April is National Pet First Aid Awareness Month. As such, I think it is a good time to talk about first aid for cats.
In many cases, the need for first aid can be eliminated by taking precautions to prevent emergency situations from arising. Here are some tips:
- Make sure your cat gets regular veterinary examinations. Often, these examinations can pinpoint health problems before they become serious and can prevent emergencies from occurring in the first place.
- Cat-proof your house. Remove potentially toxic plants, like lilies, from your home. Keep sharp objects like sewing needles, fishing hooks, knives, etc., out of your cat’s reach. Keep thread, string, ribbons, tinsel and the like out of your cat’s reach as well. Keep all medications, both human and animal, in a safe location. Make sure that all cleaning chemicals and other substances (such as antifreeze) that can be toxic are stored in an inaccessible place. Keep your cat away from chocolate and other toxic foods.
- Keep your cat indoors (or provide supervision when outdoors). Outdoor cats are more prone to traumatic injuries, such as dog attacks, cat fights, car injuries and other accidents.
- Be sure your cat has some form of identification in case he gets outside accidentally. Identification may be an ID tag, a microchip, or preferably both.
While taking precautions can help avert many emergencies, things happen. In the event that your cat does become injured, be prepared.
- Prepare a pet first aid kit and keep it in an easily accessible location. Many companies offer first aid kits for pets for sale. Alternatively, you can prepare your own kit. Include cotton, gauze, sterile bandage pads, tape, a pair of scissors, a pair of tweezers, an antibacterial cleanser, and blankets or towels. Keeping a cold pack in your freezer for use when necessary is also advisable, but be sure to wrap the cold pack in a towel before using it on your cat.
- Know your local veterinarian’s telephone number as well as the number of the nearest emergency veterinary care facility. Write these numbers down and keep them in an easy-to-find place. Many people attach them to their refrigerator using a magnet. Keeping them programmed in your phone (both home and cell) is also useful.
- Keep a copy of your cat’s medical records handy too. Many people keep a copy with their first aid kit. If your cat needs to visit a veterinary facility after-hours, your regular veterinarian may not be available and the veterinarian at the emergency facility may not have immediate access to your cat’s previous medical history unless you provide a copy.
- Know what to do in case of an emergency. CATalyst Council has provided these five tips for feline first aid. It is worth your time to read; they discuss how to handle cuts, insect bites/stings, broken bones, animal bites, and burns.
- Always have a cat carrier available in case your cat needs to visit your veterinarian. Never try to transport a cat without a secure carrier.
- Be aware that an injured and/or painful cat may act unpredictably. Take precautions to avoid being bitten or scratched. Wrapping your injured cat in a thick blanket or towel before moving him is one way to help prevent injury to yourself.
- If your cat is in pain, transport him as soon as possible to your veterinarian. Do not attempt to give aspirin, ibuprofen, or other pain relievers to your cat without your veterinarian’s advice. Many pain relievers are toxic for cats. Your veterinarian will be able to provide safe pain control for your cat.
Your veterinarian is your best source of information for your cat. If you are unsure what to do in a given situation, contact your veterinarian and ask for advice. Your veterinarian will be able to offer suggestions relevant to your individual situation.
Dr. Lorie Huston