Medical emergencies with cats can happen really fast. Personally, I’ve had to deal with a few cat medical emergencies in the past. For instance, I had a kitty named Obi Wan. One night he got his foot stuck in a recliner when my husband got up. I saw blood hitting the ground and I freaked out. Long story short, we eventually figured out how to get up un-stuck and took him to the emergency vet. We were lucky that time. He had pulled a claw completely off, but was not dying. Whew! What a scare! Having a plan in place ahead of time would have helped a lot.
What to do at the scene of the emergency
It can be very emotionally stressful when it is your kitty having a medical emergency. The first thing you have to do is take a deep breath and try to be as calm as possible. Panicking will not solve anything. Figure out where your first aid kit and emergency guides (listed in the following sections) are. Observe the situation carefully and ask yourself these questions (you will need to relay this information to the veterinarian later):
What did I actually observe happening?
Sometimes we add elements to situations when we are really emotional, but you need to give your veterinarian an accurate description of what happened. If you heard a noise in another room and then went there to find your cat unconscious on the floor, relay exactly that. Don’t try to guess what caused the cat to become unconscious.
- What observable problems are happening with my cat?
Once again, don’t make guesses as to what causes the problems. Is the cat having difficulty breathing? Is the cat straining trying to urinate and is still unable to get any out? Is the cat bleeding? Bleeding from where? Etc.
Next, you will want to call your veterinarian (or emergency veterinarian if after hours) and let them know that you are coming in. Answer their questions and follow their instructions carefully. You may need to perform CPR, the Heimlech Maneuver, or any number of first aid procedures. When it is time, load your kitty carefully into their carrier (or however your veterinarian instructed you) and drive as calmly as you can to the veterinarian’s office. Make sure you have your directions and emergency guides with you.
The Written Medical Emergency Plan
You might think that you have it all in your head, but the emotional state you enter during an emergency can be taxing on your memory. Having a written medical emergency plan will give you a lot more options if and when an emergency occurs. I’ve included some free purrrrintables to help you get started on your plan. I designed them so they could be used for any pet. Click the links below to download them!
Tip Print maps of your veterinarian’s office and the emergency vet’s location to go with these guides.
Medical Emergency Guide for the Veterinarian (You may want an extra copy of this for your own files)
The Quick Glance Guide
You will want to have the phone numbers to your veterinarian and emergency veterinarian placed in an easy-to-see area. The refrigerator works very well for this. The AVMA has a searchable listing of veterinarians online if you don’t already have these numbers. Don’t just write down the first few numbers that pop up. Call these offices and make sure you have the following information:
- Correct name, address, and driving directions (Google can be wrong unfortunately)
- Does this office care for cats?
- Office hours
- What types of payment do they accept?
- What services do they provide (surgery, housing, etc)?
You can add the phone number for Animal Poison Control if you would like as well. However, if your pet has ingested a poison, there is a very good chance you will be told to go to the veterinarian anyway. The two biggest poison control hotlines right now are the ASPCA’s Poison Control line 888-426-4435 ($65 per call) and the Pet Poison Hotline 800-213-6680 ($39 per call).
You may also want the phone number of a friend or family member that you can rely on in emergencies. It may take a helping hand to get things under control. Depending on the situation, you may also need someone else to drive while you hold your cat.
The Veterinarian’s Guides
Your veterinarian will need some basic information. It will be easier to hand them a sheet that has been pre-filled out than try to remember all of the details off of the top of your head. You will need to include these details:
- Your cat’s name and approximate age
- Any medications your cat is taking (name of medication, dosage, and how often it is taken)
- Your cat’s allergies
- Your cat’s medical history (any current diagnoses, past surgeries, past/reoccuring problems, etc)
- Your name and contact information
- Any Care Credit or pet health insurance information that you want them to have. Having your credit card information ready to go (if you will be paying this way) may be a good idea too.
A Guide for You
This information will help you make decisions when you are not necessarily in the right mind to make them. Bring this document to the veterinarian’s office with you as well. You will want all of the information from the guides above, plus some information about your feelings regarding the treatment of your cat. Express your concerns with the veterinarian. Consider the following questions:
- What treatments and procedures am I comfortable with my cat undergoing? Which ones am I not comfortable with?
Will you allow a surgery to be performed? How about an amputation? Exploratory surgery?Would you be comfortable if an organ needed to be removed?
- How much can I afford to pay to treat my cat?
- What are my feelings in end of life situations?
Will you allow a veterinarian to resuscitate your cat or perform CPR? Which life support treatments are you comfortable with? When is it time to just say goodbye?