First Aid for Cats - Cat Info Detective

First Aid for Cats

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Hey, Skye Blake here, reminding you to have a first aid kit handy for cat mishaps so you can help your buddy in time of crisis.

Ow, just caught my tail in the door! Ok, catching my tail in the door isn’t a crisis, but it still deserves a hug!

paw prints coming in from a distance

So, what should you include in a first aid kit-ty? (Get it? hehe)

The information here is for general knowledge… always see your vet with questions about your cat’s individual needs. 

Who Is Skye Blake?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, is a curious cat researcher (not a veterinarian) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, studies their information, then passes it on to you! 

Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so Skye gives you all sides, explains the situation as thoroughly and clearly as possible, and links you to experts on each page. 

All sources are given at the bottom of each page so you can do more snooping. 

First Aid – Preparing for Surprises

Cartoon tough injured cat

Nothing replaces getting your kitty to the vet in an emergency, but planning ahead, learning what to do, and having a first aid kit for cats, will prepare you to handle situations without panicking.

Having some training and supplies makes you able to stay calm, decide what to do rationally, and fix feline boo-boos without making things worse.

Pet First-Aid Courses

first aid on a teddy bear

Taking a pet first-aid course is a great idea, especially for those who have multiple cats, travel with them, or are involved in caring for strays and colonies.

These first-aid courses include information about cat CPR, how to check vital signs, and dealing with wounds and seizures.

These links are for your information and convenience only. I make no money from them.

graphic of cat looking at tv, computer screen

FIRST AID FOR DOGS AND CATS, My CPR Now™

First Aid, Meds & Traveling Papers

first aid kit-scissors, bandages, etc

It’s especially important to think about first aid if you plan to travel with your cat.

Here are some things to be aware of when preparing for a trip with your kitty…

vet holding kitten
  • Always check with your vet to be sure you have what your cat might need according to his age and health.
  • When traveling with a cat who needs medications, pack enough to last the entire trip (and a little extra for emergencies).
  • Be sure they’re kept in a waterproof container.
tabby cat and kitten outside
  • Make sure your cat is up-to-date on flea and tick prevention treatments. Use what your vet recommends.

Some products aren’t reliable and can even be dangerous, especially if your cat has medical problems.

  • Take all current medical records, the latest vet visit summary, extra prescriptions, and vaccination records, especially proof of rabies vaccination.
veterinarian listening to a cat's heart
  • Keep them with your other important documents (driver’s license, credit cards, etc.) so they’re easily available to show when required.
  • Have a current photo of your cat (and who doesn’t? We’re so adorable!)… both on your phone and in print.
  • Keep the print one with the vaccination records in case you don’t have your phone in an emergency.
travelin' cat carrying luggage on back

When traveling pack a separate small first aid kit in a waterproof box that you can tuck in your bag or backpack to grab easily.

Tape on the inside cover and program into your phone…

  • your vet and emergency clinic names and phone #’s
doctor, scientist, vet, pills, capsules, vitamins
  • include the same for your destination vet (if available)

Ready-Made First Aid Kits

first aid kit

You can buy kits ready-made for home and travel through online sites like Chewy and Amazon.

Kits for dogs will have most of the same items as for cats and you can customize as needed with the items listed below.

Brands mentioned on this page are for your information and convenience only. I make no money from them.

Do-It-Yourself First Aid Kits

first aid kit items

If you prefer to create your own kit, first be sure the bag or box you use is waterproof or has a waterproof liner.

Then gather these items to put in it (you may already have some). If you’re resourceful, you can find ways to use some things you have rather than buy them.

You can find most at drug, hardware and grocery stores or online at sites like Walmart, Chewy and Amazon.

Cat First-Aid Book

first aid kit

The most important item on your checklist is a cat first-aid book.

Yes, an actual book, not an app or anything online.

This is because first-aid situations can occur in places where there’s no wi-fi or cell phone service.

Without internet or phone access, you’ll need to have a book handy to guide you, as well as your first aid training.

