Cesarean Section in Cats-Indications, Procedure & Recovery

caesarian section in cats

What is a c section?   Indications   Signs of birthing problems  How is a c section performed?   Home care

caesarian section in cats

At a glance

About: A cesarean section is a medical procedure where kittens are delivered via a surgical incision in the female cat’s abdomen. This procedure is necessary when a vaginal delivery will put the mother or her babies at risk.

Causes: Maternal: Uterine prolapse, uterine torsion, uterine inertia, uterine rupture, narrow birth canal. Fetal: malformation, difficult presentation, large fetus, fetal death.

Symptoms: Straining for an extended period without producing a kitten, gestation longer than 68 days, fever, dark or red discharge from the vagina.

What is a cesarean section?

Medically known as a hysterotomy, a cesarean section (c-section) is the surgical removal of full-term unborn kittens from the female cat’s uterus. This surgery is usually an emergency due to birthing difficulties.

Brachiocephalic types such as Persians and Exotics have a higher incidence of dystocia (difficult birth) than mesocephalic breeds (cats with medium proportioned heads).

Common indications

Dystocia, meaning difficult birth can be either fetal or maternal.


  • Prolapse of the uterus
  • Uterine torsion
  • Uterine inertia – This may be primary in which contractions fail to establish properly or are weak,  secondary (exhaustive) is the result of a long second stage labour resulting in uterine fatigue
  • Rupture of the uterus
  • Birth canal too narrow


  • Fetal malformation
  • Malpresentation (breech for example)
  • Oversized fetus
  • Excessive fetal head size (most often seen in brachycephalic breeds)
  • Fetal death

Signs of dystocia

  • 20 minutes of intense labour without birth
  • If the mother has been in labour, and possibly delivered one or more kittens, but labour has stopped
  • The mother is in active labour but has not delivered any kittens
  • Gestation lasting longer than 68 days. I would recommend staying in close contact with your veterinarian before your cat is due
  • If you see any dark or bright red discharge coming from the vagina
  • Fever above 103F

At the veterinarian’s office

Your veterinarian will evaluate the cat and perform a digital vaginal palpitation to determine the size and the shape of the pelvis for abnormalities as well as to check for a kitten in the birth canal. He will obtain a medical history from you including previous pregnancies, dates of mating, when did labour commence In some instances, he may be able to remove the kitten gently. He may also try to administer oxytocin in an attempt to strengthen uterine contractions and attempt a normal vaginal birth. Oxytocin is a hormone which stimulates uterine contractions.

Diagnostic tests:

How is a c-section performed on a cat?

Before surgery, your veterinarian will discuss the possibility of spaying (desexing) the queen while she is under anesthesia. Some breeders may not want this to happen; however, in some cases, it will be medically necessary to do so. It is important to know that a cat who has had a c-section has an increased risk of complications and repeat c-sections in future pregnancies.

Speed is of great importance in caesarean sections to save the lives of the mother and her kittens. Your veterinarian needs to be very careful with the type of anesthetic he gives the pregnant female as this can pass through the placenta and affect the unborn kittens.

Shave and prepare the area and insert an IV catheter followed by a general anesthetic. A midline incision will be made from the umbilicus to the pubis and the carefully exteriorised. A single incision is then made through the uterine wall, and the kittens are removed. The umbilical cord is clamped and then cut.  Each kitten will be handed to a waiting nurse or assistant.

Once all kittens are delivered, the uterus will be sutured and placed back into the abdomen, or it will be removed along with the fallopian tubes and ovaries if the female is to be spayed.

The female cat will be stitched up with internal stitches to avoid potentially hurting newborn kittens as they nurse.

What are the risks of a c-section in cats?

All surgery comes with risks, and this includes c-sections. Some complications may include:

  • Fetal death
  • Maternal death
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Post surgery infection
  • Blood clot

Home care

  • Your veterinarian may prescribe painkillers and antibiotics upon discharge, administer all medications as prescribed.
  • Confine the queen and her kittens to a small, quiet room while she recovers. Most queens won’t move far from the nest unless it is to eat, drink or go to the toilet.
  • Keep an eye on the wound for redness, swelling, and discharge, all of which could be an infection.
  • Please make sure your cat doesn’t chew at the incision; she may have to wear an Elizabethan collar if this occurs.
  • A bloody discharge will occur after delivery if the queen wasn’t spayed which is completely normal. If the discharge becomes excessive or has a foul odour, seek veterinary attention immediately.
  • Keep a very close eye on the mother and her kittens until she has fully recovered from surgery. Offer her food and water regularly; it is better for her to eat small amounts of food more often during the recovery period.
  • Look out for any changes in the mother or her kittens such as lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, vomiting, ignoring or neglecting her kittens as well as excess vaginal discharge, or an infected incision need to be checked out by the veterinarian. It is not uncommon for the cat to not have a bowel movement after delivery of her kittens, if she has not had one within three days of birth, please contact your veterinarian.
  • If your cat does lose her appetite, try to encourage her to eat with strong smelling foods such as tuna. Warm up food to body temperature to help release the smell. Hand feed her boiled and finely chopped chicken breast.

How Much Water Should A Cat Drink?

How much water should a cat drink?

How much water should a cat drink?


Cats should have approximately eight fluid ounces or 240 ml of water per day from food and drinking water. The kind of food your cat eats will determine how much additional water he will need to drink. 

