How To Help Your Cat In An Emergency

How To Help Your Cat In An Emergency

Road accident

Cats involved in accidents do not always show external signs of injury. Cat skin is very resilient and may remain unbroken despite severe internal injuries. Cats which are found dead without cause have usually died from internal injuries sustained in accidents.

Injured cats should be picked up in the manner previously described and gently placed in a suitable container. Broken limbs should be kept in as natural a position as possible and any external wounds protected from dirt during journey to vet. Try to keep the cat’s airway clear by holding its tongue forward and clearing away any fluids.

Influenza (feline viral rhinotracheitis orFVR)

A very infectious virus disease of cats. Outbreaks occur every summer. The first signs are sneezing, moist or running eyes and nose, sometimes with profuse salivation.

This disease is very infectious, so isolate your cat and keep him warm and dry. He will usually eat until his nasal passages are congested. Nowadays prompt treatment will save the great majority of cases.

Do not take your cat with ‘flu into a crowded vet’s waiting room; leave him outside in the car, if that is possible, until called in for attention. It is particularly important to ensure the cat drinks fluids, even spoonfeeding if necessary.

Emergency situations Symptoms


Acute diarrhoea

Loose or soft motions and a cat which is obviously ill. Diarrhoea in the young kitten can be very dangerous.

Withhold food and give only fluids. Withhold milk temporarily. If diarrhoea is severe or if it persists more than twenty-four hours, seek help from the vet.


Pet cats are often bitten by other cats. The bites are usually small puncture wounds rather than tears in skin. Sudden lameness or swelling of one leg is often caused by a bite.

Bites are always infected wounds, and when they are puncture wounds they do not drain easily. Antibiotics should only be given professionally; the next condition, an abscess, may develop if the condition is untreated.

Keep in a darkened, quiet room until seen by a vet. Never give aspirin to cats.


An abscess is an infected pus-filled swelling which is frequently the result of failing to treat a bite. Sometimes a large tense lump is noticed; usually the abscess is only noticed after it has burst and produces a large, smelly wound. Abscesses often occur around the head and at the root of the tail.

An intact abscess should be drained and cleaned by your vet. He will give appropriate treatment and tell you how to keep the wound clean. Veterinary treatment will probably still be necessary even after an abscess has burst. It is essential in either case that the wound is kept open until the infection has been eliminated.

Feline infectious enteritis (FIE or panleucopaenia)

This is a specific virus infection which often, but not invariably, involves acute diarrhoea. Young kittens contracting it may die before the owner notices any symptoms.

This disease is easily prevented by vaccination, and is so serious that all kittens should be vaccinated between six and twelve weeks.

Treatment of the unvaccinated cat with FIE must be undertaken very quickly, but may still be unsuccessful. Prevention is better than cure.

Ear infections

The cat will shake its head or scratch at its ears. On closer examination the ear(s) will be found to contain foreign matter which may smell. Often tiny white mites may be seen crawling in the ear.

Pending proper treatment, some relief may be given by putting warm olive oil or medicinal liquid paraffin in the ears. Gently remove any debris which is softened and will come away easily. Do not probe down into the ear or use any spirit preparation.

Emergency situations Symptoms Action

Bone or needle in the mouth or throat

The cat will show sudden and extreme discomfort, will paw at its mouth and may cough or choke. An acute throat infection can produce similar symptoms.

Open the mouth and see if any foreign body is obviously present which can be removed easily with tweezers. Do not risk doing further damage. Do not offer food, as an anaesthetic may be necessary. Contact vet as soon as possible.

Stomatitis (sore mouth)

Very sore mouth, usually with scale (tartar) on the teeth. The gums are reddened and ulceration may be present. The cat is reluctant to eat or drink, or may do so with its head on one side. There may be loose teeth.

Proper dental treatment under an anaesthetic is usually necessary. This may be accompanied by treatment for the mouth infection. In emergency, as a temporary measure, bathe the mouth with warm, very dilute salt solution.


Usually very obvious and dramatic with a marked hypersensitivity to all stimuli, such as sound, touch and light. (Slug bait is particularly dangerous; made up in bran, it can be attractive even to cats.)

Put animal into a quiet, dark room and contact vet for advice. If possible, take a sample of what has been eaten when you visit the surgery.