Common Household Items

matches - one lit

These are available at drug, grocery, and hardware stores, Walmart, Target, and similar stores, as well as online suppliers like Amazon.

Some common household items to include are…

General
person walking with plastic bag of food
  • Plastic bags – grocery or self-sealing storage bags (for medical trash, etc.)
  • Matches – keep these in a waterproof storage container
  • Small blanket, towels, or cat restraining bag – great for many emergency situations, especially to “burrito” your cat when he’s scared.
occupational safety work gloves
  • Pair of heavy gloves – these are a must-have for all kinds of situations. The long ones are best to protect your forearms from flailing claws and teeth.

Regular are fine but if you want specialized pet gloves check online. Be sure they’re the right size for you.

doctor, vet, in white scrubs and vinyl gloves
  • Disposable gloves – helpful when you’re cleaning and bandaging wounds, applying medication, or otherwise touching an injured animal.

They’re more hygienic than bare hands and help prevent transmission of bacteria. If you’re allergic to latex, be sure they’re made of vinyl or other materials.

tweezers - ticks, first aid
  • Tweezers and/or tick remover – tweezers are great for removing thorns, splinters, ticks, etc. There are also special tick remover tools available.
  • Blunt-end scissors – Important for protecting kitty’s skin while cutting bandages, foam splints, and other things.
  • Lubricating jelly – good for removing a stuck paw or similar situations… any type is fine except petroleum jelly.
first aid supplies
  • Ice pack – The packs you get in refrigerated/frozen boxes of food or medications are great but must be kept frozen before using.

Instant packs are good for camping or other travel where you don’t have access to a freezer. Wrap in a cloth before using.

Bandages
bandages, adhesive
  • Non-stick bandages or strips of clean cloth – bandages are used for cleaning wounds and to control bleeding.

Don’t use Band-Aids® or other human bandages since they’re too sticky on fur and skin.

Strips of clean cloth, especially cotton, like old clean diapers, tea towels, or sheets, do well as bandages when taped or wrapped in self-adhering vet wrap.

gauze
  • Gauze pads – these are used to cover open wounds and then either taped or wrapped.
  • Adhesive tape – this is only for taping gauze bandages… don’t use it on your cat’s fur or skin!
Cleaning & Disinfecting
hygiene products, tissues, cotton balls
  • Cotton balls and swabs – use cotton balls, not swabs, for eyes or ears unless you’ve been shown how by your vet.
  • Unopened bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide – use only to sterilize hands and instruments. Don’t use it on wounds!
Graphic of green soap bottle
  • Mild liquid dishwashing detergent – Original Dawn® is one most commonly used with animals but any mild soap that doesn’t have extra scent will do.

Many animals are sensitive to strong odors and can be upset by lavender, lemon and other scents.

vet looking at cat's eye
  • Sterile wound wash or saline eye solution – use for flushing eyes or washing wounds. If you’re dealing with an eye problem, call or get to a veterinarian before doing anything, if possible… otherwise you can cause more damage.
  • Broad-spectrum antibiotic cream (Neosporin®) – used to put on a bandage before covering a wound to prevent infection and promote healing.
  • Antiseptic wipes, spray or lotion – always helpful when you need to clean a small area.

Special First Aid Items

vet wrap, bandage

These items are available at medical supply stores and websites, as well as Amazon.

  • Adhesive spray bandages – a convenient way to cover wounds and allow them to breathe while healing. They can cover awkward spots where regular bandages might not stay in place.
  • Self-adhering wrap for pets – this is the type of wrap used by vets to cover bandages or gauze that sticks only to itself, not fur or skin.
brown tabby kitten being fed with syringe
  • Pet clotting powder – this is used to stop bleeding
  • Cat-size muzzle – muzzles are necessary when dealing with injured cats, since even the friendliest will bite when in pain or afraid.
  • Pet medicine syringe – useful for giving liquid medicine, water, pills, etc. Read the description carefully to be sure it’s the kind you want.

Use Only At the Direction of a Veterinarian

vet holding 2 adolescent kittens

There are a few items you can have at home or in a first aid kit but should only use at the direction of a veterinarian.

