Kittens are curious, playful and fearless: your new companion is going to make you have to deal with emergencies where it is going to be primordial to quickly see what to do and what decision to take. Here are some pieces of advice to help you cope with the commonest emergencies.
Dangers at home
Your home is a haven of peace for your kitten, but it can hide many a danger all the same. Ovens, washing machine drums or spin dryers are amusing hiding places- as long as no-one closes the door ... Sewing threads are toys which remind a kitten of snakes- but, instead of a forked tongue, they have needles at the end: Ouch! Climbing on to shelves and bookcases is good sport; but making sure that no vases or books- or kittens!- fall off is a whole different ballgame. Playing at free-fall from the balcony can, depending which floor you live on, end in a crash-landing of greater or lesser severity. Certain beautiful indoor plants are most tempting, just waiting to be nibbled at: poinsettias, azaleas, diffenbachias, for example- but they can cause serious poisoning.
Your kitten does not necessarily have to go out to run many risks. Who will cry at home if it gets lost and does not come back? You never know who it's going to meet: an alley-cat who brooks no strangers on its patch, a dog on the prowl - charming, but deadly ...
Is your kitten aware of the fact that wasps sting, especially when a paw comes down fast as lightning to pin them to the ground? Cars and motorbikes are, sad to say, only too real as dangers.
In the garden, the pesticides, weed-killer and rat poisons smell bad and, in theory, your kitten should keep away from them; but, on the other hand, poisoned grains for slugs and snails can interest it. Be careful.
In the garage, antifreeze, apparently, has a pleasant taste. Beware: poison!
Never leave any kind of poison within reach, such as slug-poison or rodent bait, which are a real treat for your kitten. If it does swallow any, do not wait for the first symptoms to set in; take it straight to the Vet´s, who will get it to vomit by administering the appropriate treatment. Don´t forget to take along the package with the composition of the product marked on it: this will help the Vet determine treatment. Giving it milk to drink is of no use. If you store liquids such as lubricant or fuel oil, keep the barrels covered so that your kitten cannot fall in. If such a thing does happen, wash it with large amounts of water to get as much as possible out of the fur, then take it to the Vet´s. In case of convulsions, it is of no use to talk to your cat and stroke it: any such stimuli can only help prolong the attack. Watch over it to make sure it does not get hurt, and try to keep it away from noise and light. There is no point in trying to get hold of its tongue: there is no danger of it swallowing it, and it might just unintentionally bite you.
Do not leave your kitten in the car, especially in summer, as the inside temperature in the sun can reach 70C, causing acute dehydration and possibly fatal heat-stroke. And remember: the sun "goes round" and a car in the shade may be in the sun a few hours later. Just leaving the windows ajar is not usually enough to keep the temperature cool, and the kitten might put its head through and get hung.
When a kitten does get heat-stroke, it suddenly takes on a strange attitude, miaowing, losing balance and breathing fast. You should give it a shower with plenty of cold water then take it to the Vet´s.
Insect bites and other venoms
Your kitten may get an insect bite, from a wasp or a hornet, by carelessness or by playing risky games! The stung zone is swollen and painful; there may be respiratory problems, or even allergic shock.
Pull the sting out, if you can see it, and take the kitten to the Vet´s, who will alleviate the pain with a fast-acting anti-inflammatory treatment and treat any possible infection. Likewise, in case of snake-bite, there is no point in trying to get the wound to bleed by pressing on it or by using a tourniquet: the right thing to do is to take it for treatment as quickly as possible.
Never let your little cat play with electric wires: it could get electrocuted by biting them. This would cause burns on its muzzle, shock, respiratory difficulty or even death. Take it as quickly as possible to the Vet´s, even if it seems to be unaffected at first.
Your little pet may suffer trauma: be bitten by a dog, hit by a car, or fall out of a window. You should handle it with care, trying to keep it horizontal: it may have sustained spinal injury, and you must avoid aggravating this by undue manipulation.
Ensure that its mouth is not obstructed by blood or saliva clots or by foreign bodies such as sand or earth, and that it can breathe freely. If it is bleeding profusely, press on the wound with a finger or a cloth, in order to aid coagulation. If a leg is broken, try to bandage it so that it does not swing loose. If any bone is apparent, do not touch it but cover it with clean cloth so as to limit contamination by germs.
Finally, if your kitten appears unharmed after trauma, consult your Vet all the same, as serious internal lesions are still a possibility.
Your kitten may also suffer from gastro-enteritis due to a virus, parasite or bacteria: diarrhoea, vomiting, refusal to eat. This is a serious illness which can cause rapid dehydration. Simple administration of water via a syringe does not always prove sufficient, and nor does fasting. Suitable medical treatment is most often called for, including perhaps a few days in hospital.
Prevention is a matter of vaccination, worming and adapted feeding.