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Baseline Vitals in Cats and How to Measure Them

Find out what’s normal for your cat and how to measure feline vitals.

If your cat ever has an emergency situation occur, you will need to evaluate his condition before you can take action with first aid. In order to know what's wrong with your kitty, you will need to have an idea of what is normal.

Normal Heart rate, Respiratory Rate, and Temperature for Cats

Cats' normal heart and respiratory rates and temperatures are different from humans'. Here is what you need to know:

  • Normal heart rate for cats: 140-220 beats per minute
  • Normal feline respiratory rate: 15-30 breaths per minute
  • Normal temperature for cats: 100.5˚F-102.5˚F

If you are evaluating your cat's condition based on normal human values, you may panic when there's no need.

How to Check Your Cat's Heart and Respiratory Rates and Temperature

To take your cat's heart and respiratory rates, you will need a watch with a second hand or the timer on your phone.

Here are the steps for taking the heart rate of a cat:

  • Place your hands on each side of your cat's chest, just behind her elbows. Apply gentle pressure until you can feel her heartbeat. Count the beats for 15 seconds, and then multiply your result by 4 to calculate beats per minute.
  • You may be able to feel your cat's pulse by placing two fingers gently on the inside of her groin, where the back leg meets the body wall.

Note: It can be difficult to take a heart rate on a cat. If you have any concerns with your cat's heart rate, go to the veterinarian. Using a stethoscope can make it easier for you to take your cat's heart and respiratory rates.

Here are the steps for taking the respiratory rate of a cat:

  • Watch your cat's chest to see its rise and fall or place a hand on her chest to feel them.
  • Count each chest rise for 15 seconds, and then multiply your result by 4 to calculate breaths per minute.

Practice taking heart and respiratory rates on your cat when there is no problem so that you will feel more comfortable and be more adept at it during an emergency.

How to Take a Cat's Temperature

You will need a digital thermometer with a flexible tip to take your cat's temperature at home. Here is how to measure a cat's temperature:

  • Have someone hold your cat on her side. One of your helper's hands should hold the cat's scruff firmly but gently, and the other hand should hold the kitty's back feet.
  • Place a probe cover over the thermometer probe.
  • Place petroleum jelly liberally on the thermometer.
  • Gently insert the thermometer into the cat's rectum to just past the thermometer tip.
  • Wait for thermometer to signal that it's done, and read the results.

Checking Mucous Membranes on Your Cat

Your cat's mucous membranes, or gums, can tell you quite a bit of information during an emergency. Normal gums are pink and a bit moist. When you push gently into them with a finger, they blanch, but then turn pink again in 1-2 seconds.

The following situations with your cat's mucous membranes indicate that there is a problem:

  • Yellow, pale, blue, white, or brick red gums.
  • Gums that take longer than 2 seconds to return to pink when blanched with a fingertip.

Knowing whether your cat's gum color is abnormal requires being familiar with how they normally look. Making a habit of looking at your cat's gums periodically is a good idea, so you will be able to recognize when there is a problem. However, some cats don't like having their mouths handled and may bite, so use caution and don't proceed if your cat becomes agitated.

What to Do If Your Cat's Vitals Are Off

If your cat's heart or respiratory rate, temperature, or mucous membrane color are not normal, call a veterinarian right away.

If your cat is not breathing, you will need to perform rescue breathing.

If your cat does not have a heartbeat and isn't breathing, you will need to perform CPR.

You can learn more about basic first aid for various feline conditions here: "First Aid for Cats: An Overview."

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How You Can Care for Your Cat After You're Gone

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How To Take Your Cat To The Vet

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