It can be very worrying and upsetting when confronted with a cat that has a serious injury and is bleeding badly. But it is important to stay calm and offer immediate first aid, so that hopefully, you will be able to stem the flow of blood and help to ensure the cat’s survival. You should aim to restrict the area through which the blood can escape from the body. Slowing the flow of bleeding will activate the clotting process to prevent further loss of blood.
After an accident and heavy bleeding, a cat will be suffering not only from the pain and blood loss directly due to the injury, but also will be traumatised by the injury and will need extra care and attention.
In an emergency, many people will think of using a tie or pair of tights as a tourniquet to restrict bleeding, particularly if the cat is losing blood from a leg wound. If a tourniquet is applied, it needs to be placed closer to the body than the wound, but any attempt to restrict the blood flow in this way must be used very carefully, especially if an artery has been cut. If it is too tight, you could simply cut off the blood supply to the limb, which is then likely to result in the muscles being permanently damaged by a lack of oxygen.
In fact, a pressure bandage is usually a much better option, and should be placed directly over the site of the injury. Ideally, a pad of cotton wool can be used for this purpose, or any clean cotton cloth that is available. This should be held tightly over the area of the wound and secured in place with a bandage if possible. The act of simply pressing on the bleeding area in this way, even with your hand, is usually sufficient to trigger the clotting process. A clot will then start to form on the bandage as the blood flow slows down. It is important to keep this bandage in place until the cat can be seen by a vet, because otherwise, the wound could start bleeding again and stitches might be needed.
- If an artery has been damaged, the blood pumps out from the wound in spurts.
- Blood transfusions can be given in an emergency. A cat has 250ml (0.5 pint) of blood.
- If the nose is bleeding, do not tip the cat’s head back or use a pad as this may cause the blood to block the nostrils.
Lay cotton wool on each side of the torn ear flap, then fold the ear down towards the centre of the skull, bandaging it in position. If there is any bleeding within the ear canal itself, put some cotton wool into the ear first. Contact your vet.
Keep your cat’s head down, to prevent blood running down the throat, and seek veterinary advice without delay.
The gums become very pale in colour and there may be more specific signs: blood loss around the corner of the mouth, suggests a problem in the respiratory system; blood in the cat’s urine, problems with breathing and bloating suggest haemorrhaging in the body cavity.
- If an eye is bleeding, cover it with a damp pad of lint, rather than a dry one. Do not bandage.
- If bleeding does not stop when you apply pressure with a clean pad over the wound, apply pressure at the appropriate pressure point.