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Common Injury in Kittens – Electrocution

By Colleen Williams
March 6, 2016 • 3 min. read
electrocution

Reviewed for accuracy on May 4, 2022 by JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM

Key Takeaways

  • Accidents can happen with kittens, who make the world their playground.
  • Electrical cords can cause injury due to chewing, clawing, shocks, and burns.
  • Symptoms of mild electrocution are singed fur and whiskers, burns, and cardiovascular injuries.
  • Prevent electrocution by keeping electrical cords away from kittens.

Kittens are known for making the world their playground. It’s important to make their environment safe and remove any potential hazards. However, accidents do happen; those involving electrical cords are more common than you’d think.

Causes

Chewing or clawing at electrical cords can cause the plastic coating to wear or fray, leaving a live exposed wire underneath. This can give a kitten a nasty shock and burns; some severe shocks can even lead to heart and lung problems. Strangulation or choking is also a threat – kittens see dangling cords as playthings and can accidentally get looped in them, leading to tragedy.

Symptoms

Signs of mild electrocution include singed whiskers or fur around the mouth. If you see any raw, red skin, this can indicate a more serious burn. Seek veterinary attention if your kitten has a serious burn, because burns can be painful or become infected. More severe symptoms of electrocution affect the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems:

  • Coughing
  • Rapid or difficulty breathing
  • “Crackling” lung sounds
  • Blue skin
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizure
  • Physical collapse
  • Unconsciousness

Kittens displaying these symptoms following electrical shock require emergency veterinary care – their bodies are so delicate that organ failure or death can quickly follow.

Pulmonary edema, or fluid in the lungs, is a symptom of electrocution that reveals itself anywhere from a few hours to several days after the initial incident. If your kitten is having difficulty breathing, is breathing rapidly, or is panting open-mouthed, seek veterinary attention to treat this dangerous side effect.

Emergency Procedure

  1. If you see your kitten being electrocuted, do not immediately attempt to touch him; this could lead to you becoming shocked too! Instead, turn off the electricity first.
  2. If your cat is in water, use a broom handle or non-conductive pole to move him.
  3. Look for vital signs – a heartbeat and breathing. You can feel for the heartbeat by placing your hand either on the chest (just behind the shoulder blade) or the inside of one of your kitten’s thighs near the groin. Check for breathing by watching the chest move up and down, placing your hand on the chest, or placing your hand in front of your kitten’s nose. If your kitten is unresponsive, perform CPR.
  4. Gently wrap your cat in a towel or blanket and seek emergency veterinary care.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your vet will first make sure your kitten’s heartbeat and breathing are stable, then perform a full physical examination to assess your kitten’s injuries and determine if any of those injuries are life-threatening. Your vet may also do some diagnostic testing, such as x-rays to look at the lungs, and electrocardiogram to evaluate your kitten’s heart rhythm, and blood work to measure oxygen levels.

Following a severe electrocution, the veterinarian will want to keep your kitten overnight to watch for pulmonary edema. If your kitten is presenting signs of this condition, diuretic medications will be prescribed to flush the fluid from your cat’s body through the urine. Before you can take your kitten home, a series of tests will be conducted to ensure all vitals are back to normal.

Management

After an electrical shock, if your kitten has burns in or around their mouth, they may be hesitant to eat dry food. Try feeding them softer or liquefied foods until the wounds have healed. Check your kitten’s burns for signs of infection like abnormal discharge, bad smells, and swelling.

Prevention

Keep all electrical cords out of paw’s reach and replace any that are worn or frayed; any exposed wires can cause serious damage and be fire hazards. Consider placing child-proof protective covers on all wall sockets to ward off curious paws.

Keeping your home safe from any hazards is important to protect your kitten. Electric shocks can be life-threatening for kittens’ small bodies. If your kitten has been electrocuted, seek veterinary attention as soon as you can to ward off dangerous complications like pulmonary edema.

The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical diagnosis, condition, or treatment options.

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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