Cat Emergency Care

What to Do If Your Cat Requires Emergency Vet Care

Cats are notorious for hiding any sign of pain or illness. Oftentimes, if there is something wrong with your cat, you may not find out about it until it has progressed fairly far in its course.  Therefore, you may not notice until there is something really serious going on with your cat and then have an emergency situation on your hands. 

Veterinarians understand this first hand and want to be there to help you through what may sometimes be a crisis situation with your cat. In this article, we’ll discuss some examples of emergencies in cats, what to watch for, and what to expect. If you are ever concerned your cat is not acting normally, or even just a little off, always give your veterinarian a call to find out if you should take them into the clinic for an exam.

Types of Cat Emergencies

Obvious emergencies include situations where you visualize something traumatic happening to your cat, such as being hit by a car, attacked by another animal, falling from a high place, being stuck in the garage door as it was closing, having its tail pulled too hard, sustaining a wound if it tries to squeeze into or out a place too small too fast, having a seizure, or eating something toxic. In these situations, most people would understand that their cat should be taken into a veterinary clinic for an exam. 

However, there are some subtle emergency situations that, due to the nature of cats, some cat owners may not recognize or consider emergencies. These include problems urinating, trouble breathing, and anemia- we’ll discuss these a little more in-depth below.

Cats, especially male cats, who are straining to urinate or who are frequently in the litter box producing small amounts of urine or no urine, are at risk of urinary obstruction or becoming blocked. If a cat is unable to get rid of their urine, this is a life-threatening emergency for cats. Sometimes all you may notice is that it seems they are going to the litter box more than normal, or they may seem to not be as interested in food, or they may be licking under their tail more than usual. These are indications your cat should be taken to the vet right away to make sure they are not becoming obstructed. 

There are many things that can cause a cat to have trouble breathing, from heart failure to lung infections to cancer to fluid accumulation, and breathing trouble in cats can oftentimes be easily overlooked. When a cat is at rest, it should have no more than 25-30 breaths per minute. You can monitor this by watching the number of times their abdomen/belly goes up in the course of a minute. Sometimes it may be easier if you put your hand on their body and you can feel it rise. If your cat is breathing more than 30 breaths per minute at rest, they aren’t able to lie down comfortably, they are lying down with their head and neck extended out, they are open-mouth breathing, or if their breathing seems more labored than is typical for them, they need to be seen by their veterinarian right away. If you are ever in question as to if your cat is breathing normally, always consult with your veterinarian to be on the safe side. 

Another emergency situation in cats during which your cat may not show any obvious sign of distress is if they are becoming anemic (their blood is getting thin or they are losing blood). There are various things that can cause this, with the most common being too many fleas (especially on kittens) or, less common, an autoimmune disorder that causes their immune system to attack their red blood cells (Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia). Usually, cats becoming anemic will slowly decrease in energy, lose their appetite, become dehydrated, and may be nauseous. If you are concerned that your cat’s gums look pale and they are showing any of these signs, it’s best to call your veterinarian right away. 

Symptoms of a Cat Emergency

Cats are creatures of habit and they don’t usually like change. If your cat’s routine begins to change in subtle ways, if they’re not doing the things they usually do, or they don’t sleep in their regular places and are hiding more than usual, there may be something medical going on with your cat. Because they are so good at hiding things, if you feel like your cat is acting off, it’s always best to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian so they can be evaluated to see if diagnostics, such as bloodwork or x-rays need to be done. 

Since emergencies like to happen at odd hours of the day and night, it’s a good idea to have readily available the phone number and address for your closest 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital so you can quickly call them if an emergency were to come up and you don’t have to waste time and energy trying to find out what veterinary clinic is open.