For example, a cat raw and canned foods contain approximately 70% water, dry food is only 10% water. Therefore a cat fed canned food will obtain more water from the diet than a cat on dry food. The cat who eats dry food will need to drink more water. Grams and ml are the same. So 200 grams of food would be the equivalent of 200 ml.

Daily food requirements Water content Additional water required
Canned or raw food 200 g (100 g x two meals) 140 ml 100 ml
Dry food 75 g 7.5 ml 233 ml


As you can see from the chart above, the cat on a canned or raw diet is getting more than half of his daily water requirements via his food, but the cat fed a dry diet needs to obtain almost all of his water by drinking. Not many cats will make up this shortfall by actually drinking water, and the common problem is that cats try to make up for this shortfall by conserving water, they do this by concentrating the urine. A knock on effect is that concentrated urine is the perfect environment for the formation of urinary crystals.

Water is essential for life. The cat’s body is approximately 60% water, and once that level drops by 5%, your cat will show signs of dehydration. Fluid is lost via the urine, feces respiration, and sweat (yes cats sweat, not as much as other mammals, but they do sweat via their paw pads).

Other factors:

  • The size of your cat (obviously a 1kg kitten would drink less than a 5kg adult cat).
  • The health of your cat – cats with kidney disease or hyperthyroidism drink more water.
  • A pregnant or lactating queen.
  • The current season, a cat will drink more water when it is warm.
  • How much exercise your cat gets.
  • Is the cat young and still nursing from his mother? Unweaned kittens get all the fluid (including water) they need via their mother’s milk, they do not need additional water until the weaning process begins from 4-5 weeks of age. Even then, kittens will continue to nurse from their mother.

How do I know if my cat is drinking enough water?

An easy way to check the hydration of your cat is to pull the skin behind your cat’s neck, in a young and well-hydrated cat, it will spring back immediately. If it is slow to go back, it could be a sign your cat is dehydrated. Other indicators are dry, sticky gums, sunken eyes and slow capillary refill time. To check this, pull your cat’s lip back, press firmly on the gum and remove your finger. The gum will be pale from the pressure you applied, see how quickly it takes for the gum to pink-up. The slower this takes, the more dehydrated your cat is.

How do I encourage my cat to drink more water?

  • Make sure water bowls are clean, and water should be emptied and refilled with clean, fresh drinking water daily.
  • Feed more wet food.
  • Try different types of water bowl. Plastic bowls can leech into the water, giving it an unpleasant taste to cats. Glass or ceramic bowls are better for your cat.
  • Have multiple water bowls in the home.
  • Switch to a water fountain; many cats prefer to drink from running water.

My kitten won’t drink water

Young kittens should only consume milk until they start to wean, and then they will begin to consume small amounts of water, but will also continue to nurse from their mother.

Once kittens are old enough to leave their mother and go to their new home, they should be drinking water. A kitten in a new home may initially refuse water, and it can take a few days for some kittens to settle in. Switch to wet food to increase water consumption. If the kitten appears to be lethargic, see a veterinarian as kittens can dehydrate quickly. The veterinarian can give him some fluids to correct his dehydration.

Why is my cat drinking more water than usual?

It is important to know your cat’s habits. Some cats naturally do drink more than others, but if you notice a change in behaviour and your cat is suddenly drinking more than usual (medically known as polydipsia) it could be a sign of the following:

  • Diabetes mellitus – Either caused by insufficient insulin secretion or insulin resistance.
  • Chronic or acute renal failure.
  • Hyperthyroidism – Benign tumour of the thyroid gland, which leads to the excess secretion of thyroid hormones.
  • Pyometra – Infection of the uterus.
  • Liver disease.
  • Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism)
  • Hypercalcemia (high blood calcium concentration)
  • Acromegaly – Excess of growth hormone in an adult cat, most often caused by a growth hormone-secreting pituitary tumour.
  • Hypokalemia – Abnormally low potassium concentration in the blood.
  • Psychogenic polydipsia – Compulsive water drinking.
  • Certain medications.

Pleural Effusion in Cats-Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

pleural effusion in cats

About     Causes     Symptoms     Diagnosis     Treatment     Prognosis

Pleural effusion in cats


Pleural effusion is an abnormal buildup of fluid up in the pleural cavity, the thin fluid-filled space that lies between the lungs and the chest wall.

Two membranes line the thorax and lungs, and the space between naturally has a small amount of fluid, which helps to lubricate the lungs as he breathes in and out. Small blood vessels in the pleural lining produce this fluid, blood and lymph nodes take away excess fluid to keep it all in balance.

Pleural effusion is a symptom, with an underlying disorder causing this fluid to build up. The buildup of excess fluid leads to difficulty breathing due to the inability of the lungs to fully expand.

Most fluids can be classified as transudates or exudates. Transudate (protein poor/clear watery fluid) effusion or exudate (protein-rich/thick fluid) effusion. The type of fluid can help your veterinarian determine the underlying cause.

Cats of any age or sex can be affected by pleural effusion. It can occur on just one side (unilateral) or both (bilateral).


Pleural effusion in cats

There are a lot of causes of pleural effusion in cats, transudate or exudate. How the fluid came to be in the pleural space is tied in with this.

