Top 15 Cat Emergencies

By: Talin Seta Shahinian

Caring for your cat is most often a routine without any big surprises, but sometimes an emergency arises that can throw you for a loop. You need to know what conditions can wait for an appointment with your kitty’s regular veterinarian versus what constitutes a health crisis that requires a trip to an emergency pet hospital.

Most of the following conditions constitute emergencies, which means you should seek veterinary care for your cat as soon as possible. Some of the more serious conditions on this list will require immediate care from an emergency veterinary hospital, especially if your cat becomes ill or is injured after hours, on the weekend, or at any time when your cat’s regular vet isn’t readily available.

1. Difficulty Breathing, Coughing, or Choking

Take any of these signs seriously and get your cat to an emergency vet as soon as possible. Breathing problems can be hard to spot in cats, so you need to look for other signs. These include breathing with their mouth open, panting, heaving sides, sounds of abnormal respiration, wheezing, coughing, or any respiration pattern that differs from their usual breathing. It only takes three minutes without breathing for death to occur, so seek veterinary help immediately. Your cat could have an upper respiratory infection, especially if they sneeze or have watery eyes.

2. Abnormal Urination in Male Cats

This can lead to the serious complication of urinary obstruction. It’s fatal in male cats if left untreated. It occurs almost entirely in male cats only due to their anatomy. It can also lead to kidney disease if left unchecked. If a female cat has urinary difficulties, it can usually be treated and won’t be fatal.

3. Signs of Severe Pain, Obvious Distress, or Anxiety

Cats often mask their pain, so it takes a keen eye to pick up on their pain. Other clues can be if they seem anxious or are in distress.

4. Sudden Paralysis of the Hindquarters

Sudden inability to use their back legs is cause to immediately seek examination by your vet or an emergency veterinary hospital.

5. Not Eating or Drinking

Either of these can indicate a serious problem; don’t try to diagnose why this is happening by yourself.

6. Protracted Vomiting or Diarrhea

Anytime your cat has either condition over a significant period of time, you need to get them checked out by the vet.

7. Known Ingestion of Toxins

If your cat has somehow ingested toxins, including the following: part of a Lily plant, household chemicals, pesticides, human medications, or other toxins, they need to be rushed to emergency help right away.

8. Profound Lethargy or Collapse, Seizure, or Unconsciousness

If your cat becomes unconscious, time is of the essence to get them examined.

9. Foreign Body Ingestion

Cats are very prone to this situation due to their curiosity and playfulness. They’re known to swallow items such as string, yarn, rope, and ribbon. This will require an immediate exam and monitoring to see if they pass the object on their own. If not, they may require surgery to remove it.

10. Wounds from Fights/Abscesses

If your cat is an outdoor cat, an indoor/outdoor cat, or an indoor cat who happened to sneak out, there’s always a chance of injury from getting into a fight with another cat. If they have a superficial scratch or two, you can keep an eye on it to see if it resolves. If not, or if it seems infected, or if it’s developing an abscess, don’t let it go too long without vet care.

11. Major Trauma, Broken Bones

When your cat suffers major trauma, for instance, being hit by an automobile or motorcycle, or if they have a broken bone resulting from slipping or falling from a high perch, get them seen right away. Do not attempt to put a splint on their leg, as you can do more damage. Just keep them as calm and still as possible as you transport them to an emergency pet hospital.

12. Heatstroke

Just like humans, cats can get heatstroke. Remove them from the heat right away, spray down their fur with cool (not ice-cold water, which can cause worsening problems), and even spray the areas around them with cool water to lessen their discomfort. Give them cool water to drink. Then get them to a vet right away. Heatstroke is always an emergency, even if it doesn’t seem to be serious on the surface.

13. Severe bleeding

Any instance of severe bleeding requires immediate veterinary attention. Rapid blood loss can be fatal. Even blood from extremities is a serious condition, such as blood in stool, urine, saliva, or mucus.

14. Injury to Eyes

Any injury to your cat’s eyes is serious and must be treated.

15. Sudden Blindness

Sudden blindness, whether or not an apparent injury causes it, is cause for alarm. You should see your vet for diagnostic testing.

Although many of these conditions can be very scary for both you and your kitty, if you’re well-informed, stay as calm as possible, and get them to the vet or an emergency hospital, their health outcomes are sure to be better than if you assume a condition isn’t serious. When it comes to your cat’s health, it’s much better to be safe than sorry.

Remember, they can’t tell you how bad they may be feeling, so it’s up to you to watch out for any of the above symptoms and signs and then act quickly. The best-case scenario is you get them checked out, and it’s nothing serious, but the flip side is that getting them prompt medical attention may very well save the life of your precious feline friend and family member.

If you live in NW Wisconsin, Purple Cat Mobile Vet Clinic is here to help you keep your cat healthy and happy. We’re a high-quality, high-volume, low-cost spay/neuter clinic. We see cats exclusively. Find information for scheduling on our website. You can also look on our Facebook page for more helpful information on all things feline!


All cat spay/neuter appointments are made on this website. We post new clinic dates 6 weeks ahead of time. Check back often if you do not see a date that works for you.

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