Electric shock (i.e., direct contact with electricity) is not very common in cats, especially adult cats. Nevertheless, it does occur. Young cats that are teething or are curious are most likely to get an electric shock injury from chewing on a power cord.
Technically, the term “electrocution” is used when the cat does not survive the electric shock incident.
What to Watch For
A cat that has suffered an electric shock may be seizuring, rigid, or limp and unconscious. The electric cord may be in the mouth or on or near the cat. Alternatively, the cat may be lying in a pool of water or other liquid that has an electric current running through it.
Your cat is most likely to suffer electric shock injury by chewing on an electrical cord.
- The most important step is to get your cat away from the electricity without endangering yourself. This may be as simple as unplugging the cord or turning off the circuit breaker.
- Be especially careful if your cat is in a pool of water or other liquid. Do not touch the cat or the liquid directly. Instead, use a wooden pole or other non-conductive item to push your cat away from the liquid.
- Check your cat for breathing and a heartbeat.
- Start artificial respiration and/or CPR as needed.
- Wrap your cat in a towel and take him to your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Diagnosis is based primarily on the information you provide. Because electricity can cause abnormal heart rhythms, your veterinarian will first check that the heart and lungs are okay. Next he or she will check your cat for burns from the electricity and for signs of shock, which is common after contact with electricity.
Initial treatment will focus on restoring normal heart activity and breathing, as well as treating any symptoms of shock. The veterinarian will then focus on treating burns. Your cat will most likely be kept in the hospital for a while, at least until he is stabilized.
One of the aftereffects of electric shock injury is accumulation of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema), which may take hours or a day or two to become evident. If this should occur, bring your cat to the veterinarian immediately.
Most other causes of electric shock injury are rare and found outdoors; they include lightning strike, downed power lines, electric fences.
Keeping electric cords away from a curious cat can be difficult, especially since they can get into some very small spaces. Attach wires to the wall using clips designed for this purpose, or cover the wires with a rigid wire cover that can be found at electronics stores.
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