Transudate (hydrothorax):

Caused by either an increase in intravascular hydrostatic pressure or a decrease in intravascular oncotic pressure in the vessels of the pleural membranes, causing fluid to leak out of them. The protein particles are too large to cross the vessel, resulting in only the fluid exiting (hence low protein). Common causes include:

Exudate effusion is generally due to inflammation or increased vascular permeability and can be one of several types, including:


  • Cancer (most commonly lymphoma)
  • Fungal infection
  • Viral infection such as feline infectious peritonitis (wet form)
  • Lung lobe torsion
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Diaphragmatic hernia
  • Pancreatitis
  • Drug reaction


  • Pneumonia
  • Penetrating trauma
  • Foreign body inhalation
  • Ruptured esophagus
  • Abscess
  • Bacterial infection

Chyle (chylothorax):

Chyle is a milky white fatty fluid which flows within the lymphatic vessels.

  • Neoplasia
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Heart disease
  • Heartworm disease
  • Lung lobe torsion
  • Obstruction of the thoracic duct
  • Tear or leak in the thoracic duct

Blood (hemothorax):

  • Trauma
  • Torn blood vessel
  • Coagulopathy (most commonly due to ingestion of rat poison)

This list is by no means complete; there are many other possible causes of pleural effusion in cats.


As the excess fluid accumulates in the pleural cavity, the lungs become compressed, making it much harder for your cat to breathe.


The veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination of your cat and obtain a medical history from you.

Diagnostic workup:

  • Focused Assessment Sonography for Trauma (FAST procedure): This is a chest ultrasound to look for the presence of fluid within the pleural cavity. This non-invasive and quick test can help the veterinarian evaluate the cat quickly. More information can be found on the benefits of the FAST procedure here.
  • Xrays: Not all veterinary practices have an ultrasound machine to perform a quick assessment, in which case an x-ray can help the veterinarian evaluate the chest, heart and lungs for structural abnormalities, blockages and tumours.
  • Thoracentesis: If the FAST ultrasound does reveal pleural effusion, thoracentesis can be carried out. This procedure removes excess fluid from the pleural space using a needle which not only relieves pressure on your cat’s lungs but also provides your veterinarian with pleural fluid samples.

Once the cat has been stabilised, and his breathing managed, further tests may need to be carried out to determine what caused the pleural effusion.

  • Baseline tests: Biochemical profile, complete blood count, and urinalysis to check organ function, protein in the urine, red blood cell count (anemia) and look for signs of possible infection.
  • Advanced imaging: Computed tomography (CT) scan to look for penetrating injury, lung lobe torsion or foreign object.
  • Abdominal ultrasound: To look for a possible cause of pleural effusion such as pancreatitis or abdominal neoplasia.
  • Pleural fluid analysis: A small amount of fluid is extracted with a fine needle, which helps the clinician determine the cause of the pleural effusion. Different tests will be ordered depending on the type of fluid removed. Tests may include cell count, packed cell volume, culture and sensitivity, and smear, glucose, fluid pH, and cytology.
  • FIV and FeLV antigen tests: Blood tests to look for antibodies to FIV or FeLV.
  • Echocardiogram: An ultrasound of the heart to look for abnormalities.
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG): A recording of the electrical activity of the heart.


The goal of treatment is to stabilise the cat and then address the underlying cause.

Before treatment commences, it will be necessary to stabilise the cat.

Oxygen therapy: To deliver a controlled level of oxygen to help the cat breathe and increase oxygen levels in the blood. Oxygen is delivered via a face mask, or in some cases an oxygen tent.

Thoracentesis: Fluid is removed by thoracentesis, which allows the lungs to expand. A needle or drainage tube will be inserted through the skin and into the pleural cavity to remove the fluid. A chest drain may remain in place for several days to help drain away excess fluid.

Once the cat is stable, the veterinarian will begin treatment for the underlying cause.


Prognosis depends on the underlying cause of pleural effusion but is poor, especially in cats with cancer.

Cytauxzoonosis (bobcat fever) in Cats-Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Cytauxzoonosis in cats

What is cytauxzoonosis?   Transmission   Symptoms   Diagnosis   Treatment   Prevention

Cytauxzoonosis in cats

What is cytauxzoonosis?

Also known as bobcat fever, cytauxzoonosis is a severe and often fatal parasitic infection caused by the protozoal organism Cytauxzoon felis. Its natural host is the bobcat (Lynx rufus), who harbours the parasite with mild or subclinical effects. Ticks are responsible for transmitting the infection to domesticated cats.

Cytauxzoonosis can be found in the United States, particularly south-central, southeastern and mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. Outdoor cats are affected more than indoor cats, presumably due to higher chances of exposure to ticks. The incidence of the disease is higher in the spring and summer months when ticks are more active.

Outdoor/free-ranging cats are at higher risk of catching cytauxzoonosis, particularly those who roam wooded areas. This disease affects cats only, and it can not be transmitted from cat to cat, cat to human or tick to human.


Ticks are the intermediate host, which means that they transmit the parasite from the bobcat to the domestic cat, which occurs when the tick injects infected saliva into the cat during feeding.


This can get a little complicated in places, to understand what happens, it is essential to know about the life cycle of this parasite.

The parasitic infection has two phases: the leukocytic or tissue phase and the erythrocytic (red blood cell) phase.

