Pet emergencies can be very distressing, but it’s important to remain calm. If you plan on taking your cat to the emergency vet, always phone your vet before attending in order to check which surgery to go to. If it’s out-of-hours, such as at night, on the weekend or a public holiday, remember you may need to attend a different clinic to the one used by your regular daytime vet. These are some of the most common emergencies that occur in cats and some general advice on how to deal with them. If you’re concerned about your cat contact your local vet or if it is out of hours, the closest 24/7 emergency veterinary clinic.
- Breathing Difficulties
Difficult or laboured breathing or ‘Dyspnoea’ and rapid breathing or ‘Tachypnoea’. Breathing difficulties can affect cats of any breed or age, and the problem can quickly become life threatening if not treated immediately. Some common signs of breathing difficulties include any changes in breathing patterns or persistent breathlessness and open-mouthed panting lasting longer than a minute.
- Urinary Tract Blockage
If your cat seems to have difficulties urinating in his litter tray (or anywhere else) then he may suffer from Cystitis (inflammation and pain in the bladder) or bladder stones. These small stones can block the flow of urine and prevent the bladder from emptying. This can become very painful and is life threatening. Contact your vet immediately if any of these signs occur.
- High Temperatures
Cats can sometimes develop a very high temperature, often in response to an infection. Affected cats may be dull or sleepy and reluctant to drink or eat. It is also important to note that cats can have a high fever without being hot to the touch.
- Signs of severe pain or distress
We know cats hide symptoms of pain, so if you notice obvious pain or distress, it is important to take your cat to the vet immediately. Pain itself always warrants treatment, however it can be a sign of more serious problems such as urinary obstruction (see above) or Aortic Thromboembolism (see below). Symptoms of pain and distress include vocalizing (howling), panting, hiding and overreacting to the touch of a painful area.
- Paralysis to the hind end
This is one of the most painful cat emergencies, Aortic thromboembolism or ATE. ATE is a complication of heart disease in cats in which a blood clot lodges in the rear legs. It causes sudden paralysis of the hind end. Affected cats will usually pant, vocalise, and show other signs of distress. It requires immediate attention.
- Known ingestion of toxins
Treat the ingestion of toxic substances to cats such as lilies, chocolate or dangerous household cleaning products immediately. Rapid action can dramatically improve outcomes in many toxicities.
Consider wounds and emergency, especially if they are actively bleeding or are extremely deep or large, or if they open to the chest cavity, abdominal cavity or head. Do not remove impaled objects, as doing so can cause more damage or blood loss. A veterinarian should see bite wounds. The vet will know how to treat each wound.
- Vomiting and/or Diarrhoea
If your cat vomits more than once, cannot keep water down, you see blood or unusual material in their vomit or diarrhoea or you have seen him eat something he shouldn’t call your vet immediately.
- Fights with other cats
Cats who have been in fights with other cats should see the vet sooner rather than later. It is relatively easy to treat cat fight wounds with antibiotics if caught early. If a delay occurs, an abscess may develop that requires anaesthesia and surgery. The bottom line on cat emergencies that need immediate vet attention
Cat owners should remember that the above list is not comprehensive; it is not possible to list (or even imagine) all cat emergencies