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How to Save a Cat from Choking
Something all cat owners should know
Cats are surely inquisitive creatures. They like to inquire and explore the world around them. Many times, however, their inquisitive nature may get them into serious trouble. Some cats, in particular kittens, may go as far as trying to eat or swallow dangerous items that may get lodged in their throats causing them to choke.
Common objects that are ingested are small knicks and knacks such as buttons, strings, cloth, tinsel, fish-hooks, and small toys. Cats may also choke on large pieces of food. In some cases, cats may choke as a result of an allergy causing the throat to swell and not allow sufficient airflow. This is an emergency situation as well, requiring immediate vet attention.
Signs a Cat is Choking
Owners must be able to learn how to differentiate a cat that is choking from one that is gagging, coughing up a hairball or regurgitating. This is very important as choking episodes require quick and firm action that may cause unnecessary injury if the cat is in reality not choking.
A choking cat is not a nice scenario to visualize. The cat will appear panicky and in distress, he/she will gag in an effort to dislodge the object, may drool and will carry the neck extended. The cat may be pawing at its mouth, have difficulty breathing and in severe cases, the gums and tongue may take a pale or bluish tint ultimately causing the cat to faint.
Owners must act quickly and refrain from getting panicky themselves. If the cat is still conscious, restraining a choking cat may be a difficult task. Some cats will struggle up to a point of causing the foreign object to work its way even deeper down the throat.
Ideally owners should wrap their cat into a towel burrito-style and head to the closest veterinary hospital. However, this may not be too practical if the vet is far away and every second counts. Owners therefore, may try 3 different approaches:
1) Manually Dislodge the Object
Once the cat is wrapped in towels, the owner will lift the cat's head back and will elicit the cat to open the mouth. The cat's nose should be pointing towards the ceiling. The tongue must be pulled out of the way to allow a clear visualization of the throat. If an object is seen obstructing, owners may try to manually remove it. Owners must be careful not to attempt to pull out anything that feels odd. It is easy to confuse the cat's small bones supporting their tongue as chicken bones.
2) Use Gravity To Dislodge Object
By grasping the rear legs and having the cat in a lifted "wheelbarrow" position owners may shake the cat and even give a few blows on the back in an effort to dislodge the obstructing object. Being too gentle here may not be much productive, the cat will need to be vigorously shaken and the blow should be firm enough and between the shoulder blades.
3) The Feline Version of Heimlich maneuver
Because the real only way to perform this maneuver effectively is by seeing it done, a video of the Heimlich maneuver for cats is available at this link. The owner must pick up the cat around the waist and reunite both hands forming a fist and will place the fist behind the ribs on both sides of the abdomen. The fist will be placed at the sternum, behind the ribs in sudden firm upward motions (usually 3-5 movements will suffix) until the object dislodges.
If the above attempts are not working, the cat should be seen promptly. Time is of the essence. Should the cat appear unconscious artificial respiration (CPR) must be administered. Choking cats are also prone to a complication called Pulmonary Edema. While choking may be a rare event in cats, all owners greatly benefit in learning what to do so to be able to respond effectively should a choking episode arise.