April is Pet First Aid Month! Cat & Kitten First Aid

April is “Pet First-Aid Month” and in honor of it, we’ve compiled some first-aid tips every cat owner should have at their disposal.

Whether it’s their nine lives or their ability to always land on their feet, cats project an air of health and an ability to endure almost anything. In fact, most cats and kittens will spend their entire lives in general good health with minimal care - a good diet, plenty of fresh water, exercise, and regular vet care. Nevertheless, it’s a great idea to have some knowledge of cat first aid should an emergency happen.

Before you bring your new cat or kitten home, “kitten-proof” your house. Cats are curious by nature and will enjoy getting into cupboards, cabinets, toilets and even the garbage! Make sure all poisonous, dangerous, or small objects like rubber bands, coins, and string (which cats may eat) are kept out of a cat’s reach. Keep in mind that certain plants are poisonous, electrical cords can be chewed, and though cats have great balance, open windows can be a real danger.

Accidents can happen no matter how much we prepare, so in addition to keeping your home safe, it’s important to know how to deal with common accidents such as insect bites/stings, burns, choking, electric shock, poisoning and fractured or broken bones.

Insect Bites & Stings

Kittens are adept at chasing small moving objects, and that usually includes bugs. If you notice a bite or sting, apply ice to aid pain and swelling. Remove the stinger with tweezers if one is left in the skin, and apply an antibiotic ointment. Some cats are allergic to bees and other insects and those that show signs of an allergic reaction such as severe swelling, vomiting, diarrhea, or labored breathing should be taken in for immediate care.

Burns

Kittens and cats often receive burns the same way we do - touching a too hot object, spilling hot water, or sitting too long or too close to heating pads or lamps. If your pet experiences a burn, apply a cool damp towel to the area for half an hour. Avoid using ice or ointments, and take your animal to the vet.

Choking

Cats are well known for their love of chewing small objects, from string to paperclips to pencil erasers. If your cat is choking, it will often cough or appear to gasp for air, as well as shown signs of fear. Wrap your cat in a towel or blanket and have someone else hold it while you check the back of the throat for an object. If visible, attempt to remove it with tweezers or a similar object.

Electric Shock

Electrical cords are an often overlooked danger for cats. If your cat is prone to biting or chewing, keep an eye out and wrap cords. Small electrical shocks can be painful, but severe shocks may cause heart attack and other serious complications. A pet which appears to have only minor shock burns should still be taken to the vet as soon as possible for an examination.

Poisoning

There are a wide variety of plants and household substances that are poisonous to kittens. Remove or lock up any before you bring your cat home. Signs of poisoning include: excess saliva, vomiting/diarrhea, seizure, and loss of consciousness. If you see your cat ingest a toxic substance, check the label to see if there are specific instructions regarding ingestion. If not, induce vomiting with syrup of ipecac or hydrogen peroxide (1 teaspoon per pound of body weight). Vomiting should not be induced if a strong acid, alkali, or petroleum product has been consumed. Call your vet and be prepared to describe the poison and bring a sample if available. If your vet is unavailable, the poison control center can advise you of next steps.

Fractured or Broken Bones

If you suspect a fracture, based on limping or other expressions of pain, a temporary splint should be applied. Using a popsicle stick, pencil, or even cardboard, apply it the length of the limb, and wrap it gently but firmly. If your cat becomes agitated during the splint application, skip this step. Do not attempt to move the bones into place or to wash any open wounds. A cat with a suspected fracture or break should be taken to the vet immediately.

A basic cat first-aid kit should include: your vet and emergency pet care numbers, tweezers, bandages and gauze, antibiotic ointment, a splint, syrup of ipecac or hydrogen peroxide, and droppers.

There are times when you may not see your cat eat a poisonous substance or get stung by a bee, and won’t know that care is needed. Pay attention for the following signs that your cat needs immediate treatment: excessive drooling, abnormal gum color, severe vomiting and/or diarrhea, difficulty breathing, fever, and any form of non-responsiveness. Additionally, changes in regular behavior such as avoiding food and water, inactivity in regularly active cats, or changes in social behavior can be signs that a vet visit is necessary, although they may not be as immediate.

Keep in mind that the information above is not meant to provide a substitute for vet care, but to keep your cat safe and comfortable until you can reach a vet. Always keep your vet and 24-hour pet emergency care numbers handy.