Being the Cool Cat During Feline Emergencies


The difficult part about caring for animals is that it isn’t always crystal clear when they don’t feel well. From an evolutionary standpoint, showing weakness is not a good thing, so pets tend to hide illness and pain.

Perhaps no species is quite so cryptic as the cat. Feline fanatics will be the first to admit that these guys are hard to read. Some things, though, are unmistakable emergencies. That’s why Berks Animal Emergency & Referral Center wants to help all cat owners know how to spot a feline emergency so they can respond quickly and appropriately.

Call Them as You See Them

Pet emergencies come in all shapes and forms. However, there are certain symptoms that require veterinary attention, no matter their cause. Please call us right away if you observe any of the following:

  • Coughing
  • Breathing heavily or with an open mouth
  • Vomiting or diarrhea that occurs more than twice in a 24-hour period
  • Seizures
  • Bleeding
  • Ingestion of a toxic or foreign substance
  • Obvious pain or distress
  • Trouble urinating
  • Signs of an eye problem
  • Cannot rise from a sitting position
  • Weak or wobbly
  • Victim of a trauma (e.g., struck by a car)
  • Loss of appetite

Of course, many of these symptoms can be caused by a variety of things and not all are emergencies. Nevertheless, it’s important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible just in case your pet needs our medical help and assistance. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Common Feline Emergencies

Some feline emergencies are more common than others. Do your best to recognize and prevent these frequent issues in cats:

Urinary obstruction — Not being able to urinate normally is a big deal. It can result in urinary bladder rupture, electrolyte abnormalities, and even death. Cats, especially male cats, develop urinary obstruction secondary to bladder stones and crystals or inflammation in the bladder (cystitis). If your cat is straining to urinate, only producing small amounts of urine, has blood in the urine, or has a painful belly, we need to see them immediately.

Respiratory distress — If your cat is open-mouth breathing, breathing with increased effort, or has blue/gray gums or tongue, it’s important that we see them as soon as possible. Cardiac disease, asthma, or several other issues can lead to this life-threatening emergency.

Toxin exposure — Cats are not known for their ability to detoxify, and many substances that humans (or even dogs) can handle have serious implications for our feline patients. Over-the-counter (as opposed to prescription) tick and flea treatments, Tylenol, and lily exposure are among some of the more common serious cat toxins.

Trauma — It’s important for us to examine your cat after a trauma, such as an animal attack or being hit by a car. Even if injuries aren’t immediately apparent, pets may quickly deteriorate due to shock or internal injuries.

Decompensation — It’s not unusual for a chronic condition such as diabetes, kidney disease, or a heart issue to become an emergency. This is because it’s easy to overlook subtle cues that a seemingly healthy pet is becoming unstable until things get pretty serious.

Keeping Your Cool

Do you know how you would handle one of these situations? Being prepared for feline emergencies is half the battle. These tips may help you keep your cool in a heated situation:

  • Keep our number along with any other pet emergency numbers you might need in an easily accessible location.
  • Consider keeping a small pet first aid kit in your home.
  • Whenever possible, call us before you come in so we can prepare for your cat’s arrival.
  • If there’s time, bring any medications or supplements that your pet is taking.
  • Grab any leftover packaging or evidence from a toxin exposure.
  • Handle your pet slowly and carefully. Even the sweetest cats may bite when in pain. Use a towel if necessary to wrap around them.
  • Use a pet carrier to minimize trauma and maximize safety.
  • Drive carefully. It does no good if you and your cat never make it to our hospital.

Feline emergencies are never fun but with a little preparation, you can be sure to do right by your pet. Being an observant pet owner and acting quickly can go a long way when it comes to helping your cat stay healthy. It’s never wrong to bring your pet in for an exam, even if you aren’t sure. Our team is always here to help!