How to Treat a Cat in Shock

Brown striped cat with hind legs spread out with an open mouth in a surprised expression
Serious injuries or excessive bleeding can lead to shock in cats. Mark Liddell / Getty Images

Shock is extremely serious to cats -- it's the number one killer in accidents. Shock is a reaction to heavy internal or external bleeding, or any serious injury that "scares" the body; for example, a large wound or amputation with heavy blood loss. To compensate for the loss, the heart beats faster; this keeps the blood pressure from falling. The blood vessels that supply the outside of the body narrow. This conserves blood so that vital organs of the body continue to receive their normal blood supply.

However, if there is heavy blood loss or other serious injury, the body overreacts and causes a pooling of blood in the internal organs. This can cause death due to a drop in external blood pressure and possible oxygen starvation of the brain. Some of the signs for shock to look for are pale or white cat gums, rapid heartbeat, faint heartbeat, rapid breathing, and below normal temperature (feels cold).


Any trauma or serious injury can cause shock. If a cat is in shock, do not take time to split fractures or treat minor injuries. Instead, use the following cat care tips:

Step 1: Examine the cat for shock; gently lift the upper lip so the gum is visible. Pale or white gums indicate the cat is almost certainly in shock and may have serious internal injuries and/or bleeding. If the gums are pink the cat is probably not in shock.

Step 2: Place the cat on its side on a blanket, towel, or jacket with its head extended.

Step 3: Clear the cat's airway.

Step 3a: Place one hand over the cat's head so that your thumb and index finger fall just behind the long canines (fang teeth), the head resting against your palm.

Step 3b: Gently tilt the cat's head back so its nose is pointing upward. Push your thumb toward your finger; the mouth will open.

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Step 3c: Gently pull out the cat's tongue to keep the airway open. If the cat resists your attempt to pull the tongue out, do not repeat Step 3.

Step 4: Elevate the cat's hindquarters slightly by placing them on a pillow or folded towel.

Step 5: Stop the bleeding immediately.

Step 6: To conserve body heat, wrap the cat in a blanket or jacket.

Step 7: Transport the cat to the veterinarian immediately.

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