Transporting your cat to the vet

It is not always possible for a vet to come to see your cat; in fact, it is often better to take him to the surgery, where there is specialized equipment to deal with emergencies. If there is any possibility that your cat may have to be given an anaesthetic, for example to open an abscess, or to take an X-ray, do not give him anything to eat or drink.

A container is essential to transport a cat in a car. If a proper cat basket is not available, a stout cardboard box, such as those used to contain twelve wine or spirit bottles, makes a good substitute. Cut or punch some small holes for ventilation, and tie the box firmly with string or adhesive tape.

Do not make the common error of half-filling the box with a cushion, as this will leave inadequate room for the cat. A few layers of newspaper or an old woollen garment are ideal. Pick up an injured cat by holding the scruff of its neck firmly with one hand, and either tucking the cat under the other arm, or placing the hand under the cat’s abdomen.

If a cat is very vicious, the best method is to drop an old thick coat or blanket over it. Tuck the edges towards, and under, the cat and pick up the whole bundle and put it in the box taking care not to suffocate the patient.

Telephone the surgery to say that you are on your way with an emergency.

The following schedule is a useful guide for seeing at a glance how to deal with the most common emergency situations.

Carrying And Handling A Sick Cat

There are two things which you need to do when carrying and handling a sick cat. First, you do not want to stress your cat more than necessary, as it will already be upset and may resent being picked up by you, particularly if it is not your cat. In addition, you must minimise the likelihood of being scratched or bitten yourself, particularly if you are in a part of the world where rabies occurs, as the consequences could otherwise be very serious.

Sick CatAlways reduce the risk of being injured yourself when it comes to handling a sick cat. Wrap the cat, if possible, in a blanket or towel and transport it in a cat carrier. Keep other pets out of the way.

Wrapping a cat in a towel will not only make it easier to transport: it is also advisable when administering pills and medicine.

If it appears that a cat has simply been hit by a passing vehicle, you will still need to take precautions, since it could have been a neurological problem which caused the accident in the first instance.


It is advisable to wear a reasonably thick pair of leather gloves, to reduce the likelihood that you will be bitten or scratched. Always lift a cat which has been injured in a collision with a vehicle by placing your hands under its body, keeping the cat lying on its side. Never hold the cat up, to stroke its head, for example.

One of the most common injuries after a road traffic accident is a torn diaphragm – the partition which separates the chest and abdominal cavities. Keeping the body flat greatly reduces the likelihood of worsening an injury of this type. Transfer the cat to a suitable carrier, and take it to a vet for a thorough check-up without delay.


When a cat is vomiting (particularly if it is unconscious), try to hold its head downwards, so that the vomit is not likely to be swallowed again, or worse still, to enter the windpipe where it is likely to lead to inhalation pneumonia.

Always check an unconscious cat to see if its air passage is clear; transport an unconscious cat to the vet as quickly as possible.

Q. My cat can get very wild when he is being carried. How can I stop myself being bitten?

It isn’t easy to muzzle a cat because, unlike most dogs, their jaws are short and rounded. It’s best to restrain a violent cat by gripping it by the scruff of the neck, to control its head movements.

Q. My cat is sick and very distressed. Can I take him to the vet’s in my arms?

No, as the journey is likely to upset him more, and you may not be able to control him in the car. Your cat will be far less upset if you place him in a proper carrier.

Q. My cat has suddenly collapsed. Should I handle him at all?

This is an emergency situation. You need to check for any obstruction at the back of the throat, removing if necessary, and contact your vet.

Cats can inflict very painful scratches with their claws. This is why they should only be carried when you are wearing clothes with long sleeves, which are relatively thick as well. Two layers of clothing offer better protection than one.

A sick cat can be reassured by gentle handling, especially if this is accompanied by quiet, friendly talking, but do not relax your guard. Otherwise, the cat may leap off and could escape through a window or door.

You should always wash your hands thoroughly after handling a sick cat, especially as a number of infections can be spread to people.