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Emergency Situations

Emergency Situations

Be Prepared-the meaning of the motto is that a scout must prepare himself by previous thinking out and practicing how to act on any accident or emergency so that he is never taken by surprise ~Sir Robert Baden-Powell

Thanks to technology, meteorologists are able to predict when weather-related disasters are going to happen, giving people in harm's way an opportunity to get ready for the pending situation and, if necessary, evacuate. Nevertheless, accidents, especially those that happen within the home, can occur suddenly and without any prior warning. That's why it's so necessary to observe the Boy Scout motto and "Be prepared!"

Be Prepared at Home and Away

Even with the most meticulous pet-proofing precautions in place, accidents can happen. In addition, there's little you can do to prevent sudden illness. This is why it is so important, as we discussed in chapter 9, to find a veterinarian and veterinary practice in your area and establish your cat or kitten there right away. (See chapter 9, Establishing a Health Care Regimen, for further discussion on finding a veterinarian.) It's also important to know their office hours and whether the office is open on weekends. Even a veterinary practice with weekend hours, though, is unlikely to be open 24/7. However, most veterinary practices have an affiliation with a twenty-four-hour emergency pet hospital. Ask whether this is the case and get contact information.As a matter of routine preparedness, contact the emergency pet hospital to ensure it also has all of your pet's information on file. Be polite but insistent if the staff is not keen to take on potential patients. Even in an emergency, the pet hospital won't treat your pet before all the laborious paperwork is in place. If necessary, prepare an information sheet and ask the staff to have it on file to save time, should an emergency arise.

Make sure you have all the contact information for your veterinarian and the emergency pet hospital (along with the hours that your vet clinic is open) prominently displayed in your home. Because most kitchens are the nerve center of the household, use the inside of a kitchen cupboard door to tape up all the information and include directions and even a map. That way, should you not be home when an emergency occurs, someone else can easily step in and take charge. Find out if there is an emergency pet ambulance service in your area and keep that information prominently displayed as well. It's also a good idea to have the number of a local taxi service that will allow pets to ride in their vehicles as another emergency measure. To be really prepared, program relevant veterinary numbers into your home phone and all family cell phones, and program the address of the veterinarian's clinic and the pet emergency hospital into your car's GPS system.While you are putting all this emergency paperwork in place, be sure to put decals on the exterior of your home alerting neighbors and emergency service first responders to the fact that there are pets inside and detail exactly how many and what species. These decals can be purchased from online stores and many pet boutiques. Animal welfare organizations often give them away from free so check websites such as ASPCA.org. Good locations include the front door, the back door, and the garage door.

It's important to know your vet's emergency hours and emergency policies before you need them.

Safer Indoors

Keeping a cat indoors on a permanent basis definitely reduces the number of dangers and emergency situations that she would otherwise be exposed to.

The Feline First-Aid Kit

It's essential to also have a basic feline first-aid kit handy. (Take it with you when you're traveling.) You can buy specially prepared, cat-specific first-aid kits from various online stores, but it's very easy to assemble one yourself.Start off with a shoebox-size plastic container that seals tightly and label it accordingly. Keep it in a bathroom cupboard or where you keep other pet supplies and be sure that everyone in the household knows how to access it in a hurry.A well-equipped first-aid kit should include the following items:

  • Antiseptic ointment or solution
  • Small bottle of table salt (a teaspoon of salt added to a large glass of warm water will make a saline solution for cleaning minor cuts and scrapes)
  • Bottle of hydrogen peroxide (as an alternative to a salt solution)
  • Small stainless steel or plastic bowls for solutions to bathe wounds
  • Cotton balls, cotton swabs, and a roll of cotton padding
  • Sterile dressing pads
  • Liquid bandage for pets (available from veterinary offices and online pet pharmaceutical supply websites)
  • Small flashlight and fresh batteries to look inside a mouth (check regularly to maintain working condition
  • Tick Key, a gadget to safely remove ticks without leaving any poisonous discharge behind (can be found at www.tickkey.com)
  • Self-adhesive bandage (you can purchase special pet bandages)
  • Roll of narrow adhesive tape
  • Latex gloves
  • Sharp tweezers
  • Small blunt scissors
  • Pet digital rectal thermometer
  • Tube or jar of lubricant jelly to lubricate the thermometer before insertion
  • Sterile eye wash solution (the human kind is suitable)
  • Eyedropper
  • Syringe to administer liquid medicine
  • Hydrocortisone ointment or antihistamine spray for insect stings
  • Glucose powder to make a rehydrating fluid; use one tablespoon of glucose and add a teaspoon of salt to a liter of water (1¼ pints)
  • Corn syrup to revive a cat in a diabetic coma; simply rub a little on the gums
  • Ice pack in the fridge marked accordingly for a pet emergency; keep a small towel in your kit to wrap it in for use
  • Small blanket or large towel (place alongside your first-aid box if it won't fit inside) to wrap the cat "burrito-style" while administering medication or attending to a wound
  • Elizabethan collar to prevent the cat from interfering with a dressing or bandage; you can purchase soft collars from online stores and boutiques that do the same job but are far more comfortable than the hard plastic type
  • Small mirror (to be used in front of a cat's nose to determine if she's breathing)
  • A variety of pet-specific first-aid products are on the market. They are worth researching and including in your kit. Put all bottles in plastic bags in case they leak, and be sure to replenish what you use and to periodically check the date stamps on ointments and liquids. Always bear in mind that a first-aid kit is there for first aid. It should never be a substitute for a visit to the veterinarian.

