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First Aid for a Cat That Isn't Breathing

Know what to do if your cat isn’t breathing.

There is no time when first aid is more necessary to render than when your cat is not breathing. You won't have much time to act and make a difference, so being prepared ahead of time and knowing what to do is crucial.

First, Check for Breathing

To be sure whether or not your cat is breathing, do three things:

  • Place your ear next to your cat's muzzle and listen for breaths.
  • Lay a hand on your cat's chest and feel for its rise and fall.
  • Use your fingers to feel for air moving out of your cat's nose.
  • You may try placing a tissue close to your cat's nose and see if a breath pushes it out.

Use care when evaluating your cat's condition. If she is not unconscious, fear or pain could cause her to bite or scratch you.

Next, Clear Your Cat's Airway

Your cat's airway will need to be unobstructed for you to deliver air efficiently to help your cat. You can ensure that this is the case by:

  • Extending your cat's neck until it appears as straight as possible.
  • Pull your cat's tongue forward and out of the mouth.
  • Look in, and remove any visible obstructions like a small toy or piece of human food.

Finally, Breathe for Your Cat

Once you have verified that your cat isn't breathing and cleared the airway, begin administering rescue breathing:

If your cat also has no heartbeat, you will need to perform chest compressions, as well. Learn more about that here: "First Aid for a Cat with No Heartbeat."

  • Your cat should be on his side.
  • Place your mouth over your cat's nostrils. Form a seal with your hands around your mouth and your cat's muzzle, so air doesn't get out. Blow gently into your cat's nostrils for 2 seconds. You should blow hard enough to see his chest rise and no harder.
  • Stop, sit back, and check for your cat to breathe on his own for 3 seconds, then give him another breath.
  • Repeat this process until your cat breathes.
  • Take your cat straight to the nearest veterinarian, calling ahead if possible so they can be ready for you. You may also perform respirations on the way to the veterinarian rather than waiting to travel if there is someone available to drive you.

You can visit this article, "First Aid for Cats: An Overview," to learn more basic life-saving techniques.

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