12 First Aid Basics That All Cat Owners Should Know

While no one can be completely prepared for all sorts of emergency situations that could befall our beloved kitties, there are some basic first aid procedures that we as pet parents ought to be familiar with. This way, we know how to respond in case of a medical emergency. Being able to administer first aid properly could save your cat’s life!

Before we delve into the 12 first aid basics that you need to know about, here’s a question for you: Have you prepared a first aid kit for your cat?

A well-stocked first aid kit where everything you would need in an emergency is in one place would be extremely helpful. Having everything in one place eliminates the panic that is bound to arise when you can’t find the things you need quickly in an emergency.

Here is a list of items that we as responsible pet parents should minimally have in our first aid kits:

  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Latex gloves
  • Rectal thermometer
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Plastic syringe
  • Cotton swabs
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Clean towels
  • Gauze pads
  • Adhesive medical tape
  • Self-adhesive bandages
  • Elizabethan collar

Know Your Cat’s Normal Vital Signs

Familiarizing yourself with what’s normal for your cat is important because then you’d know if something’s off. As a general guideline, your feline’s body temperature, pulse and respiration should fall within the following ranges:

  • Temperature: 38°C – 39.2°C
  • Pulse: 160-240 per minute (measure by pressing your first two fingers against the inside of your cat’s upper hind leg)
  • Respiration: 20-30 per minute (measure by watching the rise and fall of your cat’s chest; count either inhalations or exhalations)

It is best to take these measurements of your cat while it is healthy and relaxed and use it as a gauge.

What to Do If Your Cat Isn’t Breathing

  1. Open your cat’s airway by extending its neck until it appears as straight as possible. Then, gently pull its tongue out of its mouth.
  2. Check to see if there’s anything lodged in your cat’s throat that might be blocking its airway.
  3. Position your cat such that it is lying on its side
  4. Hold your cat’s mouth closed with your hand and blow air into its nose until you see your cat’s chest expand. Once your cat’s chest expands, continue blowing air into its nose once every 4 or 5 seconds until your cat starts breathing on its own again.

What to Do If Your Cat Doesn’t Have a Heartbeat

  1. Only begin chest compressions when you’re absolutely certain that there’s nothing in the way of your cat’s airway.
  2. Lay your cat on its right side on a flat and firm surface.
  3. Your cat’s heart is located on the left side of its body just behind the elbow of its front left leg. Place one palm over your kitty’s heart and your other hand underneath your cat’s chest.
  4. Push down on your cat’s chest as you begin compression but be careful not to push too hard.
  5. Compress 1 time per second and perform 5 compressions before giving your cat a breath (refer to the previous section!).
  6. Check for heartbeat. If there’s still no heartbeat, repeat 5, pausing after each breath to check for heartbeat.
  7. Continue CPR until your cat’s heart is beating again or until 20 minutes have passed and there’s still no response.
  8. Even when your cat’s heartbeat returns, take him to the veterinarian immediately.

Other First Aid Basics You Need to Know About

cute kitten with cute toe beans pixabay first aid basics

Image Source: Pixabay

  1. Bleeding

First and foremost, keep your cat calm. Then grab clean towels to staunch the bleeding. If the blood begins seeping through, wrap another tight layer around the wound and press firmly. Take your cat to see a veterinarian immediately.

If you have a well-stocked first aid kit, place a non-stick dressing on your cat’s bleeding wound and layer it with bandage. After that, place yet another layer of cotton wool over it and cover it again with a bandage. Secure this to your kitty’s fur by using a surgical tape. Next, cover it with adhesive bandage. Never leave a bandage on for more than 24 hours.

  1. Burns and Scalds

Run cold (not icy) water over the burn for at least five minutes before seeing a vet. Do not apply any creams or treatments – this may cause more harm than good.

  1. Poisoning

If you suspect that your cat might have consumed or come into contact with something poisonous, act quickly. Do not wait until the first signs of poisoning to rear its ugly head to contact your vet. If you’ve identified the source of poisoning, take your cat away from it immediately. Bring a sample of the poison with you to the vet so the veterinarian knows the best course of action to proceed with to counteract the poison. Do not force or encourage your cat to vomit.

  1. Fits

Refrain from holding your cat when it is having a fit. Instead, reduce any noise where possible and darken the room. Remove anything near your cat so that it doesn’t hurt itself and let the fits run its course. If the fits doesn’t stop, your cat needs to go to the veterinarian ASAP.