  • Foam splint – great to have in emergency situations when you’re dealing with broken bones or other injuries that need stabilization.

Be sure you have the right type for cats… what’s generally available online is for humans but can be adapted for pets.

graphic of splint on person's hand

Finger splints might be a good size for cat paws (ask your vet).

They should be used only by someone trained in first aid (check the classes listed above) or at the instruction of a veterinarian.

  • Thermometer for cats – ask your vet what type of thermometer to use… they use rectal ones.
sick cat holding thermometer and pills

There are some pet ones for testing outside the ear, but it’s not clear how accurate they are.

Use any thermometer only if your cat lets you and you’re comfortable doing it… never put a thermometer in a cat’s mouth or ear.

pharmacist, vet, scientist, vitamins, bottles, pills, capsules
  • Diphenhydramine – medication used for some allergic reactions (similar to Benadryl®).

Talk to your vet about whether or not you may need to have this, especially if you’re traveling with your cat.

Poisoning

danger poison sign

If you believe your cat has been poisoned, don’t panic… just calmly get your cat in a carrier (you should already have her carrier trained), and go to the nearest vet’s office.

If you’re not near a vet, call the ASPCA Poison Control hotline – (888) 426-4435 or Banfield Hospital Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680 for help.

Don’t assume you should make your cat throw up. There are different types of poisons, and vomiting can sometimes make the situation much worse.

poison warning sign

Be ready with a credit card or other payment method, since there may be a charge for the call.

Quick action can save your cats life! Time is of the essence when dealing with any poison or venom.

Magnesium hydroxide (milk of magnesia) and activated charcoal are good to have available, however, there’s no first aid you can give safely without guidance by either a vet or poison control center.

Discover more about poisons… “Animal Poison Control | (888) 426-4435 | ASPCA“.

Snake Bite

rattlesnake

If you believe your cat has been bitten by a snake, put gentle pressure on the wound, get your cat in a carrier (you should already have her carrier trained), and calmly get her to a vet as quickly as possible.

Don’t bother with ice packs, sucking out venom, or tourniquets… just get to the vet.

If you saw the snake, get a photo of it if you can, but don’t waste time chasing it.

garden snake

Record on paper or your phone anything you noticed about it… markings, color, size, shape of the head (oval or diamond), and any other features that might identify it.

For example, the shape of the snake’s head is an important clue about whether or not the snake is venomous.

Diamond shaped heads usually means a venomous snake, but others could be too.

cat in field wearing harness-side view

If you’re planning to camp, hike or go on other outdoor adventures with your cat, you may not have cell phone service or be near a vet.

It’s highly recommended you take a first aid course for pets before any feline adventures… you’ll be glad you did.

Discover more about feline travel at “Traveling With a Cat“.

Eyes

tabby cat with one eye closed

Ever have an eyelash get in your eye?  Ouch!

Cats can have that happen, too.  

If your cat is pawing at an eye, shaking her head, or has swelling, watery or crusty eyes, it’s time to take a closer look.

vet looking at cat's eye

Things like dust, fur, eyelashes, seeds, grass bristles, and little bugs can get into a cat’s eye and irritate it.

A foreign body or scratch from another cat can cause scratches and deeper injuries that require a vet’s help.

Crusty, watery, or swollen eyes can also indicate infection or disease.

Natural Eye Defenses
tabby, white cat showing 3rd eyelid, nictitans

Cats have natural defenses for their eyes, just like you do.

The whiskers above their eyes sense something near the eye and trigger a blink.

This can also lead to the eye watering as a way of flushing away an offending particle.

They even have something you don’t… a third eyelid (a.k.a., “nictitans”) that helps protect the cornea and keep the eyeball moist.

Always see your vet with questions about your cat’s individual needs.

Green cat eye

What do you do if your cat still seems bothered after trying to get it out?

Signs like squinting, keeping the eye closed, watery eyes, pawing at them, hiding, or shying away from light, mean something’s still bothering her eye.

