes things worse – so it’s best to take your cat to the vet as soon as you can.’


My cat… has broken a bone

‘When a broken bone sticks out, this is called a compound fracture. Until your cat is seen by your vet, there isn’t much you can do, except – if appropriate and safe to do so – cover the injury up to try and keep it from becoming infected. It’s best not to apply a splint – they don’t really work and you could be adding more weight to the broken part of the bone, which can make the injury worse.’
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