  • The bobcat is the natural reservoir, and the intermediate host of this organism is the Lone Star Tick. Red blood cells infected with merozoites (erythrocytic stage) are ingested when the tick feeds, once released inside the tick stomach, they split into two forms and sexually reproduce to form a zygote. This can differentiate into an ookinete and replicate by asexual reproduction.
  • The ookinete then penetrates the stomach wall of the tick and migrates to the salivary glands where it asexually reproduces forming sporozoites which are released into the tick saliva.
  • When the tick feeds on its next host (your cat), saliva containing the sporozoites are injected into the bloodstream. Once inside the cat, sporozoites enter macrophage cells throughout the body where they reproduce. Merozoites bud from sporozoites, rapidly increasing the size of the macrophages. As this happens, vascular obstruction from the swollen macrophages occurs in the small blood vessels of many vital organs such as the spleen, liver, and lungs. This leads to tissue necrosis due to inadequate blood supply as well as a severe immune response. It is this phase (the leukocytic/tissue phase) that is so fatal to cats.
  • In the next phase, merozoites break out of the macrophages and enter the red blood cells (erythrocytic phase). This phase is less pathogenic than the leukocytic phase.


Symptoms of cytauxzoonosis occur between 5-15 days of infection, and may initially be nonspecific. They can vary depending on the organ(s) affected, early symptoms may include:

As the infection progresses, additional symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the mucous membranes)
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Enlarged spleen and/or liver
  • Pain due to an enlarged spleen and/or liver
  • Dark brown urine
  • A high temperature is one of the first symptoms of cytauxzoonosis; however as the cat approaches death, his temperature can drop below normal


Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination of your cat and obtain a medical history from you including the onset of symptoms.

Diagnostic workup:

  • Biochemical profile which may reveal hyperbilirubinemia due to the breakdown of red blood cells, hypoalbuminemia (low blood albumin) which may be indicative of liver failure, elevated liver enzymes.
  • Complete blood count may reveal low red blood cell count. As the red blood cells become parasitised, they are marked for destruction by the immune system. Low white blood cells (leukopenia) and thrombocytopenia (low platelets) may also be revealed.
  • Polymerase chain reaction test of whole blood may detect the parasite in acutely sick cats as well as carriers.
  • Blood smear may reveal the parasite inside the red blood cells. The tissue phase occurs, which is by far the most devastating to the cat, occurs before the red blood cell phase, so the parasite may not yet be seen in the red blood cells.
  • Fine needle biopsy of the liver and/or spleen to check for the parasite.
  • Abdominal X-rays may reveal an enlarged liver and/or spleen.

Cytaxzoonosis (bobcat fever) in cats

Image Benjamin Smith


This disease used to almost always to be fatal; however, new therapies do offer some hope, increasing the survival rate from around 5% to 50-60%. Early treatment is vital.

Recently treatments have improved the mortality rate of this disease. The antimalarial drug atovaquone used in conjunction with the antibiotic azithromycin have shown promise. The duration for both medications is ten days.

Aggressive supportive care while your cat recovers is also necessary. This may include intravenous fluids, feeding tube, heparin (a blood thinner) may be given to prevent disseminated intravascular coagulation which can occur with this disease. Blood transfusion may be necessary for the severely anemic cat.

Cats who have recovered can still carry the parasite in their blood, so they should be kept indoors, so they don’t become a reservoir of infection to other cats (via tick bites).


There is no vaccine available for this disease; the best way to reduce your cat’s chances of developing this parasite is to keep him indoors to minimise exposure.

If he does go outside, proper tick prevention is a must. This may be in the form of a topical application and/or a tick collar. If you are using more than one tick prevention product on your cat, check with your veterinarian as it is possible to double up on parasitic control causing toxicity. Check your cat daily for ticks, start at the head and work your way down his body, not forgetting to check inside the ears and between the toes.

Tick Borne Diseases in Cats-Types, Symptoms & Treatment

Tick borne diseases in cats

What are ticks?   Lyme disease  Cytauxzoonosis    Tularemia   Hemobartonellosis   Babesiosis   Tick paralysis

Tick borne diseases in cats

What are ticks?

Ticks are small ectoparasites, meaning they live on the outside of their host, and are members of the arachnid family (spiders and mites are also members of this family). There are over 800 species of tick, and their distribution is worldwide. Australia has around 70 species of tick. There are several diseases cats can pick up from tick bites which we will cover below.

Ticks feed on the blood of mammals, birds, and some reptiles.  It is during the process of feeding that the tick can spread disease. Most diseases cats acquire from ticks are bacterial infections, and the tick is the intermediate host.

Then the tick feeds from an infected animal, pathogens enter the tick (via the infected blood of the host) and take up habitat in the tick’s salivary glands. Specialised mouthparts inject into the skin along with saliva, which contains anesthetic like properties as well as anticoagulants so that the host (your cat) can’t feel the bite and the blood doesn’t clot during feeding. Some ticks also inject a cement-like substance, to firmly secure themselves. When saliva enters the new host, pathogens may also be transmitted.

Ticks thrive in warm, humid, wooded areas. They are more prevalent in the summer months, although in warmer climates (such as Australia) they occur year-round.

Lyme disease:

This is the most commonly known disease that can be passed on by ticks. Caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi which lives in the blood of mammals. When the tick feeds on an infected animal (commonly a deer, rodent or raccoon) often a deer or raccoon), the bacteria are transmitted to the tick, and then passed on to the next animal it feeds on. The tick must be on the cat for 24 hours for transmission to occur, that is how long it takes the bacteria to migrate from the gut to the salivary glands.

Lyme disease is most prevalent in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly the United States. Transmission is most often via the deer tick, Ixodes dammini. All vertebrates can become infected with Lyme disease; humans and dogs are much more likely to become infected than cats.


