Cats can drown quite easily, because they are not very powerful swimmers and their coats provide them with little buoyancy, soon becoming water-logged. When faced with a drowning cat, the first thing you must do is to try to remove the cat from the water without endangering your own life. Once it is safe, you can then concentrate on assessing its condition, and the best course of action. Don’t try to reach any decisions when it is in the water.
Although cats are not natural water lovers, a number of things may entice them to the water’s edge. Perched on a hanging tree branch, this cat is investigating something and could easily fall in.
This is much more difficult than helping a cat trapped in the confines of a water butt at home. Ideally, you should wear a stout pair of leather gloves when you lift the cat out of the water, and have a secure carrying box so that you can keep it confined for a veterinary examination. More likely, you’ll have to wade in and lift the cat out with your bare hands. Depending on its state, the cat may then attempt to scratch or bite, so try to restrain it by the scruff of the neck.
Q. If the cat appears to have stopped breathing, what should I do?
Lay the cat on its right side, and with your hands on top of one another, press down over the chest cavity repeatedly. Pause to see if the chest wall moves, which means that the cat is breathing.
It may seem unlikely that a cat could drown in a typical suburban garden without a pond, but there is a potential hazard lurking here, in the form of garden water butts.
DANGEROUS WATER BUTTS
Cats will often walk around the edge of such containers, when heading up or down from the adjacent roof area. If the top of the water butt is left uncovered, then the cat could easily slip into the water. When the water level is low, it will have particular difficulty in clambering back out again without assistance.
Be sure that if you have a water butt in your garden therefore, that it is firmly covered with a lid which will support the weight of a cat. Otherwise, if the poor creature falls into the butt, it will continue to struggle in vain to escape, before becoming exhausted and finally drowning, if unseen.
Once you have rescued the cat from the water, the cat may be strong enough to run off, but if it is semi-conscious, you will need to physically empty the water out of its airways.
Start by checking that there is no obstruction at the back of the cat’s mouth. This is most easily done if the cat is lying on its side on the ground. Then hold the cat upside down by its hind legs, gripping above the hocks for this purpose. Gently swing it back and forwards, allowing the water to dribble out of the mouth.
Although cats don’t like swimming much, they are able to do so. The Turkish Van breed is even keen on this activity, particularly in hot weather.
Wooden water butt covers must be checked regularly to see that they have not rotted.
You may need to bathe your cat if it falls in a pond, because the algae in the water could be harmful if licked off by the cat.