Cats: First Aid Encyclopaedia

First Aid

As a pet owner, it's essential to know how to handle emergency situations. While your first action should in most cases be to call an emergency vet, there are ways you can defuse difficult situations and make your pet calm and safe while you wait for help to arrive. Hundreds of cats are involved in accidents and injuries each year, so it's essential that you know how to react.

Spotting an Emergency

It's not always easy to spot emergencies, and it can be difficult to know whether you should call for help. You should phone a vet if you see any of these symptoms:

  • Your cat seems weak, reluctant to get up or depressed
  • There is difficulty breathing, the breath is noisy or rapid, or there is continual coughing that is causing distress
  • There is repeated vomiting - particularly if the animal is young or elderly. Diarrhoea is usually less serious, except in kittens, unless it is severe, bloody or the animal seems weak or unwell
  • Your cat is restless and appears to be in severe pain or discomfort
  • Your cat suddenly has difficulty with balance or movement
  • Your pet is trying to urinate or defecate but is unable to pass anything

In an Emergency:

  • Call your vet practice as soon as you can. Keep their contact details alongside your other emergency numbers, and have a pen handy in case you are referred directly to a pet surgery.
  • Keep calm, and assess the situation fully before acting. Animals can lash out when they are in pain or distressed, so take care to avoid bites and scratches, as you may not have time to see to them straight away.
  • You may need to lift and hold your cat in order to transport them. The best way to lift an injured cat is to put one hand under the front of the chest and the other behind the hind legs. If your cat is particularly distressed and is behaving aggressively, you may wish to lift them with a thick towel, taking care not to be bitten through the towel. Ideally, you can then place them in a cat box in order to take them to a vet.
  • Cats with breathing difficulties should be handled extremely carefully to avoid sudden shock, which can lead to collapse.
  • Avoid using an Elizabethan collar on your cat in an emergency, as these collars prevent cats from seeing traffic and tend to cause more discomfort and stress for them.
  • Never give human medicines to a cat - many of them will do far more harm than good. You should also avoid giving pets any food or drink, as this may impede treatment if the vet needs to apply an anaesthetic.

Road Accidents

Sadly, hundreds of cats are involved in road accidents every year. To minimise risk, you should keep your cats indoors at night if possible, as this is when most accidents happen. If you find a cat that has been involved in an accident, approach them slowly and talk softly to them, so that you don't alarm them. Pick them up gently as described above, and move them to safety away from the road before taking them straight to a vet. Keep them warm, and make sure you drive carefully while transporting them.

The Blue Cross

With thanks to the Blue Cross for supplying the above information from their "All About Pets" service offering information and expert advice.


All About Pets is a service of The Blue Cross, Britain's pet charity, which provides practical support, information and advice for pet and horse owners. Through our network of animal adoption centres we rehome thousands of animals each year. Our hospitals provide veterinary care for the pets of people who cannot afford private vets' fees.

How you can help

The Blue Cross is a registered charity and receives no government funding. We rely entirely on the generosity of pet lovers to help support All About Pets and other vital animal welfare projects. Any contribution would be most welcome. For more information on how you can help call us on 01993 822651 or visit our website at

Address: All About Pets, The Blue Cross, FREEPOST NAT4336, Burford, OX18 4BR

Registered charity no: 224392