  1. Fracture

Pain makes cats lash out so speak to your cat in soothing tones and try not to make any sudden movements. Place an Elizabethan collar around your cat’s neck to help restrain it. Then, fashion a stretcher out of a board with a firm surface so that you can transport your cat to the veterinarian without jostling its injured leg too much. Secure your cat to the stretcher by wrapping a blanket around it.

  1. Choking

Try pulling the object out of your cat’s mouth as soon as possible but be cautious about it – your cat might accidentally chomp down on your fingers as you do so. Get your cat’s mouth open by putting one hand over the top of its muzzle and then gently apply pressure to its upper lips with your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other. Next, use your other hand to coax its lower jaw down so that you can pull its tongue forward and see into the back of your cat’s mouth.

If this doesn’t work, try holding your cat firmly by its hind legs and hang it upside down. The object stuck in its throat might fall out. Do not shake your cat.

If this doesn’t work either, you will need to perform the Heimlich maneuver on your poor kitty. First, hold your cat such that its back is against your front. Next, position your fist into the soft spot below your cat’s ribcage. Pull your fist towards yourself and slightly upwards quickly. Repeat this two or three times. Once you’ve managed to get whatever that is stuck in your cat’s throat out, check to ensure that your cat is breathing normally.

If this doesn’t work either, you will need to take your cat to the vet. Continue with the Heimlich maneuver as you make your way to the veterinary.

Read more: Understanding Your Cat’s Body Language

  1. Eye Injuries

Before you do anything else, place an Elizabethan collar on your kitty so that it doesn’t rub its eyes with its paws. In the event that the injury is the result of your cat accidentally getting chemicals into its eyes, dribble some water over your cat’s eyes to flush out the chemicals. Then, call the vet.

  1. Fever

Normal temperatures of a healthy cat are between 38°C and 39.2°C. If you suspect that your cat has a fever, use a rectal thermometer to take its temperature. If it is 39.4°C or higher, your cat definitely has a fever. Lower your cat’s body temperature by dampening its fur with cool (again, not icy) water and placing it near a fan. As soon as its temperature has gone down, stop.

If, however, your cat’s temperature reaches 40.6°C and higher, take it to the vet right away. Having such high temperatures is potentially life threatening.

  1. Heatstroke

Just like dealing with fever, lower your cat’s body temperature by moistening its coat with water and place it somewhere cool or near a fan. Then, call your vet.

  1. Stings

The first thing to do when your cat has been stung by a bee or a wasp is to pull out the sting. When you’ve extracted the sting, clean the area with water and apply a solution of bicarbonate of soda if it’s a bee sting and apply diluted vinegar if it’s a wasp sing. After that, press some ice to the spot to reduce heat.


In an emergency, sometimes the time it takes to get to the closest vet is time we cannot afford. Those precious minutes could mean the difference between life and death for our cats. This is why it’s always useful to know some basic first aid. Take note that first aid care should not be a substitute for veterinary care but it sure can save a life.

Read more: How to Identify Dehydration in Your Cat

*Featured Image Source: Pixabay

References:

American Veterinary Medical Association. https://www.avma.org/public/EmergencyCare/Pages/Basic-Pet-First-Aid-Procedures.aspx.

Arnold, Brooke. 2019. “Kitty First Aid Basics – The Catington Post”. The Catington Post. https://catingtonpost.com/kitty-first-aid-basics/.

“Basic First Aid For Cats | Blue Cross”. 2019. Blue Cross. https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-advice/basic-first-aid-cats.

HQ, Catster. 2019. “The Basics Of Cat First Aid | Catster”. Catster. https://www.catster.com/cat-health-care/cat-first-aid.

LLC, Aquanta. 2019. “First Aid For A Cat With A Broken Bone”. Cathealth.Com. https://www.cathealth.com/cat-care/safety/2394-first-aid-for-a-cat-with-a-broken-bone.

LLC, Aquanta. 2019. “First Aid For Coughing And Choking In Cats”. Cathealth.Com. https://www.cathealth.com/cat-care/safety/2397-first-aid-for-coughing-and-choking-in-cats.

Pena, Melvin. 2019. “17 Essential Items For A Well-Stocked Cat First-Aid Kit | Catster”. Catster. https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-health-emergency-tips-pet-first-aid-kit-essentials.

“Poisoning In Cats”. 2019. Cats.Org.Uk. https://www.cats.org.uk/help-and-advice/poisoning.

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