Your cat is such a small animal that something as little as a rubber band, hair tie, or small part of a cat toy can lodge in his throat and cause him to choke. Fortunately, choking is rare in cats. However, if you notice your feline friend struggling to breathe, you must act fast to clear out his airway and end this threat to his life.
Signs Your Cat Is Choking
You can tell your cat is choking on a foreign object if you spot these warning signs:
- Heaving chest with no airway noises
- Labored breathing
- Gagging or retching
- Panicked look on his face
- Pawing at his mouth
- Rubbing his face against the ground
What to Do When Your Cat Is Choking
Remember, it’s natural for cats to cough up hairballs. If you see your kitty crouched low to the ground with his neck stretched out making rhythmic heaving sounds, he’s probably just working up a hairball. Keep your eye on him to make sure he doesn’t start struggling. As long as you can hear air passing through your cat’s windpipe, this means he can breathe and may not need help.
However, as soon as your cat exhibits any of the above signs of more advanced choking, intervene as quickly as possible. Here’s what to do.
Restrain Your Cat
Choking will likely send the animal into a panic. Before you can help, you must restrain him by wrapping him in a towel or blanket. This prevents your cat from scratching as you attempt to render aid.
Try to Remove the Object by Hand
Open your cat’s mouth and look inside. A fairly large object like a stick or bone may be easy to retrieve with a pair of tweezers. If you can’t see anything, don’t try to feel around with your fingers, as this could irritate your cat’s sensitive throat tissues.
Perform a Variation of the Heimlich Maneuver
Only attempt this method if your cat has collapsed and is actively not breathing. Here’s how to do the Heimlich maneuver on a cat:
- Lay the animal down on his side or hold him against your stomach with his head up. If you lay your cat down, stabilize him by holding his back with one hand.
- Make a fist with your other hand and place it in the soft hollow area under your cat’s ribs. Thrust your fist in and up several times.
- Check the animal’s mouth for the foreign object and remove it. Repeat the thrusting motion if necessary.
- Once you remove the foreign object, close your cat’s mouth and breathe a few small breaths through his nose to encourage him to start breathing again.
Note: If the foreign object is a string, only pull it out of your cat’s throat if it slides easily. Do not tug on the string if it resists since this means it’s caught on something inside your cat’s body.
Rush to Germantown Vet Right Away
If your cat still isn’t breathing after you remove the foreign object, perform rescue breathing while someone rushes you to Germantown Vet Clinic. You should also visit our office immediately if you find a string lodged in your cat’s throat.
Even if the animal seems perfectly fine after he starts breathing again, it’s still wise to visit the vet for a checkup, especially if you performed the Heimlich maneuver. This may have bruised or fractured his ribs, which requires treatment.
If your cat is choking, call us at 240-252-7467 to let us know you’re on your way, or to ask for more help with performing the Heimlich maneuver on a cat.