    Put together a kitty first-aid kit and check its contents every few months, replacing items that are expired or used up.

    The ABCs of First-Aid Basics

    It's essential to know the best way of handling a variety of emergency circumstances that can occur at home so that you can give your cat the best chance of surviving what could potentially be a life-threatening injury. This begins with the first-aid ABCs: airway, breathing, and circulation.

    Airway:

    Your first priority is to ensure that nothing is blocking the airway. If there is, gently remove it. You may have to wrap your cat in a towel so that she doesn't interfere with your efforts. Cats often instinctively bite when scared or stressed, so be careful.

    Breathing:

    Next check that your cat is breathing. If you are not sure, place a mirror in front of her nose and see if it fogs up slightly. If your cat has very shallow breathing, her tongue is a blue-black color, and you've established that there is nothing blocking the throat, gently lift her chin to extend her neck, open the airway, and slowly begin administering artificial respiration:1. Hold the cat's mouth closed and cover her entire nose with your mouth.2. Gently breathe up the cat's nose-count out 30 breathes per minute. Take your mouth away from her nose in-between breaths so that she has the chance to exhale.3. Keep this routine up until she begins to breathe or professional help arrives.

    Circulation:

    Finally, check that her heart is beating. The best way to check for a pulse is to place two fingers on the inside of the cat's thigh in the groin area (you would do this behind an ear on a person). If the heartbeat is slow (or appears to be nonexistent), begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), which is an emergency technique to help a person's or an animal's heart start functioning normally again. To do this, begin chest compressions as follows:1. Place one hand on either side of the cat's chest, just behind her elbows.2. Squeeze the chest by using a flat hand to compress. Do not use too much force or you could crack ribs.CPR works together with the artificial respiration technique described earlier. Give two breaths to every four hand compressions and keep it up until the heart begins to beat or professional help arrives.It is always best to work on a hard surface and most effective if the cat is lying on her side.Many groups and organization offer basic pet first-aid classes. If such a class is available in your area, it's certainly worth taking.

    This cat is being treated for a paw injury.

    Bleeding Wounds

    If you can tell it's nothing serious, clean the cut and bandage it using items from your first-aid kit. However, if you suspect a gunshot wound or can see something impaled in the cat (yes, this can happen with outdoor cats), don't attempt to remove anything because it could make the bleeding worse. Don't apply a tourniquet unless you are trained in first-aid procedures and know what you are doing because you could, in fact, make the situation worse by cutting off the blood supply. Take your cat immediately to the veterinarian or emergency pet hospital. Even what you may consider to be a minor cut may need stitches. Let the veterinarian be the judge.

    Bite Wounds

    Cats who have access to the outdoors can get bitten by a number of animals. It's often difficult to determine what has caused the bite: it could be another cat invading your cat's territory, a rodent (which could be dangerous because rodents carry so many diseases), or a snake. If you are not sure, try to keep her as still as possible because, if it is a snakebite, you need to prevent the venom from spreading quickly through her body. Wrap her in the towel from your first-aid kit to immobilize her and take her immediately to the veterinarian office or emergency pet hospital. It's much easier to assess a bite wound if your cat has an indoor lifestyle. If it's not the result of an altercation with another pet in the household, then perhaps she's caught herself on something sharp and the wound simply looks like a bite. Cut away the fur as best you can and clean the wound using swabs and antiseptic solutions from your first-aid kit. If it's a puncture wound, take your cat to the veterinarian right away to have it checked out.

