When to Get Help

Certain health conditions require fast action.


Now that September has officially sprung, and we’ve said goodbye to the dog days of summer, it’s easy to get caught up in the back-to-school (and back to work) routine. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore some of signs that our cats may send us when they need immediate veterinary attention. Following are the major alarms that signal our cat needs help, fast. Be sure to have access to an emergency veterinary facility.

If you ever notice your cat having difficulty breathing, this constitutes as an urgent emergency. Death can occur after just three minutes without breathing. Worse still is that it breathing problems in cats can sometimes be hard to recognize. Symptoms include: heaving sides, open-mouthed breathing, coughing, wheezing and abnormal respiratory sounds. Call your vet immediately.

Any sign of severe pain or obvious distress needs to be addressed right away. Symptoms include vocalizing or howling, panting, hiding or overreacting to contact of the area.

If you notice your male cat is struggling to urinate, be aware that this has the potential to be one of the most serious crises any cat can face: urinary obstruction. This condition is fatal when not treated, and occurs almost exclusively in males due to anatomical reasons. Symptoms include: urination outside the litter box, straining but producing small quantities of urine, vocalization or excessive grooming of the genitals.

An emergency that is also a painful event is aortic thromboembolism (ATE), when complications due to heart disease cause sudden paralysis of the cat’s hind end. Affected cats will usually pant, vocalize and show other signs of distress.

If your cat stops eating and/or drinking, this often means serious trouble. Seek veterinary attention promptly. Prolonged bouts of vomiting and/or diarrhea require immediate veterinary attention, especially when blood is present. Cats who vomit repeatedly or have severe diarrhea need veterinary help.

Ingestion (or suspected ingestion) of known toxic substances – such as antifreeze – should be treated immediately. Rapid action can markedly improve the prognosis in many cases of toxicity.

If a cat suffers from profound lethargy or collapse — this warrants an urgent trip to the veterinarian. This can present itself as not moving, hiding in one room for a protracted period of time or not reacting to stimuli in a normal manner.

Although a single seizure is not likely to be life-threatening, they can come in clusters that can get worse over the course of a few hours. They can also be a symptom of toxin exposure such as mold, or low-quality flea control products.

Obviously, major trauma should always warrant a veterinary visit. Some traumatic episodes are obvious, but others can cause major internal injuries that are not obvious because the cat appears relatively unharmed by the incident. Be safe, not sorry.

Cats who have been in significant fights with other cats should be seen by a veterinarian. If treatment is delayed, an abscess could develop that requires more significant care, even anesthesia and surgery.


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