How to Care for an Injured Cat

Have you ever come home at the end of a long day to find an injured cat? If you’ve lived with cats for any length of time, you’ll no doubt have a story or two to tell. Whether it’s a swollen face, a bleeding ear or an impressive limp, feline injuries are common even for indoor kitties. Learn the basics of cat wound care to help your cat immediately after an injury and while she’s recovering from veterinary treatment.

Recognizing an Injured Cat

The hardest part of feline injury management is cats’ tendency to hide their pain. That’s because their wild side is programmed to avoid showing weakness. Think about it, a visibly injured cat is a magnet for predators.

Signs of pain and injury may be obvious, like bleeding, limping and swelling, but they may also be more subtle, like hiding, lethargy and diminished appetite. If your cat isn’t visibly hurt but is still acting oddly, examine her more closely for signs of an injury.

What to Do if Your Cat Gets Hurt

Indoor cat injuries are typically sustained from athletic misadventures (failed jumps or falls), furniture accidents (dashing under a rocking chair or recliner), burns (stove or heater mishaps) and door slam injuries. You might be present when the accident happens, or you might come home to find an injured pet.

As soon as you spot an injury, call your veterinarian or local animal hospital and let them know you’re on your way. Treat every feline injury like an emergency. Even the most superficial wounds require immediate attention, and with cats, you never know how painful and complicated a simple limp might be. Almost all injuries heal faster with earlier veterinary intervention.

Follow Vet Instructions for Cat Wound Care

If your injured cat comes home with stitches, a surgical site or an open wound to care for, there are clear rules you should follow. Listen to your vet closely.

The first step is keeping your pet from licking or scratching her wound. If she is sent home with a protective collar, do not remove it without a discussion with your vet. You should only loosen your cat’s cone or collar if it is clearly restricting her breathing. If loosening a collar allows your cat to wiggle out of it, call your vet immediately. Vets belabor this point because a collar is often the only thing keeping an injured cat from making her wounds worse.

If your kitty has bandages, they must remain clean and dry. Any wrappings that become saturated with drinking water or urine or smeared with stool or litter must be replaced within a few hours at the most. Your vet may teach you how to change wrappings yourself, or they may ask you to bring your cat back for a clean bandage.

Look out for swelling that may indicate bandages and wrappings are too tight, but never remove them on your own unless you’ve been instructed to. If the area around a bandage appears swollen, red or oozing, it’s time for an immediate check with the vet.

Finally, follow the directions on any medications to the letter. If you have questions about whether they’re appropriate or necessary, call your vet to discuss before taking matters into your own hands and discontinuing the medications or changing the dosage. You should never give your cat human medications or anything she has not been prescribed without your vet’s advice.

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