CPR for Cats Explained Title

Photo Credit: Interested Bystandr via Flickr

CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation) for cats  is an emergency procedure where breathing and a heart beat are artificially provided for a cat that has stopped breathing and no longer has a pulse. All cat owners should familiarize themselves with CPR for cats. It is very rarely needed, but it could save your kitty’s life! I’ve broken it into 7 steps to make it easy to learn.

Just a note of caution, according to the AVMA, less than 6% of cats that suffer from cardiac arrest while hospitalized will make it (the rate is closer to 20% in humans). Don’t blame yourself if your attempt to perform CPR on your cat is unsuccessful. Apparently the veterinarians at the animal hospitals don’t have much better luck. 

CPR for Cats Step 1: Assess Your Situation

CPR for Cats -Manna

Manna sleeping soundly.

  1. Gather yourself and stay as calm as you can.
  2. Make sure the cat is not sleeping. Cats can sometimes fall asleep surprisingly fast and sleep very deeply. You may have to gently shake the cat to make sure it doesn’t wake up.
  3. If the cat is conscious, DO NOT perform CPR.
  4. If the cat is determined to be unconscious and not sleeping, call the veterinarian and tell them that you are on your way with an emergency. Follow your veterinarian’s instructions. Even if the cat begins breathing or gets it’s pulse back in the process of CPR for cats, take the cat to the vet anyway.

CPR for Cats Step 2: Check for Breathing

First things first, take the cat’s collar off if it is wearing one, this could be obstructing breathing. Here are a few ways you can check to see if your cat is breathing:

  1. Feel for breath coming from the nose or mouth with your hand.
  2. Watch to see if the chest is expanding and contracting.
  3. Bluish or grey gums are a sign that your cat is not getting enough oxygen.

If you find that the cat is breathing, skip down to step 5.

CPR for Cats Step 3: Clear the Airway

Once you have determined that the cat is not breathing it is important to make sure that there is nothing in their mouth or throat that is keeping them from breathing. It is also important that the airway is clear so that your rescue breathing will be successful.

  1. With the cat lying on his belly, gently extend its neck out and lengthen the airway.
  2. Open the mouth and pull the tongue forward so you can see the cat’s throat.
  3. Remove any film or objects you might find with your finger. Use tweezers if necessary. However, if there is a string lodged in the cat’s throat, DO NOT pull it out yourself. It may be wrapped around in the cat’s stomach or intestines and pulling it could cause further damage.
  4. In the case that the cat may have water in their lungs, it may be necessary to hold the cat upside down so that the water drains out through the mouth.

If the cat does begin to breathe on its own, skip step 5.

CPR for Cats Step 4: Rescue Breathing

At this point you will begin nose-to-mouth breathing for your cat.

  1. With the head lengthened out from the body, wrap your mouth around the cat’s nose and mouth. Be sure to form a seal around both so that none of the air you are putting in escapes.
  2. Take a deep breath and blow firmly into the cat’s mouth and nose. You should see the chest expand as you do this. If the chest does not expand, you may not have a complete seal around the mouth and nose or something may still be obstructing the airway.
  3. Let the cat “exhale.” The body will naturally expel the air after you have put it in.
  4. Continue the cycle of breath/exhale at a rate of 10-30 breaths per minute.

If the cat begins to breathe on its own, there is no need to continue with the rescue breathing described in Step 7.

CPR for Cats Step 5: Check for a Pulse

You will need to locate one of the cat’s femoral arteries.

CPR for Cats - Cinco's femoral arteries

Cinco showing off his femoral arteries for us.

  1. Place the cat on its back or right side (it will need to be on its right side for step 6).
  2. Place a few fingers on the cat’s inner thigh where the leg and body meet. You should be able to feel the cat’s pulse here.

If your cat has a pulse, DO NOT proceed with chest compressions.

CPR for Cats Step 6: Chest Compressions

Now you begin to pump the heart for your cat. You could get tired very quickly and it is recommended that if it is at all possible, you switch who is performing CPR every 2 minutes.

  1. Lay the can on its right side.
  2. Move the front leg back to the body and take note of where the elbow meets the body.
  3. Place your hand around the cat’s chest at about the place where the elbow met the body.
  4. Squeeze firmly compressing about a third of the chest space.
  5. A cat’s heartbeats at 100 – 120 beats per minute, so you will need to do 2 compressions per second.

CPR for Cats Step 7:  Alternate Compressions and Rescue Breathing

After every 30 compressions, give 2 more rescue breaths. Don’t panic if you loose count somewhere – just keep going. You should check from time to time to see if the cat has begun breathing on its own or if its pulse has returned. If the cat regains consciousness or has a pulse, stop CPR. Otherwise, continue CPR until you get to the veterinarian’s office and they take over care.

The video below gives a brief overview of CPR for cats.

Would you ever consider becoming certified in CPR for Cats?

Do you know what to do if your cat goes into cardiac arrest? These 7 easy-to-understand steps could help you save your cat's life.

Helping kitties one step at a time. 🙂