3 Signs Your Cat is Having a Medical Emergency

Learn three crucial signs that can help distinguish between a medical issue and a medical emergency.

It can be challenging to distinguish between a routine medical issue and a genuine medical emergency when your cat is unwell. The uncertainty can leave you wondering when to take action and seek emergency veterinary care. Here are three crucial signs that suggest your cat might be experiencing a medical emergency:

1. Difficulty Breathing

Breathing is a fundamental bodily function, both for humans and animals. If your cat suddenly struggles to breathe, it's imperative to seek immediate attention from an emergency veterinarian.

Indications of compromised breathing may include:

  • Short or uneven breaths
  • Raspy breathing or wheezing
  • Inability to breathe entirely (check the mouth for obstructions)
  • Very rapid breathing
  • Gums appearing white or blue, which could signify a lack of blood flow

It's essential to differentiate between difficulty breathing and panting. Cats may occasionally pant to cool down or during moments of stress, but panting should not appear labored or painful. When transporting a cat experiencing a medical emergency, consider using a carrier or draping a thin towel over its head to minimize the risk of biting. Ensure the towel does not obstruct its ability to breathe.

2. Sudden Lethargy or Loss of Motor Control

If your usually agile and coordinated cat suddenly becomes limp or loses motor control, this is a cause for concern. Cats typically exhibit precise motor skills, so any coordination or depth perception disruption should be taken seriously. 

Look out for the following signs:

  • Sudden collapse
  • Difficulty walking or standing
  • Inability to track objects with their eyes
  • Noticeable seizures
  • Extreme lethargy and unresponsiveness
  • Several underlying issues could lead to sudden motility problems, some of which may be serious. These could include seizures, tumors, aneurysms, or intestinal blockages, all of which require a proper diagnosis by a qualified veterinarian.

3. Severe Vomiting

While it's normal for pets to vomit occasionally, excessive, painful, or persistent vomiting in your cat is not ordinary and demands attention. Vomiting is the body's way of expelling substances it deems harmful.

In cats, severe vomiting can be triggered by various factors, such as ingestion of toxins, intestinal ruptures, blunt trauma (e.g., after a fight with another animal), or severe infections.

If your cat experiences frequent vomiting, especially if it is accompanied by the presence of blood, it's crucial to contact an emergency veterinarian immediately.

Watch for choking signs, including pale gums, breathing difficulties, or listlessness, until the vomiting subsides.

Make sure to call your Parker & Ace veterinarian if you suspect your pet is having a medical emergency—they can provide assistance in making your cat more comfortable if the issue is not severe.