Unless you’re a veterinarian, you may not think much about cat blood, but would it surprise you to learn that cats have blood types similar to humans? Like humans, cats can have type A blood, type B blood, and even AB type blood. Veterinarians can determine your cat’s blood type based on the reaction a small sample of blood can have to certain antibodies.
Cat Blood Types
Cat blood types are genetic, and cannot be altered. The majority of cats fall into the A blood type. Blood type A cats have a small amount of antibodies against B type blood. The most common cat with type A blood is the domestic short/medium/long hair, or the standard house cat. Purebred cats with type A blood include the Siamese and Oriental Shorthair.
Some cats, albeit a smaller population, fall into the B blood type. This population with blood type B are typically purebred cats, such as Abyssinian, Japanese Bobtail, Birman, Persian, Scottish Fold, British Shorthair, Cornish Rex, Exotic Shorthair, Somali, Sphynx, Turkish Van, Turkish Angora, and Devon Rex. Blood type B cats have a higher amount of antibodies against type A blood.
There is even a small population of cats that have the AB blood type. Cats that have AB blood do not have antibodies against A or B blood. An incidence of type AB blood occurs in less than 1 percent of cats, but breeds that typically have this rare blood type include Birman, British Shorthair, Scottish Fold, Somali, and Sphynx cats.
Unlike humans, there is no blood type that acts as a universal donor for other cat blood types.
Why You Should Know Your Cat’s Blood Type
Knowing your cat’s blood type is useful if your cat is sick and needs to have a blood transfusion. Prior to a cat blood transfusion, all cats will have their blood taken to identify their blood type. Then, based on their blood type, they will receive a cat blood transfusion with that type of blood. It’s important for your veterinarian to have this information before performing a blood transfusion, which could be potentially fatal should the blood not be a match. Knowing your cat’s blood type also helps them to make the right decision about which blood type/product is the safest for your cat. Cats that are given the wrong type of blood can have allergic reactions that can result in a very mild reaction to a severe, life-threatening crisis. The most significant reactions are seen when a B type cat is given A blood due to the higher rate of antibodies to A blood. Cats that have AB blood type can receive A or B blood but usually receive A blood because it is more common and thus, more readily available.
There are multiple ways that veterinary hospitals have access to blood for cat blood transfusions:
- Some hospitals have a hospital cat that has had appropriate screening for illnesses and can donate blood as needed up to a limit that is safe for the donor.
- Animal blood banks that have a population of cats who are appropriately screened to donate blood. These cat blood banks provide blood products to hospitals around the country. These cats are often rescued from animal shelters and then adopted out to forever families after a few years of being in the cat blood donation program.
- Local specialty hospitals have cat blood donation programs where pet cats can come and donate blood to help other cats in need of blood transfusions. If you think your cat would be a good donor, contact a local feline blood bank and talk to a representative about criteria to join their donation program.
Risk of Cat Blood Transfusions
Once a cat has had a blood transfusion, they are at a higher risk for allergic reactions to future blood transfusions. If your pet has ever had a blood transfusion you should always inform veterinarians to make sure it is noted in their medical record. If your cat needs additional blood transfusions, further screening to find compatible matches is needed to minimize the risk of reactions.
If you are concerned about the health of your cat and do not yet have a reliable veterinarian for them, don’t panic. You can use our Vet Locator to find a qualified vet in your neighborhood.