Some cats may remain asymptomatic. In others, it can take weeks or months for symptoms to appear, which may include:

  • Lameness
  • Joint swelling
  • Fever
  • Anorexia (loss of appetite),
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Lethargy


Antibiotics, administered for four weeks. Some cats will be left with long-term joint pain.


Also known as bobcat fever, cytauxzoonosis is a rapidly fatal disease caused by a single-celled protozoan affecting cats in the south-central and southeastern parts of the United States. Its natural host is the bobcat, who appear to have the infection without signs. The lone star tick is responsible for transmission of this disease.

The parasite has two life stages once inside the cat: the leukocytic or tissue phase and the erythrocytic piroplasm phase. During the leukocytic phase, the parasite invades white blood cells (macrophages) throughout the body where it asexually reproduces forming schizonts. As this occurs, white blood cells dramatically increase in size, blockages occur within the small blood vessels of many vital organs resulting in tissue necrosis due to the inadequate blood supply. Schizonts develop into merozoites which break out of the white blood cells and infect the red blood cells; this stage of the disease isn’t as severe as the tissue phase.


Symptoms cytauxzoonosis appear between 5-15 days after the tick bite and can often be vague and nonspecific, but may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Jaundice
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Pale mucous membranes


Antiprotozoal drugs to kill the parasite, and supportive care. Prognosis is guarded and many cats succumb to this disease.


Also known as rabbit fever, tularemia is an infection caused by the bacteria Francisella tularensis. This infection is of importance as it is zoonotic, which means it can be passed on from a cat (and other infected animals) to humans. Transmission can occur when the cat eats an infected animal, inhaling the bacteria from soil, drinking contaminated water and via tick bites. The four ticks involved are the wood tick, lone star tick, and the American dog tick. This disease is more prevalent in the summer months.


Symptoms appear between 1-10 days after exposure and may include

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Enlarged lymph nodes


Antibiotics, which must be given early or the prognosis is poor.


Also known as feline infectious anemia, haemobartonellosis is a disease caused by a type of bacteria known as mycoplasma haemofelis. These unusual bacteria have no cell wall; they attach to the wall of red blood cells. The cat’s immune system recognises these foreign invaders and launches an attack, this results in the death of the red blood cell hosting the pathogen, resulting in anemia in the cat. Transmission can occur via ticks, fleas, cat bites, blood transfusions and from the mother to her kittens in utero.


Symptoms of feline infectious anemia are typically due to anemia that the cat develops and include:

  • Fever
  • Pale mucous membranes
  • Lethargy
  • Fast heart rate
  • Jaundice
  • Enlarged spleen and lymph nodes


Antibiotics to kill the bacteria, corticosteroids to dampen the immune response and prevent further destruction of red blood cells.

Oxygen therapy for cats having difficulty breathing, and in severe cases, a blood transfusion may be necessary.


Babesiosis is caused by a single-celled parasite protozoa of the genus Babesia. Infection can occur via a tick bite, blood transfusion, from the mother in utero, or via a cat bite. The incubation of babesiosis is around 10-14 days. Dogs are more commonly affected than cats; the protozoa can be found in Europe, South Africa, Asia and the United States. The highest incidence is during the warmer summer months.

The parasite enters the red blood cells where it divides. Eventually, the infected red blood cells rupture, releasing merozoites, which then invade more red blood cells. The pathogenesis is hemolytic anemia, which occurs in two ways.

  • Merozoites rupture and destroy the red blood cells
  • The cat’s immune system destroys infected red blood cells


Symptoms can range from mild to severe, cats with poor immune systems are more at risk of developing clinical signs which may include poor coat condition, lethargy, loss of appetite and occasionally jaundice.


Anti-malarial drugs to kill the parasite. Your cat may require a blood transfusion if the anemia is serious enough.

Tick paralysis:

Some species produce a neurotoxin which can cause paralysis and death in cats. Most cases of tick paralysis occur in the United States and Australia. In Australia, Ixodes holocyclus (also known as Paralysis Tick) is the species capable of causing paralysis. The two main species in America are the American Dog Tick and the Rocky Mountain Wood Tick. When the tick attaches to the host (in this case your cat), it injects a neurotoxin produced by the salivary gland into the cat. Left untreated, this can be fatal in cats.

The Australian paralysis tick causes more severe and life-threatening symptoms than the American Dog Tick or Rocky Mountain Wood Tick.


It takes between 3-5 days after the tick has attached for symptoms to develop. These may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive salivation
  • Dilated pupils
  • Loss of ability to meow

Later stages of poisoning are

  • Wobbly gait
  • Incontinence
  • Laboured breathing
  • Paralysis

Without immediate and aggressive treatment, the cat will die.


  • Oxygen therapy
  • Antiserum
  • Supportive care

Tick paralysis is widespread along the east coast of Australia. The veterinary practice I use for my cats (in a small town) sees around 30 cases every month. Diligent tick control should be maintained, particularly in high-risk areas.

Reducing the risk

Don’t allow your cat to roam outside; keep him confined to a cat enclosure.

If he does go outside, check him daily for ticks. Start from the head and slowly work your way all along his body to the tail. Make sure you check between the toes too.

Make sure the cat is on a regular tick preventative.

Hay Fever In Cats – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Hay fever in cats

What is hayfever?   Symptoms   Diagnosis   Treatment

Hay fever in cats

What is hayfever?

