Cats: basic first aid for wounds
First aid for treating minor wounds in cats at home.
If you cannot stem a bleeding wound, or can see bone or soft tissue or suspect a broken bone or internal injuries, seek immediate veterinary advice.
Is it serious enough to see the vet?
Cats can suffer a variety of wounds, the result of accidents, fights with other cats or from dog attacks. If your feline furrball is involved in an incident that leaves her with visible wounds — cuts, puncture wounds, lacerations, torn ears or tail damage — you will need to judge the severity of the wounds and decide if they are serious enough to need treatment by a vet or if they can be initially treated at home.
In all but the most minor of cases it is usually best that your cat sees the vet. With any wound there is always a real risk of infection and many apparently minor wounds may also require a few stitches to aid recovery.
In more serious cases, particularly where you are unable to stem the bleeding, and/or a wound is deep, or where you suspect there is any possibility of a broken bone or internal injuries you should call the hospital immediately for emergency advice.
Superficial wounds and minor injuries — grazes, shallow cuts, minor injuries to the pads of the feet — can generally be safely treated at home, but you might want to bring the cat in the next day for a check.
Warning. Always approach an injured cat with care. When in pain and confused, even normally gentle and docile felines can become aggressive. Crouch or kneel to put yourself on the same level as the cat and approach her slowly and calmly. Do not make direct eye contact and talk to her in a calm, reassuring voice.
You will probably need to restrain the cat to be able to treat the wound. Use a clean towel or blanket to wrap the body so that the paws — and those claws — are covered.
Evaluate the extent of blood loss before treating wounds
If your cat has been scratched bitten, or clawed, or has otherwise torn skin and tissue you first need to stop the bleeding. Apply sterile cold compresses to the wound, several if necessary. Press firmly on the wound and check the rate of bleeding every few minutes. Venous bleeding from minor wounds should stop fairly quickly.
Note: If you cannot stop the bleeding, or the blood is bright red and spurting from the wound it can indicate arterial bleeding. This is always serious. You should call the hospital immediately.
Clean and cover the wound
Once the bleeding has stopped you can clean and disinfect the injured area. If you are dealing with a surface wound, a severe graze for example, that has visible pieces of grit or other foreign material adhering to the skin, flush them away with clean cold water and gently clean the wound with an antibacterial soap to remove blood, dirt and debris. You may also need to cut the hair in and around the wound area. Pat the area dry before covering.
If the wound is deep and you can see foreign objects embedded in the cut these need to be removed at the hospital. Don’t attempt to remove anything deeply embedded in a wound yourself.
Apply some anti-bacterial cream and cover the wound with some sterile gauze (bandage). Wounds will actually heal faster without being covered but initially it is usually better to cover the injury because the cat will want to lick at it and its own saliva can cause infection. Alternatively you can make up a temporary Elizabethan collar from cardboard or plastic, which will prevent the cat from reaching the wound.
Monitor the wound
Even minor wounds can quickly become infected.You will need to see the vet to have the wounds disinfected and to obtain a course of antibiotics. Alternatively you need to change dressing daily and re-apply anti-bacterial cream.
Monitor the wound for any signs of fever, redness or swelling and call the hospital if you notice any of these signs of infection. Those symptoms mean your cat will need an injection or more powerful oral antibiotics to combat the problem.
More serious than they look
Beware of this type of wound, caused by deep bites or the penetration of a sharp foreign object. Puncture wounds can be deceptive, usually closing up and appearing to heal quickly with minimal bleeding. In many cases, however, infection will set in beneath the surface, requiring opening up and draining. Puncture wounds should always be checked at the hospital.
Torn claws should be treated by a vet
This is a common injury for cats and can be very painful, although rarely life-threatening. Limping and blood on a paw that the cat is constantly licking may be the first sign of a torn claw. This kind of injury is best treated at the hospital.