    Choking Cat

    It's very important to establish that the cat is actually choking and not just gagging. A choking cat will paw at her face, cough, and appear distracted and frantic. If you cannot see anything- and it's very difficult to peer into a cat's mouth when time is of the essence-try lifting her up and holding her with her head pointing toward to the ground, then giver her a sharp knock on the shoulder blades. This can be sufficient to dislodge something that has been swallowed and gotten stuck. If you are still concerned, try the Heimlich maneuver as follows. But be careful; it requires force, and you don't want to break bones.

    • Stand behind the cat.
    • Make a fist with one hand; place your other hand over it and position both hands just below the rib cage.
    • Compress the abdomen several times with quick pushes.

    If this doesn't work, seek emergency attention immediately. Even if you have been successful, it's a good idea to follow-up with a veterinary visit.

    Stay Calm

    In an emergency situation, always try to remain calm. Cats pick up quickly on human emotions, which can exacerbate the situation. Also, if you panic, you are more likely to forget things or make an error in your response to the situation.

    Drowning Cat

    Most cats can swim, but they may have difficulty extricating themselves from a swimming pool or river. Get the cat out the water and immediately try to drain as much water as possible from the lungs by her tilting her sideways until she is upside down. Two pairs of hands may be better than one if she is resisting. Then lay her on her side and rub her body vigorously to help expel more water. If she's not breathing, immediately begin artificial respiration or CPR. Once again, seek veterinary help right away.

    Electrocution

    Never touch a cat who has been electrocuted. First, switch off the main power source. Then use a wooden object, such as a broom, to move her away from the wiring. Wrap her in a blanket and, if she is not breathing, begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. If there isn't an immediate response-or even if there is-seek emergency veterinary help.

    Insect Stings

    Cats are naturally drawn to things that flutter and fly around. It's always a good idea to get rid of any bees and wasps that fly into your home before your cat attempts to "help."A cat who gets stung will immediately try to paw the area. Unlike wasps, bees leave a stinger behind. If you can locate it in thick fur, you may be able to pull it out with tweezers. Cats often chomp on a bee and get stung in the mouth. This could be dangerous because bee venom can cause swelling of the mouth and throat that could inhibit breathing. Treat the situation as an emergency because your cat will need an antihistamine injection to counteract swelling. Take her to the veterinarian or emergency pet hospital.

    Because cats like to chase small flying things, they can easily be stung by wasps, hornets, and other insects.

    Ticks

    Ticks pose a huge problem to both pets and people because they carry numerous nasty diseases, such as Lyme disease, and can cause tick bite fever. Covering ticks with petroleum jelly doesn't kill them, and using tweezers may only remove half the tick.A handy gadget called a Tick Key removes these deadly parasites quickly and effectively without squashing them and leaving behind the blood or saliva that could cause infections and diseases harmful to both animals and humans.It works by placing the specially shaped key over the tick and pulling in an upward motion away from the skin. It's an excellent investment for all pets and people in the home. Make sure there's one in your first-aid box. Another new product is Tick-SR. It works by dissolving the "glue" that creates a bond between the tick and the cat. At the same time, it impedes the blood flow to the affected area and thus the tick's ability to feed. With the glue and food supply disrupted, the tick can be more easily removed and then destroyed.

    Poison

    A variety of household cleaning products and plants are toxic to pets. Cats allowed outside can also eat rat poison or fertilizer and are also exposed to someone's putting out poisoned meat to lure them to their death. Feline bodies are not equipped to deal with any kind of toxins, and the first signs of a problem are usually extreme lethargy and profuse salivating. Keeping the ASPCA poison hotline number accessible at all times is a good idea, especially if you are unable to get immediate veterinary attention. The poison hotline does charge for calls, but it's worth it because they can give you step-by-step instructions on how to force your cat to vomit. However, even if you do manage to induce vomiting, your cat is still going to need urgent veterinary attention. Cats often go into a state of shock immediately after a traumatic ordeal. Typical signs are very pale lips and gums, skin that's cold to the touch, and a blank stare in the eyes. Keep her calm and quiet, and wrap her in a blanket to keep her warm. To promote blood circulation, gently massage her body or legs. If she won't let you touch these areas, try her paws.

    Cats can be poisoned by eating mice or rats that have ingested rat poison.

    If You Are in an Accident…

    If you are in an accident that requires hospitalization, it's important that those taking care of you know that you have pets alone at home. Keep a card with this information in your wallet. It's even a good idea to engrave a dog tag and clip it onto your keys or even wear it as a piece of jewelry.

