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Heimlich Maneuver in Cats

What is the Heimlich manoeuvre?

Also known as the hug of life, the Heimlich manoeuvre is performed on a pet whose upper air passageway is blocked by a foreign object. It is designed to force the object out of the passageway by applying a sudden squeeze of pressure on the cat's abdomen, which forces air up the windpipe and trachea and dislodges the object.

What are the signs of choking in cats?

Pawing at the face, mouth and throat

  • Gagging

  • Anxious behaviour

  • Difficulty breathing

  • No breathing

  • Drooling

  • Forceful coughing

  • Loss of consciousness

How to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on a cat:

Open the cat's mouth and pull his tongue forward.  See if it possible to remove the object with a finger sweep. Don't perform a blind finger sweep as you may push the object further down. Be careful not to be bitten.  If this is not possible, you will have to continue onto the Heimlich manoeuvre below.

  • Remove the cat's collar, if he is wearing one.

  • Pick up your cat and hold his back against your stomach, with his head up and his feet hanging down.

  • Place your fist just underneath the rib cage, you will feel the soft, hollow place easily.

  • Give four forceful thrusts with your fist (not your arms) inward towards your belly, while also applying an upwards pressure at the same time.

  • Check the mouth for the object with a finger sweep. If the object has been dislodged, it is no longer necessary to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre. If he is still not breathing, perform another check of the mouth as the object may have been dislodged enough to grab it with your fingers. If it still hasn't been dislodged perform the Heimlich manoeuvre again.

  • Check the ABC (airway, breathing and circulation), and perform artificial respiration or CPR if necessary.

  • Seek veterinary attention immediately. Even if the object has been dislodged it is still strongly urged you see your veterinarian give your cat an overall check.

Do not practice this procedure on an animal or person. Only use when necessary.

Related content:

First aid kit for cats