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8 Ways Cat Owners Can Prepare for a Medical Emergency

Being ready in advance can help you keep your cool when your cat needs you most.

 |  Apr 9th 2013  |   18 Contributions


You’re sitting quietly at home, watching some TV or reading a book after a long day at the office. Suddenly, your cat starts coughing and wheezing. Her chest heaves as she struggles to get air into her lungs. She looks at you with a terrified expression, and then collapses. What do you do?

If you don’t know, you’d better learn. Do the following ahead of time, and in an emergency you’ll be ready to get your cat to life-saving aid as quickly as possible.

1. Take a pet first-aid and CPR course

The American Red Cross and a number of other organizations offer one-day classes that teach you how to recognize an emergency and move an injured cat safely, and how to perform basic first aid that can save your feline friend’s life.

2. Have a pet first-aid kit

Find out what your cat’s first-aid kit should have in it (the Red Cross has a good list here) and make sure you put it together. You can buy the items one by one and put them in a bag or toolbox, or you can buy a pre-made first-aid kit and customize it as needed.

3. Have emergency phone numbers on hand

If you have a cell phone, program the numbers of your regular vet and the nearest animal emergency clinic into your contact list. If you use a landline at home, be sure to post those numbers near your phone.

Cat x-rays by Shutterstock

4. Know how to get to the nearest emergency vet

Find out where the emergency clinic is located and practice driving there at different times of day. This will give you an idea how long it takes to get there and where those tricky turns are -- emergencies always seem to happen at night, and every landmark looks different in the dark. Alternately, if you have a GPS, program the clinic’s address into your GPS device ahead of time.

5. Keep your cat’s vet records handy

If your cat has to go to the emergency clinic, up-to-date health information about your feline friend will be a huge help to the staff. If your cat’s carrier has a pocket in it, put her records there; if not, tape an envelope onto the carrier to store the information.

6. Get pet health insurance

If you can afford it and your cats are insurable (they're not too old and they don't have pre-existing health conditions), pet insurance can be a blessing in the event of an emergency. With most pet insurance plans, you'll have to pay for the services up front, but the insurance company will reimburse you once you submit a claim.

7. Have emergency money and/or credit available

Emergency vet bills can stack up very fast, as I found out when one night at the emergency clinic for my beloved Dahlia cost me $1,500 and change. If you have some money set aside, the financial aspect of your cat’s emergency won’t seem quite as horrifying.

Dahlia, after she came back from her overnight stay at Chez Emergency Vet.

8. Make transportation arrangements in advance

If you don’t drive, don’t wait until disaster strikes to find out whether you can get a ride to the clinic. Buses don’t run all day and night in most places, and a taxi can take 20 minutes or more just to arrive at your home, depending on how busy they are. A cat-loving neighbor or friend willing to drive you to the emergency clinic can be crucial when time is of the essence. That friend can also provide emotional support for you, which is just as important!

What other tips would you give readers who want to be prepared for a feline medical emergency? Please share your advice in the comments!

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