If there’s damage to the cornea, you might see a bluish cloudiness that isn’t normally there and it will be painful.

Gold, green cat eye

When it comes to eyes, it’s better to err on the side of caution.  

Any kind of injury, even if it looks small or just on the surface, can quickly progress to something deeper and more serious.

Waiting means risking loss of vision or even the entire eye.  

Vets consider eye problems emergencies that should be seen the same day.

Puncture Wounds
Russian Blue cat playing with stick

Puncture wounds are the most serious eye injuries.   You may not realize that the problem is a puncture.

It could be something like a claw, pin, needle, splinter, or even porcupine quill.

porcupine quills

Some things will deliver a poke and then drop away, like a pin… others will stay embedded, like a quill.

Either way, if you can’t see or flush out the problem, get to the vet right away.

Can You Do First Aid for Eyes?
Cat First Aid by George E. Boyle, VMD, Charles Blood
Cat First Aid by George E. Boyle, VMD & Charles Blood

If you have to try first aid, there are some situations where you can help.

If not, take her to the vet right away to keep things from becoming worse, which can happen quickly.

Most people will go straight to the vet… a wise decision since most cats won’t sit still for first aid on their eyes!

Attempting First Aid
cat wrapped in orange towel with white cloth on head, bathrobe

First aid for cat eyes is similar to human eye care.

Use an eye wash or saline solution (not tap water) to flush out anything on the eye… just as you would for yourself.

If you can see the offending material and flush it toward the inside of the eye, you might be able to gently wipe it away with a moistened cotton ball.

newborn, young kitten having face wiped, cleaned

Don’t use tweezers or other tools near or on the eye… you can do more harm than good.

Anything embedded in the eye should only be removed by a vet.

If you want to try flushing the eye but don’t think your cat will cooperate, have someone else hold her in a “cat burrito” (a towel wrapped snugly enough to keep her legs secured).

You know your cat best… if this seems too daunting, go to the vet for help.

First Aid Videos

first aid on a teddy bear - vet

While videos can be helpful, the reliability of the information in many is questionable.

You’re much better off taking a certified class in first aid to be sure you have enough training to handle most emergencies, especially if you’re planning to camp or travel with your cat.

Here are a few decent videos on first aid…

“Cat First Aid You Should Know”, Cat Care, HowCast.com, Jan 14, 2014
“Cat Wound Care”, PetMD, June 19, 2017

If you’d like to learn more about your cat’s health, check out “Cat Health“.


Sources

Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.

Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.

Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.

Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own.

However, sometimes they refer to primary sources.

When I use secondary sources most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.

List of Sources

“77 Things to Know Before Getting a Cat”, by Susan M. Ewing, Companion House Books, Fox Chapel Publishers International, Ltd., 2018, pp. 178-181

Adventurecat First Aid Guide: How to Treat a Cat Snake Bite“, wildernesscat.com

Cat and Dog First Aid Online, American Red Cross

“The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting & Owning a Cat”, by Sheila Webster Boneham, Ph.D., Alpha Books, Penguin Group (USA), Inc., New York, NY, 2005, pp. 170-1, 201-214

“Eye Injuries in Cats” by PetMD Editorial,  January 14, 2009

“First Aid Kits for Pets”, Banfield Animal Hospital®, an affiliate of Mars, Incorporated, 2021

First Aid for Dogs and Cats“, My CPR Now™, 2020

“How to Easily Put Together a First-Aid Kit for Your Cat”, by Jason Nicholas, BVetMed, Preventative Vet, Published: April 2, 2018, Updated: January 28, 2020

Poisons“, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

”Something’s In Her Eye” by estaff,  Cornell Cat Watch, Published September 19, 2002, Updated August 22, 2023

“Think Like a Cat, How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat – Not a Sour Puss”, by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, Penguin Books, Penguin Group (USA) Inc, New York, NY, 2000, 2011, pp. 306-309

What to include in your cat’s first-aid kit”, by Laura Moss, Adventure Cats™, April 3, 2016

Updated April 14, 2024

Scroll to Top