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Cats: Basic first aid for wounds

Basic first aid for treating 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.

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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.

In more severe cases it can often be helpful if you can apply some basic first aid before bringing your furry friend to the hospital. If you are not confident doing this, or uncertain what you are facing, the hospital always has an emergency on-call vet available to advise you.

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.

Puncture wounds:

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:

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.


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.

Once the bleeding has stopped you can disinfect the injured area. Clean the wound with cool water and an antibacterial agent 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. Apply some anti-bacterial cream and cover the wound with a dressing.


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.

E&OE. These articles are intended as a guide only. They should not be used for diagnosis or treatment of any individual animal and no person should place reliance on information derived from them, where such reliance may result in loss, damage or injury. Always consult a qualified veterinarian to obtain advice.

Although Alpine Animal Doctors make every effort to ensure that the information contained in our articles is accurate and up-to-date we can accept no responsibility for errors or omissions that may occur.