    Sunburned or Scalded

    A cat lying in the hot sun can suffer from sunburn. If her paws are burned, try standing the cat in ice water to reduce the pain. Cats with pink noses and paw pads can easily suffer from sunburn on these areas. (A sunscreen with a minimum of 15 SPF is an excellent preventative measure. There are special pet sunscreen products on the market, but you can use a human product, too.) Scalds from hot water can be initially treated the same way. Then wrap the cat firmly in a towel and seek veterinary attention.

    Trapped in a Burning Building

    If you and your cat are in a burning building and you don't have a carrier handy to put her in, grab a pillowcase, place her inside, and keep it tightly shut until you are out of harm's way. Any burns are going to need professional help from first responders. Wrap your cat in a blanket to prevent her going into shock and to keep her from licking herself because her fur will be covered in poisonous smoke. Try to keep her somewhere quiet until help arrives. Fortunately, most emergency fire services around the country have special pet oxygen masks and will be able to administer oxygen if required. As soon as possible, seek emergency veterinary help.

    Moving an Injured Cat

    If the accident occurred outside the home, check the locale carefully to ensure that you are not in danger, too. If the cat is in the road, get someone to stand in the road to alert motorists while you get a flat board. You can use anything from a plank, a flattened but firm cardboard box, a kitchen tray, or even a skateboard if necessary. Slowly place the cat on this makeshift stretcher by sliding both your hands under the body and, maintaining a horizontal position, slowly move her out of harm's way. Try to involve as few jerky movements as possible in case there are internal injuries that you can't see.In the case of road accidents (or a cat being run over in a driveway), be aware that, even if injured, cats can jump up and run off. Don't chase. But lure her slowly to you and seek immediate veterinary help. Internal bleeding can be life-threatening.

    Be Prepared When Disaster Strikes

    Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, floods, wildfires, and even toxic spills can happen anywhere, often with little warning. If you have to evacuate with your pets, the most important thing is to have a safe place to go to or, if necessary, to leave your pets where they will be properly cared for until the situation improves. A safe place could be a friend's house, a pet resort, an animal shelter, or even a pet-friendly hotel. Fortunately, more and more hotels are accepting pets these days, and such establishments usually come forward in an hour of need by offering evacuees really cheap rates.It's important to have a list of possible places to go in all directions within a 50-mile radius. That's because you never know what area will be affected and how far from your home you will have to travel and in what direction. A list compiled in advance, in different directions, at different distances, with full addresses of prospective safe places along with telephone numbers, will save time in a true emergency.

    Although with floods and fires there are usually official warnings from city personnel and possibly the opportunity to evacuate before it becomes mandatory, never leave anything until the last minute when animals are involved. Disaster may come sooner than predicted or may be worse than predicted or may be unpredicted. At the first sign of trouble, take out your pet carriers and keep them inside the house and ready to go.It's a good idea to attach a few blank paper tags to each carrier so that you can write any last-minute information on them, such as your name and telephone numbers and the place where you will be staying if it's different from the animal shelter that will be temporarily housing your pet. Having several tags handy gives you the opportunity to update if necessary. These tags can be attached to your pet's carrier as well to her collar.Proper identification is also your pet's ticket to being reunited with you should something happen to separate you. Make sure that your cat is wearing a collar with her name and your address and telephone number on it. It's important for your pet to have a microchip implanted, too, because collars can come off. As discussed in other chapters, there are lots of different services that you can subscribe to that will help you trace a lost pet. If you belong to such a service, be sure that your pet is wearing that tag, too. Simply put, your pet can never have too much identification.

    Websites for Disaster Preparedness

    American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA): www.aspca.org American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA): www.avma.org/disaster/ The travel website: www.tripswithpets.com Very useful instruction videos are available at www.aspca.org/pet-care/disaster-preparedness/

    Having an evacuation plan worked out in advance of an emergency increases the likelihood both you and your cat will be okay.

