Those of us who love our cats want to keep them healthy, happy and safe. This said there are times when a cat may face a serious health emergency. Although these emergencies can be extremely frightening for both the cat and guardian, should this occur, do we panic and become frozen in fear, or can we remain sufficiently calm, since are we are genuinely prepared to take the necessary and appropriate actions in order to save their lives?
It goes without saying that when our cat is in crisis the first thing to do is to call the veterinarian or immediately take the cat to an emergency clinic. If we know that the cat has ingested a toxin the first thing to do is to call an animal hotline.
One of the emergencies that need our swift action is to help a choking cat. Although choking is relatively rare, it is important to know how to differentiate between a choking cat and a cat who is having difficulty breathing. To avoid seriously injuring your cat, you should be absolutely sure that your cat is choking before you administer first aid such as the Heimlich maneuver.
The Heimlich maneuver should only be considered if you observe your kitty ingesting an item and showing these signs:
- Attempting to cough
- Difficulty breathing
- Pawing at the throat or face
- Acting frantic
- The gums are pale or bluish in color
First remove a collar or other item that may be constricting the catís neck. You can try looking into the cat’s mouth and if you spot a foreign object, carefully remove it. Caution must be used to avoid being bitten Never attempt to put your finger down the cat’s throat to try to pull out any object that you feel. There are small bones in the back of the catís mouth supporting their tongue which can easily be mistaken for chicken bones. Remove a foreign object only if you are able to actually visualize it.
It is extremely helpful for kitty guardians to understand and become familiar with the following instructions for helping a choking cat that are provided by veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker.
- Since the cat may try to bite because she is extremely frightened, Dr. Becker recommends approaching the kitty very carefully. Talk to your cat with soothing words as you try to feel the object in his mouth and throat upon which he is choking.
- If the object is visible and within easy reach, pull it out. But if it is too far down to visualize or to grasp, try to dislodge it using the Heimlich maneuver.
- Pick your cat up facing away from you and tilt his body downward very gently. Push forward and up on his belly using quick thrusts. Watch the video below to see how this is done. Examine the cat’s mouth and remove any dislodge objects, or keep repeating the maneuver as often as necessary.
- If your cat has lost consciousness check him carefully to be sure he is breathing. If he is not breathing the next step is to attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, (CPR). Dr. Becker warns that unfortunately in-home CPR doesn’t always work, but if your cat has stopped breathing it’s certainly worth a try.
I strongly suggest that prior to an emergency it’s extremely helpful to learn how to check your cat’s vital signs (opens new window).
Instructions for administering feline CPR:
- First, lay your pet on her right side on a flat surface and check for breathing and a pulse. If your cat is not breathing, place your mouth over the nose and mouth and breathe short puffs of air into the nose every four to five seconds. If the air isn’t going in, perform the Heimlich maneuver to try to dislodge what is blocking the airway.
- Start chest compressions only if your cat has no pulse. Lay your cat on her side on a flat surface and put your hands over the ribs where the elbow touches the chest. Compress the chest up to 1 inch about 15 times every 10 seconds; give a breath about every 10 compressions. Check pulse after 1 minute and then every few minutes.
- Keep administering CPR until your cat has a pulse and has started breathing again. If your cat still is not breathing, call a taxi and continue CPR until you arrive at your veterinarianís hospital or to an emergency animal hospital.
In spite of how carefully we watch over our kitties, accidents will happen. Some of these accidents can be severe enough to require using these life-saving measures. Cats can choke on objects they ingest, so learning how to take these appropriate actions before you can get your kitty to the veterinarian or to a veterinary emergency hospital is essential.
If your veterinarian offers classes in first-aid would you take advantage of this training? Tell us how you feel in a comment.
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