Veterinarian-written / veterinarian-approved articles for your cat.

First Aid for Coughing and Choking in Cats

A choking cat needs immediate aid.

Coughing does not require immediate intervention in cats. You should make an appointment with a veterinarian to have the cough diagnosed and treated.

If your cat is choking, you will need to render first aid immediately.

What Does Choking Look Like in Cats?

A cat that is choking is unable to breathe or cannot get enough breath if it's a partial obstruction of the windpipe. If your cat is choking, you will likely see him gagging, retching, and attempting to cough. He will probably start showing signs of panic; he may paw at her mouth.

If an object is completely blocking your cat's airway, you won't have much time to intervene before he passes out and then passes away.

First Aid for a Choking Cat

If you can quickly pull the object out of your cat's mouth, do so. Be aware that your cat might accidentally bite you by closing down on your fingers without meaning to. If you can, use an instrument such as tweezers or a hemostat to grab the object and pull it out.

Do not try to put your fingers into the mouth of a cat that is growling at you.

To get your cat's mouth open, place your hand over the top of his muzzle, then gently press his upper lips with your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other. Then use your other hand to gently pull down on his lower jaw and use a finger to pull his tongue forward so you can see into the back of his mouth.

If you are unable to get into your cat's mouth safely or you can't get the object out, hold him firmly by the back legs and hang him upside down; this may allow the object to fall out. Don't shake him because you may injure him.

If you can't pull the object out of your cat's mouth and it doesn't come out when you hang him upside down, you will need to perform a Heimlich maneuver on him. Here is what to do:

  • Hold your cat with his back against your stomach.
  • Place your fist into the soft spot just below the front of the kitty's ribcage.
  • Pull toward yourself and slightly upward with your fist quickly.
  • Repeat two or three times.
  • If you can't dislodge the object and there is another person available to drive you, continue doing the Heimlich in the car on the way to the veterinary hospital.
  • If you are able to get the object out, watch to ensure that your cat begins breathing normally. If not, perform rescue breathing.

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