First Aid Care
So my cat is sick, but I can't get to the vet right away. Is there anything I can do?
First of all, make sure that your cat doesn't fall into the list of life threatening emergencies. If they do, run, don't walk, to the nearest vet, regardless of your financial situation. At the very least, most vets will put your cat out of their misery rather than letting them die in agony if you cannot afford care. Even the emergency clinic will do a no charge euthanasia if your cat is suffering, and you cannot afford treatment. If you just can't get to All Feline, either because of location or weather, or because we are full, ask us for a referral to a closer vet, or call a friend, neighbor, or taxi for a ride to get your cat to the vet.
If your cat's health issue is not immediately life threatening, depending on what the issue is, you may be able to help them until you can get them to a vet. If you have internet access (which I am guessing you do if you are reading this), there are two options for questions and answers, or even live chats with veterinarians online.
First, you can go to www.pets.webmd.com. This has a whole list of commonly asked questions, and you may find the question that you have has already been asked and answered. If not, you can post your question, and will eventually receive an answer.
If you need immediate answers, you can go to www.vetlive.com. There is a charge for this service, but you can chat live with a veterinarian regarding your cat's current health issue. Just know that they cannot prescribe anything for your cat; to do that requires a veterinarian who has recently seen your cat by law.
For non-life threatening issues, here are a few things that you can do. Keep in mind though, you are not a vet, you do not necessarily know if what your cat has is a major medical issue or a minor one, and we strongly suggest that you bring your cat in to be seen by a veterinarian at the earliest opportunity.
Pain. Whether this from trauma, illness, disease, or for whatever reason, there is not much you can do at home for pain control. The only thing you can give your cat is ½ of a children's (81mg) aspirin once every other day. Do not exceed this dose unless under the advice of a veterinarian, and do not continue for longer than a week or you may end up with bleeding issues. Do not give this any more often. Cats metabolize aspirin very differently than people or dogs, and it take them 48 hours to metabolize one little half of a low dose aspirin. NEVER EVER give your cat Tylenol or Ibuprofen. Tylenol is a caticide. It will shut down your cat's liver, and be a very painful way to die. Ibuprofen will cause acute kidney failure, and unless we can treat it immediately, your cat could die. We have much better, safer pain medications at the veterinary clinic. Bring your cat in if they are in pain.
Upset stomach. Whether your cat has vomiting, diarrhea, or just plain is nauseous and doesn't want to eat, there are a lot of different causes for this. If your cat hasn't been seen by a veterinarian for this, then they should be. For short term, to try and help reduce the nausea, you can give a 1/4th of a tablet of Pepcid AC once or twice daily. You need to make sure that this is just the plain 10mg Pepcid AC or its generic equivalent, famotidine. Do not give Pepcid AC Complete or Maximum Strength Pepcid AC. DO NOT give Pepto Bismol, because this has salicylates in it and cats have a hard time metabolizing it, just like aspirin. Again, we have much more effective medications at the veterinary clinic, and the first thing is to figure out the cause of the nausea so that we can make your cat feel better.
Wound care. Please don't use hydrogen peroxide. This is an antiseptic with way too much credit. It is very damaging to the tissue it is used on, and could even be absorbed into the bloodstream and cause a fatal embolism. Don't use it. Instead, use a diluted gentle soap and warm water, alcohol (although this will sting like crazy and you might get bit), or if you have it, betadine or chlorhexadine solutions would be ideal. Be very gentle when cleaning out the wound. It hurts, and you don't want to cause even more damage. If it is a large wound and you can see muscle, bone, or worse, or if there is pus draining from it, then you need to bring your cat into the veterinary clinic as soon as possible.
Broken leg. Ever had a broken leg? It hurts like crap, especially every time it moves. If your cat gets a broken leg for whatever reason, you can attempt to splint it if your cat will allow it. Almost all broken legs will heal eventually, but that doesn't mean that your cat will ever be able to walk on it normally again if it is not properly set and immobilized for 6-8 weeks. Again, bring your cat in to the veterinary clinic if they have a broken leg, don't wait a week or more when it is already healing in the broken position.
Poison ingestion. This can be a tricky one. Some poisons need to be gotten rid of as soon as possible. But, some poisons can cause even more damage on the way back up. In addition, you don't have anything on your medicine shelf at home that will safely cause a cat to vomit. Syrup of ipecac is no longer recommended for animals or for people due to the nasty side effects that it can cause. Hydrogen peroxide, which sadly is still recommended by some vets, can cause a whole bunch of damage to the esophagus, and if your cat happens to inhale it, either while fighting you as you force it down, or when they vomit it back up, can cause a severe pneumonia that can cause permanent lung damage.
If you cannot bring your cat in to the veterinary clinic immediately, you can call animal poison control to find out what to do. There is a significant charge for this, anywhere from $35 to $65 depending on which one you call. The ASPCA has a 24 hour poison hotline - their number is 888-426-4435. At the very least, they will tell you if there is anything that you can give at home, or if you need to get to a vet immediately to save your cat's life, or if it just isn't really that bad, and your cat will be okay regardless.
If your cat ate part of a plant, and you aren't sure if the plant is poisonous, you can go online to the ASPCA. They have an excellent database online with pictures of poisonous plants. The website is at www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/plants. The plant that is by far the most toxic to cats? Lilies. They can shut down kidneys very quickly. But, there are a lot of plants that can have various levels of toxicity to cats. If in doubt, throw it out, or find the plant a new home.