As Oprah might say, we all want our cats to “live their best life.” At the same time, we all know that usually involves mischief and adventure. We’ve all come home to find things knocked over, torn up, or displaced by our cats — not out of malice, but because they are cats. What do you do if it’s not just the vase that is busted, but the cat as well?
April is National Pet First Aid Awareness Month. If you own a cat, it is incumbent upon you to own a first-aid kit as well. There are plenty that you can purchase ready-made and pre-stocked, both online and at your local pet store. Interested in making one of your own? Any one of these 17 items may prove essential in a moment of cat crisis.
1. Scissors: A very furry cat with a wound may need a bit of trimming before you can provide relief. You’ll also depend on scissors to cut gauze bandages or medical tape. The blunt tip will protect a reactive or frightened cat from further accidents.
2. Tweezers: Should your cat get a splinter in her paw, or if a spring or summertime Caturday outdoors lead to a tick creating a makeshift home on your cat’s belly, a pair of tweezers will prove their worth. Flat-ended tweezers are recommended for the same reason as blunt-edged scissors.
3. Disposable rubber/latex gloves: Better to keep your hands clean, dry, and free to perform the needed ministrations. You’ll want a pair that fit your hands well and which can be thrown out afterward. You may also consider something sturdier, such as gardening gloves, to guard against a wayward bite or scratch.
4. Rectal thermometer and petroleum jelly: I’d probably avoid trying this if I were alone during a cat emergency that required first aid, but if you have a helper, determining your cat’s temperature might be useful.
5. Flashlight and spare batteries: If cat first aid is necessary during a power outage, in a dimly-lit room, or in a vehicle, a flashlight can assist you in isolating the site of any injury and where your attentions are most needed.
6. Hydrogen peroxide: If your cat has sustained a cut, scrape, or wound, hydrogen peroxide will be your first line of defense in cleaning and preparing it for dressing.
7. Eyedropper or plastic syringe: You could either pour the hydrogen peroxide upon your cat willy-nilly, or use only what you need with an appropriate tool. You might need to give a cat water, and an eyedropper or plastic syringe can help there as well.
8. Cotton swabs or cotton balls: Doing more precision work? Found the site of the injury and ready to proceed? Steep a cotton ball or the tip of a cotton swab in hydrogen peroxide to clean a wound or mop up excess blood from the cat’s body.
9. Styptic stick or powder: An antihemorrhagic tool, such as a styptic pencil or powder, may come in useful if you need to stop bleeding fast before dressing a cat’s wound.
10. Antibiotic ointment or antiseptic wipes: If an injury is not too severe, applying some antibiotic ointment or wiping the area with some single-use antiseptic wipes may keep it from getting infected before you reach the veterinarian’s office or animal hospital for proper treatment.
11. Towels: A couple of clean towels may serve many functions. One will give you a place to set the cat while you perform your makeshift ministrations. The other will help with cleanup after you are done.
12. Gauze pads or roll of gauze: Sterile gauze pads or a roll of gauze will allow you to fully wrap a wound anywhere on a cat’s body, and apply sufficient pressure to it until you can reach professional medical help.
13. Adhesive medical tape: To affix the gauze bandages so that they do not come unraveled in transport or with movement.
14. Self-adhesive bandages: No help to the cat, but as noted above, an injured cat can be reactive, even to a beloved owner. Some human bandages are in order should you sustain a cat bite or scratch.
15. Muzzle or bandana: An appropriately sized cat muzzle, a bandana, or even a pair of stockings tied around a cat’s mouth may help you avoid getting bit while you perform basic emergency care.
16. Blanket: Use a blanket to swaddle a tense cat on your way to the animal hospital, or to warm a cat who seems too cold.
17. Cat carrier or pillowcase: Vets and animal hospitals may not allow pets into the office who are not under a restraint of some sort. Further, a typically home-bound cat may not be accustomed to car travel. Ready access to a cat carrier — or a pillowcase if you don’t have one — might be necessary.
While it has no particular use or value to you when you’re setting up a triage center in your living room, another essential thing to keep in your cat’s first-aid kit is a copy of your cat’s current veterinary records. Each time your cat visits the vet, ask for a copy of the latest version. If you are traveling or in a new town and an emergency affects your cat, her health and vaccination history can provide critical information to a new vet or animal hospital.
Another crucial document to keep in an envelope in your cat’s first-aid kit is a list of phone numbers and contact information. Ask your veterinarian to recommend at least two urgent pet-care facilities or animal hospitals in your area. Should your cat need emergency medical attention in the middle of the night, you won’t want to spend time searching the phone book or the Internet for the nearest provider.
We’ve included only what we consider to be the most essential items for a cat first-aid kit. What have we left out? Make your recommendations in the comments!
Learn more about emergency cat care with Catster:
About the author: Melvin Peña trained as a scholar and teacher of 18th-century British literature before turning his research and writing skills to puppies and kittens. He enjoys making art, hiking, and concert-going, as well as dazzling crowds with operatic karaoke performances. He has a 16-year-old cat named Quacko, and his online life is conveniently encapsulated here.