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Cat Blood 101: What You Need To Know About Blood Types, Giving & Receiving

June 15, 2013

“How can you not know your blood type?”

It was a legitimate and concerning question I posed to my husband a few months back. Luckily for him, it had never come up. After giving blood platelets one day, he was presented with the opportunity to learn which blood type he had. He was holding the envelope that held the answer, and while I was eager to find out which type he had, I was hoping I’d never need to share it.

Photo courtesy eaghra

That said, emergencies happen. You never know when you’ll need to know your blood type – or for that matter your cat’s. So I started to look into cat blood types, their giving and receiving blood, and more. Here’s what I found:

While humans can have one of eight possible blood types, cats can only have one of three: A, B, and AB. Most cats (about 94-99%) have type A, but this can vary by breed:

  • Type A: Most non-pedigreed cats, as well as American Shorthairs, Siamese and other Oriental breeds
  • Type B: Devon Rex, Cornish Rex, and about 15 percent of Persian and Abyssinian cats
  • Type AB: It’s rare, but it has been found across a number of breeds

Unlike humans, there is no universal donor when it comes to cat blood types. If a cat receives a blood transfusion, the donated blood must be of the same type, otherwise a potentially fatal reaction can occur.

Consequently, knowing your cat’s blood type can be essential when your cat is having surgery or giving birth.

If a kitten is born with a different blood type than his mother, there could be serious complications. In a mother cat’s milk there are antibodies that protect against other blood types. By drinking her milk, a newborn kitten’s blood cells could be destroyed by the mother’s antigens. Some researchers believe this may be the cause behind “fading kittens.”

To protect kittens born with a different blood type, some suggest to bottle-feeding them for the first couple of days. Speak to your veterinarian if you have questions or concerns.

The good news is that you can find out your cat’s blood type. There are many ways you can go about finding out, from purchasing a genetic test for your cat, to asking your cat’s breeder (if your cat was bred), since they should have it on file. Of course, vet clinics are quick to figure out your cat’s blood type in case of an emergency, too.

And what if you’d like your cat to give back? He can.

Photo courtesy crispichikin.

While it may seem a little funny, cats can donate blood. Granted it’s in smaller amounts than obviously humans or even dogs, but the fact is that some cats need blood transmissions.

Fortunately, donating blood isn’t painful to a cat, but there are more risks involved in a cat donating blood than a human or dog. That said, it’s important to weigh any and all risks prior to volunteering your cat.

During the procedure, the cat is sedated. The process only lasts a few minutes, and usually the cat can go home the same day.

While there’s a great deal of information out there about volunteering your cat to give blood, be sure to speak to your veterinarian to find out more.

Does your cat donate blood? How does he do with the process? Please share in the comments!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 15, 2013 11:21 pm

    The cat that I had had since I was six years old had an internal bleed when he was 17, and needed several blood transfusions. I had never given the idea of cat blood/transfusions/donations a thought before, but I was, and am, so so thankful to the generous cats and pet parents who share blood with cats in need. Ultimately Simon only had a few more weeks: the treatment for his heart disease and for his chronic kidney failure had finally bumped up against each other, but those few weeks were so precious to us. If you can donate, know that you’ll be giving an incredibly precious gift to fellow cat owners: time.


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