Cat Vital Signs-Respiration, Heartbeat and More


Cat vital signs

Normal vital signs for healthy adult cats

  • Respiration – 20 to 30 breaths per minute in a cat at rest
  • Pulse – 130 to 240 beats per minute
  • Temperature – 100 to 103 F (37.7-39.4C)
  • Capillary refill time – 1 to 2 seconds

How to take your cat’s temperature:

This is really best to be performed with two people, one to hold the cat and the other to take the temperature. Let your cat’s behaviour guide you, if he/she becomes stressed or has a history of being difficult to handle when being medicated etc., then it is safer for you to seek the help of your veterinarian.

  • Shake down the column of mercury until it reads 96F, then lubricate the bulb tip with petroleum jelly.
  • Grasp the base of your cat’s tail and lift it.
  • Insert the lubricated end of the thermometer about halfway into your cat’s rectum and hold it in place for 3 minutes.
  • Remove the thermometer, wipe it clean with a tissue and read the silver column of mercury.
  • Clean the thermometer with alcohol.

How to check your cat’s pulse/heartbeat:

  • To check the pulse, feel for the femoral artery which is located close to the surface on the inside of the thigh at the groin.
  • I found it difficult to find the femoral artery to check the pulse, another method which I found much easier was to feel the heartbeat. To do this press against the rib cage over the heart. With the cat standing, feel the pulse just behind the elbow.
  • Count the number of beats in 15 seconds and then multiply by 4 to get the total number per minute.

How to check a cat

How to check your cat’s respiration:

One respiration is an inhalation and exhalation.

  • Count how many times the chest rises and falls in a 15 second period. Remember, one rise and fall = one respiration.
  • Multiply the figure by 4 to get the total respiration rate per minute.

Checking your cat’s capillary refill time:

  • Lift up the cat’s upper lip and place your finger on the gum above the upper teeth, apply a moderate amount of pressure so that the gum turns white.
  • Remove your finger and count how long it takes for your cat’s gums to return to their normal pink colour.

Assessing your cat’s gums:
normal colour of cat gums

Normal gum colour is a light pink (as in the image above). Gum colour can paint a picture of your cat’s health.

  • Bright red gums – Heat stroke or gum disease
  • White gums – Anemia, blood loss or shock
  • Blue gums – Lack of oxygen
  • Yellow gums – Jaundice
  • Dry, tacky gums are an indicator that your cat is dehydrated

Comparative age of cats to humans:

Human years Cat Years Human Years Cat Years
1 15 11 61
2 25 12 65
3 29 13 69
4 33 14 73
5 37 15 77
6 41 16 81
7 45 17 85
8 49 18 89
9 53 19 93
10 57 20 97

Gestation period in cats:

The gestation period for a cat is 63-65 days. This varies between cat though, and anywhere between 60 to 70 days is normal.

How to tell if your cat is pregnant:

Unlike humans, it is not possible to determine a pregnancy via a blood or urine test in cats. However, there are often indicators that your cat is pregnant, some signs include:

  • Third week of pregnancy, the cat’s nipples will become enlarged and pink.
  • Fourth week of pregnancy, she should have gained enough weight to make her pregnancy visible.
  • By 3-4 weeks your veterinarian should be able to palpitate the abdomen and feel the babies.

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