CPR for Cats and Kittens

PetMD Editorial
Aug 14, 2008
4 min read
Image: Photo Grapher / via Image Bank

Reviewed for accuracy on January 24, 2020, by Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR for cats, is an emergency procedure that hopefully you will never need to use. It’s better to take your cat to your veterinarian before problems become severe enough to require CPR. But, when necessary and if performed correctly, CPR and artificial respiration may give you time to get your cat to your veterinarian.

First, Determine Whether Your Cat Actually Needs CPR

Before you begin AR or CPR, make sure the cat is truly in need. Talk to the cat. Touch and gently shake him. You risk serious injury by trying to perform either AR or CPR on a cat that doesn’t need it. Here are some vital signs you can check to help you decide if AR or CPR is necessary:

  • Check for breathing. Watch for movement of the chest, or feel for it with your hand. Put your hand in front of your cat’s nose to feel his breath.

  • Check for a heartbeat by placing your hand on the lower left side of your cat’s chest.

If there is no sign of breathing or a heartbeat, begin the steps below for cat and kitten CPR.

How to Perform CPR for Cats and Kittens

If possible, perform the following steps en route to your veterinarian. If you are unwilling to do AR and your cat’s heart has stopped, skip to step 7 and perform chest compressions only.

  1. Check for breathing.

  2. If there is none, open the mouth and gently remove any obstructions in the airway that you can see. This is only safe if the cat is unconscious.

  3. Pull the cat’s tongue to the front of the mouth, then close the mouth and gently hold it shut.

  4. Make sure the cat’s neck is straight and breathe short puffs of air into their nose—one breath every 4 to 5 seconds.

  5. Give three to five breaths, then check for a heartbeat and breathing again. If a heartbeat is present but breathing is absent, continue breathing at a rate of approximately 10 breaths per minute.

  6. If a heartbeat is absent, use both artificial respiration and CPR (steps 7 through 10).

  7. Lay your cat on his side (either side is fine) on a flat surface.

  8. Grasp your cat’s chest with one hand by placing your thumb and fingers on either side of his chest, behind his elbows and over the heart. Give a quick squeeze to compress the chest to about one-third of its normal thickness.

  9. Compress the chest 100-120 times per minute, giving two breaths for every 30 compressions.

  10. If possible, have one person perform AR and another do the chest compressions, switching every 2 minutes to reduce fatigue.

How Do Veterinarians Revive Cats?

Your veterinarian will assess heart and lung activity before beginning resuscitative efforts. If your veterinarian can revive your cat, appropriate testing will be done to determine the underlying health problem.

While the veterinary team continues with CPR, some or all of the following may be done to aid in reviving your cat:

  • An endotracheal tube will be placed and oxygen used for artificial respiration. (An endotracheal tube is a tube placed in the trachea, the large airway that connects the mouth and nose to the lungs.)
  • An intravenous catheter will be placed to allow for easier administration of emergency medication and to give fluids.
  • Epinephrine and other emergency medications will be given in an effort to stimulate the heart and breathing.

Will Cats Survive If They Get CPR?

Unfortunately, most cats that reach the point of needing CPR do not survive. If your cat survives, expect him to stay in the hospital until a diagnosis is made and his condition is stabilized.

Follow all your veterinarian's aftercare instructions, and if your cat fails to improve as expected or relapses, be sure to contact your veterinarian immediately.

How to Prevent Situations Where a Cat Needs CPR

Accidents do happen, in spite of our best efforts, and some can be severe enough to require cardiopulmonary resuscitation and artificial respiration. Regular checkups and prompt care of health problems will diminish the chances your cat develops a serious issue that requires artificial respiration or CPR.

Signs That Your Cat or Kitten Needs Immediate Veterinary Care

These signs are all reasons to get your cat or kitten to a veterinarian immediately:

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Severe weakness or lethargy

  • Collapse

  • Unconsciousness

  • Significant blood loss

  • Seizures

  • Any sudden and severe onset of illness, including vomiting and diarrhea

  • Severe pain

  • Any sudden and severe unexplained changes in behavior

  • Severe injury or trauma

Featured Image: iStock.com/VioletaStoimenova

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