Allergic rhinitis is an allergic reaction affecting mostly the nose. Hay fever is a type of allergic rhinitis, as the name would suggest it is due to an allergy to pollen.

There are four types of allergies to affect cats.

  • Food – As the name would suggest, this is an allergy to food and is the most common type of allergies in cats.
  • Contact – This type of allergy is rare in cats; this type of allergy occurs when the cat comes into contact with an allergen, for example, wool, or medications.
  • Insect – The most common cause of insect allergy is cat fleas, but other insects can also cause allergies.
  • Inhalant –  Unlike in humans who tend to develop hay fever (allergic rhinitis),  most cases of inhalant allergy in cats present as skin conditions. Hay fever is a type of inhalant allergy.

Hay fever occurs when the cat’s body reacts to pollen; common allergens include grasses. Exposure occurs when the cat either inhales the pollen or licks it during grooming. Usually, the body would ignore a benign substance such as pollen; however, in some cats, the immune system mounts an unnecessary allergic response. Anything the body has an allergic reaction to is known as an allergen.

How an immune response works:

  • The first step is sensitisation. So, a foreign substance enters the body (in this case some pollen, via the nose), and cells called macrophages which are scavenger cells break up the invader. They then display the fragments of the invader on their cell walls for white blood cells (known as T cells).
  • T-cells then secrete a chemical which activates another type of white blood cell known as B cells. These cells generate antibodies specific to that particular invader. Antibodies are known as immunoglobin E (IgE) and are attached to immune cells called mast cells and basophils. Mast cells are located in the tissues and basophils in the blood.
  • The next time that particular foreign substance enters the body, the IgE cells on mast cells recognise the invader and attach to them. When this occurs, mast cells and basophils release a chemical substance known as histamine. Histamine causes capillaries in the nose to dilate (swell), causes redness, nasal secretions, swelling, and inflammation.


Depending on the allergen involved, symptoms may be seasonal, mainly if it’s pollen related. Spring and summer are when pollen levels are at their highest.

The most common symptoms of hay fever in cats are a runny nose and sneezing. Other symptoms may include:

  • Red, itchy, watery eyes.
  • Pawing at the face.
  • Noisy breathing.
  • Blood may be seen in the nasal discharge after prolonged exposure due to blood vessels becoming damaged.
  • Some cats may develop skin conditions, including lumps and bumps, itching, redness, and swelling.

As you can see, many of these symptoms are similar to that of a cat cold or flu, but shouldn’t include fever or loss of appetite. While extremely irritating to your cat, he shouldn’t appear unwell.


Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination of your cat and obtain a medical history from you. Hay fever will be suspected if there is a history of seasonal rhinitis.

If your veterinarian suspects an allergy, it will be necessary to perform a skin prick test to determine the allergen. This test injects small amounts of several common allergens into the skin to see if there is a reaction to any of them.


Minimising contact with the allergen is the main goal as well as controlling symptoms. It is not always easy to avoid exposure to pollens. Keeping windows shut, use air filters, regularly dust can reduce exposure.

Steroids to control inflammation and suppress the immune system.  Your veterinarian will prescribe the lowest dose possible to manage symptoms, and it will be necessary to monitor your cat closely.

Allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots). These shots expose the cat to a tiny amount of the allergen, gradually increasing the amount given; this can help the cat’s body get used to the allergen and reduce symptoms. The success rate is varied.

Keeping your cat indoors as much as possible during high pollen season. Pollen counts are at their highest from dawn to around mid-morning.

Medicated shampoos and conditioners can be used to clean the coat of pollens,  to reduce the amount that the cat will inhale or ingest when it grooms which can also help to soothe inflamed and itchy skin.

Antihistamines are medications which block the effects of histamines and may be prescribed to offer relief to your cat. However, it is vital you speak to your veterinarian about the appropriate antihistamine to use as not all are suitable, particularly if your cat has an underlying medical condition.

Visiting A Sick Cat At The Vet

visiting a sick cat at the veterinarian

Visiting a sick cat at the vet

Sometimes it may be necessary for your cat to stay at the veterinary surgery for a period to be treated for and/or recovery from an illness or surgery. Hospitalisation of a cat is often a difficult time for both the cat and the owner and many people ask if they should visit your cat while he is at the hospital.

I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer to this question. There are several factors to consider.

How does your veterinarian feel?

First and foremost, speak to your veterinarian to see what he recommends. In most cases when I have had a hospitalised cat, the veterinarian has been happy for me to come and visit my cat, and in one case, recommended it because my cat was stressed and not eating, he felt it would benefit my cat to have a visit from me, and it did. Let your veterinarian guide you.

If he does suggest you come in, find out when the best time of the day is for you to visit. Ideally, it will be a time when your veterinarian or a nurse can spend five minutes with you, updating you on your cat’s progress.

If the cat is in the hospital for a short procedure or stay, it is usually not necessary to visit him.

How will your cat react?

You know your cat better than anybody else. Some cats will appreciate a visit from the veterinarian. Sick and stressed cats are very prone to losing their appetite. A visit from their human family can be just what is needed to perk them up.

Some pet owners choose to bring something from home to the surgery for their cat. Maybe a blanket or a favourite cat toy. If the veterinarian says it’s okay, they may bring in some food for your cat to eat too. When I had a very sick cat at the vet who was refusing to eat, I was allowed to bring in some cooked chicken, and I hand fed him that. It was only a tiny amount of food that he ate, but it was a start. He was quite a shy cat and was scared of strangers, so it benefitted him significantly having daily visits from me.

