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First Aid - cuts, bites and burns

Cuts

Minor cuts heal quickly and are not an emergency. They can happen when the cat strolls through thorny undergrowth, steps on a broken glass, a sharp nail, sharp stone or something similar. Clip the hair around the cut, and remove anything that is embedded in it. If the cut is sufficiently small it can be cleaned with water or saline solution and left to heal by itself (you can make saline solution by adding two tablespoons of salt into a litre of water. Boil the water, cool it down and transfer into a clean bottle). It is always a good idea to keep an eye on the wound. Cats have a tendency to lick their wounds and since cat's mouths are far from sterile, this may introduce a secondary infection. If that happens take your cat to the vet. She may need a dose of antibiotics, and if the wound is badly infected, it must be isolated. It is not easy to keep a bandage on the infected area, because cats are very good at removing them soon after application. Adhesive tape will help to keep a bandage in place but a determined cat won't even find that much of a challenge. The vet may recommend an Elizabethan collar (a large plastic collar which can be put around different parts of cats body e.g. the neck). These are large enough to prevent the cat being able to reach across to lick ,and so reinfect, its injury. However, the collars are very uncomfortable so use them only if advised by the vet (and expect your cat to be mortally offended).

If your cat has a large cut you should take it to the vet because it may need stitches.

If the cat has punctured a blood vessel, it will be bleeding. If the blood is dark and seeps slowly, apply a clean dressing over the bleeding area. Check from time to time for any swelling. If the bleeding was fairly substantial arrange for a veterinary check. If the blood spurts from the wound and is bright red, the cat has probably damaged an artery or large blood vessel. Apply a clean dressing and use your fingers to keep pressure on the wound. Hold the pressure for few minutes and then check if the bleeding has stopped. Re-apply the pressure if necessary, and contact your vet asap.

If your cat is bleeding from the front of the toe, it is likely that it has torn a claw out. If that happens try to apply a clean dressing to stop the cat licking the wound. The area will be very painful so be as gentle as possible. The blood will clot within few minutes but your cat will need further treatment and probably a dose of antibiotics, so this too means taking your cat to the vet.

Bites

Bites are quite common among outdoor cats which are inclined to scrap over territory. Bites need to be taken seriously since cat bites often result in secondary infection. Being under the fur, cat bites may not be immediately apparent, and may only become noticeable when an abscess has formed. If you discover an abscess, perhaps because the cat appears to be ill, limping, unable to raise her tail or reacts violently when stroked in a particular area, it needs to see the vet asap. The abcess will need to be removed and the cat given a dose of antibiotics. The sooner you spot a bite, the quicker infection can be removed or prevented. So if your cat has been in a fight, it is a good idea to take her for a check up. The vet may suggest prophylactic antibiotics as a precaution even no bites are obvious.

Bites can also be caused by other animals and insects. For example a bee or wasp sting. In England bites from poisonous snakes, lizards or spiders are not likely but they can certainly happen in other countries. Stings and bites may produce allergic reactions known as anaphylactic shock. Snake or spider bits may also carry poison.

If your cat has been stung by a bee or wasp, try to remove the sting by scraping it off with a blunt knife. Put some ice on the affected area and (naturally) take the cat to the vet.

If your cat has been bitten by a non-poisonous snake, spider or other creature, clip the hair around the bite and flush it with clean water or 3% hydrogen peroxide solution. (Be very careful when using or handling hydrogen peroxide!)

If you are not sure about what's bitten your cat and you live in an area where poisonous snakes and insects are common, always treat the bites as poisonous. Create a tourniquet from a string or a bit of cloth and apply it approximately 2.5-3 cm above the bite, between the bite and the heart. If you can, clip the hair from around the bite. If you see the bite, and you know both what you are doing and the risks involved, it is possible to make a clean cut between the bite marks till you draw blood and suck the venom from the area. Afterward flush the wound with clean water or 3% hydrogen peroxide solution. Take your cat to the vet asap.

Burns

Burns can be caused by heat or various chemical substances, for example acid. If your cat has been burnt by a flame or hotplate, put the burned area under cold water and keep it there for at least 10 min. If the burn is extensive apply a clean dressing to the area and take the cat to the vet.

If the burn was caused by by a chemical, clip the hair around the burned area and wash it well with soap and water. Try to establish what caused the burn before taking the cat to the vet.


Note: This information is for guidance only. It is not intended to replace consultation with a licensed practitioner.

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