    Evacuation Checklist for Your Cat

    You are also going to need to have a kit ready to take care of your cat's needs. Here are the basic items I recommend including in your evacuation kit:

    • Medicine bag: Place all medications in a cool bag well in advance and keep the whole bag in your refrigerator. Even if you have to work out of the bag for a couple of days, it's worth being prepared so that, when the time comes, you can just grab and go. If you give your pet fluids under the skin, place a couple of bags in a larger cooler bag and put it next to the medicine bag, along with the necessary needles and tubes needed for the procedure.
    • Medical records: Be sure to take copies of all medical records, especially if your pet is allergic to certain medications. Be sure to include copies of all vaccination certificates.
    • Carrier: Make sure it has ID tags and is lined with a puppy pee pad in case your pet has to be confined for a long time.
    • Bowls for food and water
    • Litter box and litter to last at least a week (you can purchase throwaway kits)
    • Disposal bags for used kitty litter (a roll of dog poop bags is a good idea)
    • Food: Cans and pouches are easy to pack; dry food must be packed into an airtight container. Make sure you have enough food for seven days.
    • Bottled water: Allow enough water for seven days for each pet you are evacuating.
    • Take a favorite toy and a favorite blanket.
    • Pet first-aid kit
    • Photographs of pets: Be sure you have current photographs of your pets should you become separated.
    • Pet information sheet: An information sheet that details your veterinarian, medical conditions, and any behavioral issues.
    • Portable radio: So you can keep abreast of the situation wherever you are.
    • Flashlight

    If you and your cat are separated during an evacuation, proper identification is your ticket to a happy reunion.

    Evacuation Without Your Cat

    In an emergency situation, if you have no alternative but to leave your cat inside your home, you must do the best you can to protect her until emergency responders are able to come. Contain her in a safe room with plenty of food and water. If possible, make it a bedroom that has access to a bathroom, too, so that you can fill the sink with additional water. If you have a dog, do the same in another room to control the food and water situation.Place notices prominently outside your front and back doors advising what pets are inside and explain where they are located. Provide a phone number where you can be reached, as well as the name and number of your vet. Remember, such actions are a last resort.

    PETS Evacuation Act

    The PETS Act (Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act) was signed by President George W. Bush and made a federal law in October 2006 after thousands of pets perished when Hurricane Katrina devastated the shores of the Gulf Coast in August 2005. People fleeing the rising flood waters were not allowed to take their pets with them, and a small child crying for his dog, Snowball, became the impetus for this law when the story hit the headlines, drawing attention to the large numbers of pets who were left behind. Many people refused to leave their homes because they didn't want to abandon their beloved companions. According to reports, as many as 50,000 companion animals died during this national disaster, and hundreds of thousands more were never reunited with their families.The PETS Act requires that local and state emergency management plans include preparation for evacuating family pets and service animals along with their owners. It also allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide funding to create pet-friendly shelters and assist with the development of localized emergency management plans. The PETS Act is one of the positive changes that came out of the Katrina disaster.

    The impact and value of this legislation was apparent during the evacuations prompted by Hurricane Gustav in August 2008. Citizens who didn't have independent transportation were able to bring their pets to staging areas for evacuation. Cats, dogs, rabbits, and other small pets were issued bar-coded bands that matched those provided to their owners. The animals were then loaded into pet carriers and transported in air-conditioned tractor-trailers to predesignated shelters. The PETS Act continues to help to save pet lives every year during hurricane season.This legislation is not limited to evacuations due to hurricanes; the PETS Act applies to all disasters, including floods, fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, and other declared states of emergency. The law's intent is to not only protect pets and service animals but their owners as well. The PETS Act, which is fact is an expansion of the 1988 Stafford Act, stipulates that in order for a community or state to be eligible to receive federal emergency funding, a detailed plan outlining emergency transportation and shelter plans for household pets and services animals must be submitted to FEMA. Although this legislation has been in place for almost seven years, sixteen states, including Katrina-affected Mississippi, have not submitted plans that are compliant with the PETS Act. An up-to-date map of the states that have plans in place and a list of resources can be found on the American Veterinary Medical Association's website (www.AVMA.org). FEMA has also produced a DVD called Animals in Emergencies: What Planners Need to Know. More information about this presentation and how to receive a copy is available by contacting FEMA at www.fema. gov. Another excellent website that details disaster preparedness laws, as well as other pet laws, is the Animal Law and Historical Center website (http:// www.animallaw.info) run by the Michigan State University College of Law.

    After the ordeal of an evacuation, your cat may be skittish, hide a lot, or exhibit other nervous behavior.

    Make sure both your cat and her carrier have identification on them, including your contact information.

    After a Disaster

    After a disaster, it's really important to check your home from the standpoint of your cat's safety to ensure that there is no access to the outside. If necessary, confine your cat to one safe room until all damage has been repaired. If this is not possible, make arrangements to board her as close to home as possible until you know your home is once again secure. It's also necessary to watch your cat's behavior for signs of stress, which can happen after a major catastrophe.

    From The Cat Bible, Copyright by Sandy Robins, licensed through ContentOro, Inc and used by arrangement with I-5 Press

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