I find outwardly personable cats do much better in hospital. It is still worth a visit for you and them, but not quite as important (in my opinion). We have a little Singapura cat who loves everybody. He had a one week stay in hospital when he broke his pelvis. He was the highlight of the practice, schmoozing all the staff who came to say hello to him.

In some cases, your cat will become stressed and upset when he sees you.

If you do visit your cat while he is at the vet, please don’t overdo it. Remember he is sick and needs his rest to recover.

How will you react?

An important factor to consider. How will you react when you see your cat hospitalised? Some people can find it quite traumatic to see their loved one sick or injured. If you feel you can’t cope with seeing a sick or injured cat, then it is better to stay away.

What happens during the visit?

Depending on how sick your cat is, and the premises you are visiting you will see your cat either in his cage (if he is very sick), in an empty clinic room, or some cases, practices have a designated room for pets and their owners to spend time together.

You may be able to speak to the veterinarian; if not, I have found most nurses can give me an update on the progress of my cat and how well he is coping at the hospital. Do understand though that they are often busy treating other animals so may not have much time to speak to you which is why I advise calling ahead, so you can arrange to come in during a quieter time of the day when the veterinarian or nurses may have more time to update you.

Depending on how your cat is, you may or may not be able to hold him. If he is still seriously sick and/or hooked up to lots of things, it may not be practical to pick him up.

What to do when you visit?

It is generally preferred that you visit your cat a day or so after any major surgery. In the first 24-48 hours, he will be very groggy and sleep a lot. Here are a few guidelines for visiting your cat at the veterinary hospital.

  • Firstly, call your veterinarian and make sure you are both on the same page. Try not to bring the whole family; I am sure children miss their pet too but keep it to one or two visitors at a time.
  • Try not to show too much emotion around your cat. If you act stressed and/or sad, your cat will pick up on it. Be calm, confident and soothing, no matter how you feel inside.
  • Make sure you visit at a time agreed with your veterinarian (unless he has said you can come in whenever you like). Remember that your cat won’t be the only animal in a hospital, so please be aware of other sick animals around you.
  • Don’t spend all afternoon there, keep the visit reasonably short (say 15-20 minutes).
  • If you do want to bring some food treats for your cat, check with your veterinarian that it is okay to do so. I find cooked chicken breast to be popular with sick cats.
  • A blanket or rug from home is also something that most cats will welcome. Veterinary practices are full of unusual smells, and a blanket with familiar smells can help to make him a little more comfortable.

If your cat is receiving radioactive iodine treatment for hyperthyroidism, you will not be able to visit him during his stay in hospital. This is due to the radiation being excreted out of his body his urine. Once this has dropped to safe levels, your cat will be able to come home.

Blood Transfusion in Cats-Risks, Procedure & Side Effects

Blood transfusion in cats

About     Indications     Blood groups     Donor requirements     Procedure     Risks

Blood transfusion in cats


A blood transfusion is a life-saving procedure where blood or blood products from a donor are given to a cat to treat a medical disorder. This may be whole blood (containing all four components of the blood) or blood components (plasma, platelets, etc.).

Blood is a part of the circulatory system which comprises of the blood, blood
vessels, and the heart. Blood is the red liquid which circulates around the body
via the arteries, veins, and capillaries. It carries oxygen and nutrients around
the body and removes waste products such as carbon dioxide. The average 5kg cat
has about 325ml of blood.  Blood has four components; red blood cells, white
blood cells, plasma, and platelets.

components of cat blood

  • Red blood cells (RBC/erythrocytes) – The most abundant
    cell in the blood, RBC’s are disc-shaped, concave cells which carry oxygen
    from the lungs to the tissues, and carry carbon dioxide from the tissues
    back to the lungs for oxygenation. Their red colour comes from hemoglobin (Hb),
    which is an iron-containing compound.
  • White blood cells (leukocytes) – These cells are
    responsible for fighting infections from bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
  • Plasma – Plasma is the pale/straw coloured liquid
    component of the blood.  It is made up of water, proteins, electrolytes, and
    sugars and its primary role is to transport blood cells around the body. Plasma
    also transports nutrients, antibodies, waste products, blood clotting
    factors, and hormones. Cats with blood clotting disorders usually receive
    plasma transfusions.
  • Platelets (thrombocytes) – Small, disc-shaped cells
    whose function is to bind together and form clumps to plug damaged
    blood cells.

Why do cats need blood transfusions?

A blood transfusion may be necessary for the following reasons:

  • Loss of red blood cells due to destruction (immune diseases, poisoning)
    or blood loss (trauma, internal bleeding, parasites, surgery etc.)
  • A decrease in the production of red blood cells.
  • Low white blood cell count (leukopenia), due to cancer, some
    infections,  autoimmune disorders, kidney or liver failure, certain
    medications, congenital disorders.
  • Blood clotting disorders.

Cat blood types

  • A is the most common group
  • B is less common but occurs in some breeds of purebred cat
  • AB is extremely rare

The type of antigens (markers) on the surface of blood cells determine the
blood group.  So, if you have a cat who is blood group A and he receives blood
from a type B cat, naturally occurring alloantibodies in the recipient’s blood
will cause an immune response due to the type B antigens on the red blood cells
of the donated blood. Therefore when receiving blood, the following must occur.

