How to Save a Choking Cat

How to Save a Choking Cat

We all know how to react if we see a choking child or adult, but things become a little more complicated when dealing with a choking cat.

Indeed, some pet owners may think their cat is simply coughing up a furball or playing, whilst for others, the shock of seeing their furry friend suffering can cause them to be scared or confused as to what to do.

At Diapet, we’re passionate about pets, and we think that all cat owners should understand the procedure to follow should they see a choking cat.

Knowing how to react can help save your cat’s life and allow you to spend more years with your feline friend. Don’t put this off.

The good news is that choking is a rare occurrence in cats, but they can choke and get items such as pen caps, bells, thimbles or food lodged in their larynx or trachea, preventing their airflow and making it hard for them to breathe.

You should know what to do if your cat is choking, so we’ve put together a guide to saving a choking cat. Read on to find out more…  

How do I know if my cat is choking?

It can be easy to write off a choking cat’s symptoms by assuming they’re playing or coughing up a furball, but the truth is that there are some tell-tale signs that your cat needs your help:

  • Pawing at the mouth: If your cat is pawing its mouth, trying to get into its mouth or dislodge toys or a piece of food from their mouth, then you need to step in and help.
  • Coughing and gagging: Choking cats often cough and gag, so keep your eyes peeled for any unusual sounds coming from your pet. The chances are that your cat makes very little noise, other than purring or meowing, so it should be obvious.
  • Panicking: If your cat looks anxious or panicked, then it may be a sign that they are struggling to breathe. Common symptoms include crying, running, scratching, or acting differently from their usual self. Monitor and assess any unusual behavior.
  • Breathing: If your cat has labored breathing or is struggling to breathe normally, then the chances are they’re choking, or something is lodged in their larynx or trachea.
  • Unconsciousness: In severe circumstances, cats can faint or become unconscious because they can no longer breathe normally. In such circumstances, an emergency veterinarian is the most sensible option, so make sure you have pet insurance.
  • Breath: If your cat has bad breath or has lost his appetite, then it could be a sign that he has something lodged in his mouth. Indeed, not all choking circumstances are obvious or immediate, so don’t write this one off as him being under the weather.

    What should I do if my cat chokes?

    If your cat is still conscious and doesn’t look too distressed, then look into his mouth to see if you can find any foreign objects.

    If possible, remove the object from his mouth, but don’t do anything to further discomfort or damage your cat - only remove objects if it’s safe to do so.

    If you can’t see into your cat’s mouth or cannot remove the object safely, then you should take him to the veterinarian who can offer some guidance and remove any foreign objects.

    In extreme circumstances, where your cat demands immediate attention because he cannot breathe or is unconscious, then you should take it upon yourself to open your cat’s mouth and pull his tongue forward.

    If you can find an object, then try to remove it with your fingers, or use a pair of tweezers to dislodge it from his mouth. This works in the majority of cases.

    However, if that doesn’t work or you cannot see the object, you should use the Heimlich maneuver as follows to save your cat’s life and help them to breathe:

    Step One: Lay your cat on his side, and put one hand along his back.

    Step Two: Put your other hand on your cat’s stomach, below his ribs.

    Step Three: Start to make sharp in and up pushes from your cat’s stomach.

    Step Four: See if there are any objects in your cat’s mouth, and remove if possible.

    Step Five: Give your cat a couple of breaths through his nose.

    Step Six: Repeat as necessary until you’re confident the objects are no longer present.

    If your cat is still not breathing after you remove the foreign object then you should check for a heartbeat.

    If you cannot find one, the next step is to start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on your cat, following the YouTube video below.

    At the same time, you should contact your veterinarian for advice and support, and consider calling an emergency veterinarian.

    What will happen at the vets?

    If you take your choking cat to the vets, then they will examine your cat and listen to your description of what happened.

    Depending on the circumstances, they may choose to give your cat an x-ray so that they can locate the foreign object, and they may need to sedate your cat to examine him and x-ray him safely.

    After that, they’ll be able to find the foreign object and remove it from your cat - in many circumstances, an operation may be required.

      In such cases, your cat will be sedated or anesthetized so that they can remove the foreign object from your cat’s body.

    It may be that the vet can remove the object from his mouth without surgery, or neck surgery may be required.

    Note that a lodged foreign object may cause long-term damage to your cat’s internals, and therefore result in a long recovery.

    What are the side-effects of a cat choking?

    Although most cats who have choked recover and get back to normal very quickly, those who have had to have surgery may suffer from laryngeal paralysis, which can cause difficulty in breathing and swallowing, and require you to feed your cat differently to overcome this.

    If your cat did not get enough oxygen for an extended period because they were choking, they could suffer from neurologic problems like blindness or mental dullness, so acting fast is the best way to ensure your cat survives and gets back to their usual self in no time at all.

    How can I prevent choking?

    It’s impossible to stop your cat from choking - in truth, cats are very curious animals and are always going to want to experiment with small items.

    However, just as you would with a small child, you should think about eliminating potential choking hazards in your home.

    Small cat toys that have been chewed or damaged, for example, could pose a safety risk, whilst food and everyday household objects like nails, food, and toys can be dangerous, too.

    Keep them out of your cat’s way, and monitor your cat when you’re at home to make sure they’re not playing with or chewing anything that could cause them to choke down the line.


    At Diapet, we offer a range of cat toys and accessories that are designed with your cat’s safety in mind. Peruse the full collection on our website, and check back to the blog for more useful tips on looking after cats and dogs and getting the most out of your furry friend.

    Next article These Hilarious Cat Pictures Prove Cats are Liquid!

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