CPR For Cats: What Every Cat Owner Should Know

When it comes to our feline friends, the last thing we ever want to think about is reviving them. If you found yourself in the event that your cat needed you to resuscitate them, would you know what to do? Artificial respiration (AR) and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for cats are emergency procedures that are important to know because they can save your cat’s life in the event of an emergency. By performing these procedures, the main purpose is to restore your cat’s blood flow so that their vital organs can receive oxygen once more.

And no, we are not suggesting that you give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to your cat. By learning to perform these procedures it can mean the difference between life and death before you are able to rush your cat to their veterinarian.

Here is what every cat owner should know about CPR for cats…

CPR is Similar For Cats And Humans, With A Few Key Differences

While there are similarities, there are differences to consider when performing CPR for cats:

-Never perform CPR on a feline that is not unconscious

If you happen to perform CPR on a conscious cat, you could end up with a nasty bite or scratch as a result. First, check their airway for an obstruction.

-You will be checking the pulse in different locations of the body than you would a human

We know that in humans we check their pulse on the wrist or the neck. For cats or dogs, you check the pulse by feeling the femoral artery, just on the inside of the thigh. See image below.

-You will position the body of a cat differently

Humans lie on their back when CPR is being administered, cats need to be laid on their side.

-Breathing and heartbeat are separate

Your cat’s heart can beat for several minutes once breathing has stopped. You must first check their airway to be sure that nothing is lodged in there which is preventing their ability to breathe. 

When To Take Your Cat To The Vet Immediately

Obviously speaking, the best course of action is to recognize that something is seriously wrong with your cat and take them to the vet before they stop breathing. If your cat is experiencing any of the following symptoms, it is vital that you take them to the vet ASAP: 

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Unconsciousness
  • Any sudden onset of illness
  • Severe injury or trauma

Vital Signs to Check For Before Administering AR or CPR for Cats

There are some important vital signs you need to verify before administering emergency procedures on your feline. According to PetMD, here is exactly what you should look for:

  • Check for breathing. Watch for movement of the chest, or put your hand in front of your cat’s nose to feel his breath. If mist forms on a piece of clean glass or metal that’s placed in front of your cat’s nose, CPR is probably not necessary.
  • Check the color of his gums. If your cat’s gums are bluish or gray, this is a sign that they are not getting enough oxygen; white gums are the result of poor blood circulation. Some cats have dark-colored gums—for those cats, check the tongue color. In most cases, if your cat lets you examine their tongue, they need CPR or AR.
  • Check for a pulse on the inside of the thigh, near where the leg meets the body. This is the femoral pulse. 
  • Listen for a heartbeat by putting your ear (or a stethoscope) on the left side of the chest near the elbow.

How To Perform CPR for Cats

If possible, you should be performing this while en route to your veterinarian’s office as it is clear that your cat requires immediate veterinary assistance. Here is what you should do:

  1. Check for breathing.
  2. If there is none, open the mouth and remove any obstructions in the airway. This is only safe if the animal is unconscious.
  3. Pull the tongue to the front of the mouth, then close the mouth and gently hold it shut.
  4. Make sure the neck is straight and breathe short puffs of air into the nose—one breath every 4 to 5 seconds. (If you have been trained in CPR for human infants, use a similar strength of breath.)
  5. Watch for chest movement; the chest should both rise when you give a breath and relax after the breath. Give 3 to 5 breaths, then check for a pulse and breathing again. Repeat as needed at a rate of 10 breaths per minute. Continue giving breaths as someone else drives you and your pet to the veterinarian.
  6. If the cat’s heart stops, use both artificial respiration and CPR (steps 7 through 10).
  7. Check for a heartbeat and pulse.
  8. If there is none, lay your cat on his right side on a flat surface.
  9. Place your thumb and fingers from one hand on either side of his chest, behind his elbows, and give a quick squeeze to compress the chest to about half of its normal thickness.
  10. Compress the chest about 15 times every 10 seconds; give a breath about every 10 compressions.

Remember, if you have relied on CPR or AR to resuscitate your cat, this does not mean that the ordeal is behind you.

It is imperative that you seek professional medical attention for your cat so that you can discover the root of the cause to your cat’s breathing issues. And don’t forget, mouth-to-snout! 

Want to know more about CPR for cats? The Red Cross now has an online course available to help concerned cat parents like you to be better prepared in the event of an emergency. See below:

…We have introduced a new Cat and Dog First Aid online course that will help you be prepared to deliver first aid care for your pets – including CPR. To learn more and register for this online course, visit www.redcross.org/catdogfirstaid.

REMEMBER: SPAY/NEUTER, FOSTER, VOLUNTEER, TNR & AS ALWAYS, ADOPT, DON’T SHOP!

Related Story: Cat-Friendly Plants For Your Feline FriendRelated Story: 5 Weird Cat Behaviors Explained

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4 Comments

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  1. I would dearly appreciate if a tutorial video performed on a plush cat could be made and put on YouTube and all of Chris’s Facebook pages so that this extremely important information will be learned by more people faster, as well as shared with even more people that way. (either Chris, or an experienced vet assistant would work splendidly) The unfortunate reality is that even with the redcross link provided, most people won’t bother immediately which then turns to never getting to it until it’s too late. Meanwhile a video done either by a pro in a serious manner, or by Chris in his entertaining and charming way, would reach and actually help the information stick in the mind of a staggeringly greater amount of people across the globe. Even those who would just watch it randomly could find themselves surprised to remember it and use it to save an animal’s life one day.

    P.S.
    I wish I’d known this information many years ago when I could have tried it to save my beloved longhaired black tortoiseshell. She was and always will be my heart’s treasure. As such, I truly tried to memorize the information in this article, but having been in an actual situation where it could have been used, I know that written words and diagrams won’t be remembered through the desperate panic. This is why I strongly wish for a tutorial video. A pro could make it super informative, and Chris could make it his usual amusingly over theatrical yet helpful type of video. Ideally, making both types of videos would work best to get the message out and double the chances of people remembering it when they need it most.
    Thank you.

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Written by Modi Ramos

Cat lover since birth. Keeper of Mr. Purple and Tom Brady Kitty. I've never met a cat I didn't like.

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