Site Index

Cat Emergencies

Basic First Aid

An injured cat is frightened and in pain. It may be uncooperative or be so frantic that it will attempt to bite or scratch, so wrap it in blankets, or provide other restraining measures that can prevent further injury. Timely action may be vital. It is wise to have a book on pet first aid on hand. Always keep a simple first-aid kit for pets in your home which contains bandages, tape, scissors, a blanket for restraint, and simple medications such as milk of magnesia (antacid laxative); hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting; antibiotic ointments for the eyes and skin; milk of bismuth (antidiarrheal) and mineral oil. Know the location of the nearest veterinary hospital.

Heat Stroke

If the cat is confined to a poorly ventilated car or pen or is exposed to the summer sun for long periods, it can get heat stroke, causing it to become frantic, unconscious, or groggy and gasping for breath. Remove the cat from the overheated place at once and immediately wet it thoroughly with water. Rapid cooling is vital. After this treatment, take the cat promptly to a hospital.


Cats are commonly poisoned because they groom themselves constantly and can ingest toxic substances picked up on their feet or fur. Do not use solvents that are toxic, such as turpentine, gasoline, or kerosene. It is best to let the material harden on the hair and then cut the hair off; it will soon grow back. Cats also like to eat leaves from house plants, but you should try to prevent this because some, like poinsettia, are highly toxic. In cases of suspected poisoning, always seek veterinary advice promptly.

Hair Balls

When cats groom themselves they swallow hair, which can accumulate in the stomach and intestines, causing the cat to vomit. Adding a teaspoonful of mineral oil to the cat’s food three days in a row helps compact mats of hair in the stomach and facilitates passage through the intestines. Then give the cat one to two teaspoonfuls of milk of magnesia on the fourth day to speed the recovery process. If your cat swallows a small object, it will usually pass safely through the intestinal tract and appear in the stool. To facilitate passage of sharp objects such as a needle, feed your cat small pads of cotton soaked in milk. They will surround the needle and escort it on its journey.


Bleeding can be contolled by a firm pressure bandage. Pull a clean sock on to the leg or wrap the cut area with a washcloth or layers of paper towels. Then wrap a bandage firmly over the sock or cloth. Start wrapping at the foot and continue up the leg in a spiral, going above the area of the cut. Transport the cat to a hospital.

Removing Thorns

Deeply embedded thorns and fishhooks require veterinary help, since anesthesia will be necessary. If a fishhook is superficially embedded, try to push the hook through, then cut the barbed end with cutting pliers and back the hook out.  Remove a thorn with tweezers and/or a sewing needle. Puncture wounds are always infected, so treatment is necessary.

Bone Fracture

If a cat falls from a great height or is hit by a car, it will probably have broken bones and be in shock.  If its leg is fractured, immobilize the cat, wrap the leg in layers of towels or newspapers, holding them in place with a cord. Animals with severe injuries are always in shock, so they must be wrapped in towels or blankets to conserve heat (even in warm weather) and promptly taken to a hospital.

Transporting Injured Cats

To move an injured cat, grasp it by the skin of the neck and by the skin of the rump near the tail. Then gently slide it onto a blanket or cardboard box. Pull the cat on the blanket along the ground so that it is moved with the legs trailing behind. Avoid bending the legs or backbone. Wrap blankets around the cat in the box to keep it warm and make it comfortable. A closed box or pillow case may have a calming effect. Then carefully lift the box into the car. If the cat is conscious, keep talking to it quietly reassure it.