  • A group cats can only receive type A blood.
  • B group cats can only receive type B blood.
  • AB group cats can receive blood from type AB blood or type A blood.

blood groups in cats

Furthermore, in 2007 a new antigen known as MiK was discovered. Most cats
have the MiK antigen on their red blood cells, however a small percentage of
cats do not have it, and if they receive a blood transfusion from a cat who does
have the MiK antigen a reaction may occur, even if both the donor and the
recipient have the same blood type (A, B or AB).

Testing is usually able to be performed in-house and only takes a few
minutes to perform, with a small amount of blood.  In addition to testing the blood groups, cross-matching (BCM) may be performed to determine the compatibility of the patient and donor blood. This is even more important if the cat has received a blood transfusion in the past.

Where does the donated blood come from?

The donor cat may be a practice cat who permanently resides at the veterinary
surgery (a homeless cat who the practice adopts).  Often cats owned by the staff
of the veterinary practice will use their cats to give blood.

More and more veterinary surgeries are keeping a list of cat guardians who are
willing to have their cat donate blood upon request which takes the pressure off
one or two practice cats and means they always have a standby supply of
emergency blood. Pet blood banks are also starting to become more commonplace in
the US and the UK.

Blood donor requirements

Not all cats are suitable blood donors; the donor cat should meet
the following criteria:

  • Be in good health with no pre-existing conditions.
  • Weigh least 4kg.
  • Be fully vaccinated.
  • Indoors only.
  • Be free of parasites and up to date with parasite treatment.
  • Screened for FIV, FeLV and Mycoplasma hemofelis.
  • Have a packed cell volume of >35%.
  • Not be pregnant or lactating.
  • Donor cats should have a calm disposition.

Blood donations from dogs

There are at least two cases where a cat has received blood from a dog as a
last resort, which is known as xenotransfusions. Dogs have eleven blood groups; however, cats don’t have naturally occurring antibodies to canine blood.

Xenotransfusions have been used when no other options are available, and the cat
will die without an immediate transfusion. This is the last resort; ideally, a
cat should receive a feline blood donation.

Blood transfusion process

The donor cat should not have eaten 4-6 hours before taking blood to reduce
the risk of vomiting during sedation, and the veterinarian will check the cat’s
blood pressure.  A needle will be placed into a large vein, usually the jugular
(in the neck). Collection of the blood usually takes around 30 minutes. Once the
blood donation has finished, the donor cat is monitored for signs of low
blood pressure. Extra fluids are often given to the donor cat just
before or at the time of collection. Approximately 50ml of blood will be taken
(around 1% of body weight). It will take about 30 minutes to collect blood from
the donor cat.  A cat can only donate blood every three months.

Initially, blood is given at a rate of 0.5mk/k/per while being closely
monitored to watch for complications. Your veterinarian will monitor the heart
rate, blood pressure, capillary refill time, respiration rate and watch for rash
and vomiting. If the recipient shows no adverse reactions, then the amount of
blood given is increased to 10mk/k/per hour. It takes around four hours in

A reaction can occur during the procedure or several hours afterwards. Close
monitoring is necessary.


Outlined below are possible side effects to both donor and recipient.

There are two types of side effects which may occur in the recipient.
Immune-mediated and non-immune-mediated.

Acute hemolytic reaction (AHTR)


This occurs when the recipient has pre-existing antibodies to
antigens in the donor cat’s blood due to mismatched blood.  I.e., a cat
with type A blood receiving a transfusion of type B blood. This destroys the donor red blood cells in the blood vessels.


Fever, low blood pressure, restlessness, tachycardia (rapid heart
rate), difficulty breathing, cyanosis, abnormal bleeding, vomiting,
diarrhea, oliguria, hemoglobinuria, hemoglobinemia, shock, and collapse.

Delayed hemolytic reaction (DHTR)


Usually occurs >24 hours after the transfusion has occurred,  caused
by an immune reaction to minor red blood cell antigens.


There are usually no clinical signs other than a loss of transfusion

Allergic (urticaria)


IgE antibodies reacting to plasma protein resulting in mast cells
releasing histamine.


Rash (urticaria), redness, itching.

Allergic (anaphylactic)


IgA antibodies reacting to plasma protein resulting in a severe
allergic reaction.


Low blood pressure, tachycardia (fast heart rate), bronchospasm
(narrowing of the airways), collapse.



Antibody reaction to donor white blood cells or platelets.


Elevated body temperature is the most common symptom.

Transfusion-associated circulatory overload (TACO)


Caused by a rapid transfusion of a large volume of blood, the
circulatory system becomes overwhelmed.


Dyspnea (difficulty breathing), heart failure, high blood pressure,

Pulmonary edema


Fluid can build up in the lungs if the cat receives too much blood.


Dyspnea (difficulty breathing), open-mouthed breathing, rapid
breathing, crackling sound in the lungs, blue-tinged gums.

Transfusion-related sepsis


It is possible for a cat to become infected due to an infection in
the donor cat’s blood.


Fever, low blood pressure, shock.

While this list may look daunting, please be aware that while side
effects can and do occur, they are usually quite rare, especially if
blood typing and cross-matching take place before your cat receiving a
blood transfusion.


What happens if a reaction occurs?

The blood donation will need to stop if the recipient shows an adverse
reaction. Administration of oxygen, steroids, and antihistamines may be