In Case of Emergency
Please note: read our disclaimer! We are not veterinarians here at Purrballs - we offer this as information only and suggest you always consult your vet when your pet is ill.
Taking a Cat's Pulse
To take a cat's pulse, use light fingertip pressure on the inside of the cat's thigh where the femoral artery can be felt. The femoral artery pulsation determines the pulse rate. A normal rate is about 110 to 135 beats per minute, variying with age, exercise, excitement and condition of the cat. Respiration should be between 25 to 40 per minute. In shock, the pulse is very fast and weak.
In a difficult situation where you couldn't take the pulse by touch, it may be possible to observe the heart beat by watching or feeling the chest (one rise + one fall makes one breath) count to 30, then double the figure. Cats at rest take about 30-50 breaths (in and out) per minute.
Taking a Cat's Temperature
When nursing a sick cat, its temperature should be checked frequently. The normal temperature is between 100.4°F and 102°F. A temperature below 100°F is a serious sign that the body is weakening and emergency treatment is necessary. Infections usually cause a fever, elevating the temperature sometimes very high. The cat should be wrapped in warm blankets with a hot-water bottle or an electric heating pad until it can be taken to the vet or hospital. A stimulant, like brandy or any other alcoholic beverage should be administered: 1 tsp. of water with 1/4 tsp. of brandy. Any temperature over 102°F should be regarded as a fever.
A cat's temperature is taken rectally (via the anus). If possible, have someone with you to restrain and comfort the cat while taking the temperature. Otherwise, hold the standing or lying cat against your body with your elbow and forearm, the cat's head to the rear, and hold its tail.
Use a rectal thermometer which has a small round bulb or use a small-bulbed normal clinical thermometer. Shake it down and lubricate it with petroleum jelly, mineral or vegetable oil. Insert it gently but firmly into the anus, pushing straight, towards the animal's head, and slightly rotate the thermometer if necessary to overcome the resistance of the sphincter muscle. Only about one-third of the thermometer should be inserted, then gently hold to one side so that the bulb rests against the rectum wall. Leave the thermometer in place for at least a minute, remove it, wipe it and read it.
If you need to medicate or force-feed, your cat should always be on a table, a counter top, or on your lap. You may have less control on the floor and the cat has more room to manoeuvre. For maximum control, drape a towel around the cat from the neck down, with its front legs and feet encased. An active cat may be restrained in a pillowcase up to its neck, tied not too tight. Pills or capsules can be moistened with a bit of butter or oil to make them slip down more easily. To reduce possible messes (pill melting in the mouth thus creating foaming etc.), get gelatin cap containers from your veterinarian to encase the pill which eliminates the medicinal taste. Hold the pill or capsule in your hand between your thumb and index finger. With your other hand, tilt the cat's head up to at least a 45° angle and gently press open the corner of the mouth. Move your fingers around to the front teeth and press the lower jaw down until the mouth is open enough to pop the pill in, as far back on tongue as possible. Quickly close the cat's mouth and gently hold it shut while keeping the chin pointed upward. With the other hand, gently stroke the throat to stimulate swallowing. If necessary, to further stimulate the swallowing mechanism, a small puff of air into the cat's face might shock it into gulping. If at first you don't succeed, don't give up. If the cat does not swallow the pill, it may start foaming out of the mouth (pill melting). It is perfectly normal for the cat to try to spit out the pill which it so badly needs. If you seem to have trouble getting the pill far enough back on the tongue, you might try pushing it down the throat with your finger a little, but be very careful because you might have your finger badly bitten or even lose part of it. The pill could go down the wrong way, into the windpipe. If the cat coughs or gags, stop immediately! Let go of its head so it can cough the pill up. If it seems lodged, hold the cat upside down until the pill comes free.
If you can't get it right, you can pulverize it or take powder out of the capsule and mix it with a favourite food (preferably highly flavoured to mask the taste). Note: some medication can not be pulverized, otherwise they lose their effectiveness, check with your vet. Even a little shrimp or caviar at a time like this is more than worth the price. If you lose a pill or one is destroyed get a replacement from your vet.
If the cat is not eating at all you can treat the pulverized pill or powder as a liquid medication. Add it to an egg yolk, pour in a little Karo syrup and beat the mixture well, let it cool. You can use a medicine dropper made of plastic (not glass, it breaks too easily). Prepare and posture the cat as for the pill-giving procedure to administer any liquid medicine, but make sure the head is only slightly titled upward not more than 45° to keep the liquid from getting into the windpipe (it could end up in the lungs and possibly cause a foreign-body pneumonia). Take the filled medicine dropper, holding the head with the other hand, insert the dropper between the rear teeth and squirt the contents to the back of the tongue. Keep the head tilted and gently massage the throat until the liquid is swallowed or else the cat may try to spit it out. Give the cat a few seconds to regain its "composure" before the next dropperful. Proceed slowly and gently until all the mixture is consumed. It is important to stop immediately if the cat starts to cough or gag. Some of the liquid may be getting into the windpipe.
Always try to stay as calm as possible when administing medication to your cat. Being too excited will certainly not help the cat. Take a deep breath and offer some soft kind words of reassurance to the kitty.
If your cat is involved in an accident or has sustained any sort of injury involving a broken or badly damaged bone, the injured limb should be supported with a thin folded towel to reduce pain and to prevent further injury while transporting the cat to your vet. Do not ty to reset the fracure or apply anything on an open wound. You may pour (not rub or dab) a 3% solution of hydrogen perioxide over the wound and keep the cat warm to prevent shock.
Animal CPR (pdf)
Emergency Supplies and Equipment (rtf)