Handling Your Injured Cat

By Elisa Black-Taylor

This is an article on handling your injured cat. While not an expert on this subject, I do believe the knowledge I lack will be added to by those who know more. So please feel free to add additional information at the end of this article.

I’m going to break this information down into three steps. Each step is equally important so as not to injure your cat as well as to protect yourself. Michael recently wrote an article I want each of you to read about being bitten by a cat.

Today I’ll cover how to approach an injured cat, how to restrain your cat and also how to transport your cat safely to the vet.

Cat Injured in Car Accident

Cat Injured in Car Accident. Original photo by woodleywonderworks.

Approaching Your Injured Cat

An injured cat is usually very frightened. Some cats run away and can’t be caught, especially if this is an injured stray you happen to find. Therefore, each case has to be handled based on your instinct and by reading your cat’s body language (if your cat is conscious).

Common sense is your most important tool in approaching an injured cat. You must put your own safety first in this situation. If you’re accidentally injured, then you’re of no use to your cat. There are three situations that come to mind on approaching your injured cat and must be handled carefully. They are:

  • Your injured cat is in or near the road. Watch for approaching cars both before and after you pick up your cat.
  • There’s a fire situation. Sometimes it may be best to allow the fire department to rescue your cat. Do not enter the structure if it appears too dangerous. Firemen are trained to rescue animals and many times they have pet sized oxygen masks.
  • Your cat has been attacked by dogs or other large animals, who are still nearby. Use extreme caution and never turn your back on the attacking animal. This is one scenario where you may have to scream for help or call the police. Just don’t get yourself injured. You won’t be of any use to your cat if you have to go to the emergency room for treatment.

Restraining Your Injured Cat

There are several methods to restrain your injured cat. These include:

  • I read about this method online and don’t particularly like it. Standing beside or behind the cat, use a leash with a loop made by slipping the clasp end through the handle to form a lasso. Be prepared for a struggle as most cats aren’t used to a leash.
  • Use a towel or blanket. Whichever you choose, you can drop it over your cats body, then scoop up your cat once you have a barrier between your cat and your bare skin. Pay close attention to where the claws and head are so you aren’t bitten or scratched.

Laura and I had to use the latter method when freeing our injured cat Annabelle when she caught her claw in the glider of a kitchen drawer. Laura was bitten several times before I threw a towel over Annabelle’s upper body to put a layer between her teeth and Laura’s hand. We also used a towel when taming our little Renny when he was still very feral.

Transporting Your Injured Cat

The proper way to transport your cat to the vet depends a lot on the extent of the injuries. It also may be determined by the location of your cat. If your cat is injured in the middle or on the side of the road, it’s critical that you move your cat to safety as quickly as possible.

If you believe your cat has suffered a spinal cord or neck injury, place your cat on a board. A large cutting board used for vegetables is a good size to use with a cat. I used to have one that was 2×3 foot. A cooking baking sheet that fits in the over is also a good choice. So is the bottom of a training crate or cage. I’m giving suggestions now, because your mind may go blank during a real emergency.

It may also be necessary to strap your cat to one of these hard surfaces. I’ve found that tearing sheets tends to work well in an emergency. I’ve actually had to do this for binding a human injury in an emergency. A couple of belts may also work to secure your cat to the board. Only use this method as a last resort

There are at least three other safe methods to carry your cat when a board isn’t necessary. They include:

  • By the scruff of the neck. Cats tend to remain still if you know just the right spot to grab. Think mama cat carrying her kittens in case there’s a struggle.
  • Throw a blanket or towel over your cat before picking it up. It’s best to keep the injury closer to your body to prevent further damage.
  • Holding the paws firmly. This is a bit tricky, but it can be done. Laura has used this trick a lot while rinsing the cats after bathing when they get into something they shouldn’t have. She’ll hold all four paws, two in each hand, while dangling the cat under the kitchen faucet. So far, none have put up a struggle.

Keep in mind these a board won’t fit into a regular cat carrier. I’d personally recommend every cat companion to invest in one of the small cages like the one I purchased for under $30 on Amazon.com. The cage bottom is perfect for immobilizing a cat and it can double in a pinch as a cat carrier. It slides out for easy cleaning and can even be put in a dishwasher. This type of cage also comes in handy if your cat needs privacy as it heals. Sealy lived very comfortably in his cage for almost five months and still takes all of his meals in there for privacy.

Comments Anyone?

Have I left anything out? The readers here make me proud because they usually come up with ideas I never thought of. I’m hoping a few of you will be able to add on to different methods of handling an injured cat.


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Handling Your Injured Cat — 3 Comments

  1. I don’t know if I could think clearly – it sounds like a frightening predicament but I surely would jump into action. So having tips like this is good. The spinal injury scares me the most because of the damage that can be done afterwards with more movement. Its plain scary. Not sure I could tie my cat to a board without another person; The towel method seems very good indeed also because it is soft for the cat and wont further damage the cat I imagine.

    I hope nobody finds themselves in this sort of situation anytime soon. Probably though Elisa, in the moment your mind goes blank first and then such ideas as these you have given are the first to pop into your head straight away. So it makes total sense to have a good think and consider different tactics so if it ever does happen you are not without ideas.

    Thanks 🙂 – maybe people could add to the list if they have some good ideas. I guess so much depends on the type of injury and how much the cat is capable of moving. But for sure if your cat is scared and still very strong, although injured and scared, something like a towel is a must. Michael even mentioned getting a stray cat out of the house using a towel as a sort of moveable barricade. IT seems like towels are pretty useful in many ways. I know they are great for holding little kittens upright when bottle feeding them and also for holding your cat for other delicate operations where the cat need to be kept fairly immobile.

  2. Thanks for this Elisa. I tend to agree with Marc. What I’d do is to see if my cat could be picked up and put into a carrier to go to the vet or if not I would put a towel around him and put the towel and him into a carrier and drive to the vets.

    Although I think your article is very useful. A lot of common sense, speed and care would seem to be the basic rules.

  3. The towel is a must, even with a normally calm cat.

    Most of us here are at the very least semi-experts on cats. Look at this article as being read by a brand new cat owner. Or a young person wanting to learn about caring for their first cat. I’m the first to admit I was still sorely lacking in common sense well into my 30’s.

    I have to take a lot of safety classes for work. I’m conditioned to respond these days. My training kept me calm when dealing with a house fire back in March. The only thing I have a real problem with is checking for a pulse. My pulse is hammering too hard to feel whether an animal or a person still has a heartbeat.

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