Shock in Cats – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

What is shock?     Symptoms      Emergency care      Treatment


Shock in cats


Shock is a life-threatening condition defined as a lack of blood flow which results in the body not receiving enough oxygen and nutrients.   Any condition which affects the heart, vessels or blood volume can induce shock. [1] If not recognised and treated immediately it can be fatal.

There are several different types of shock including:

  • Hypovolemic – The most common type of shock, caused by decreased blood volume (such as with blood loss).
  • Cardiogenic – Caused by decreased blood circulating the system due to damage to the heart.
  • Septic – Drop in blood pressure caused by bacterial infection circulating in the blood.
  • Anaphylactic shock – Drop in blood pressure due to a severe allergic reaction.

What causes shock in cats?


  • Weak and rapid pulse. Your cat’s normal pulse is between 160 – 240 per minute.
  • Pale skin and mucous membranes.
  • Difficulty standing.
  • May be unaware of their surroundings.
  • Gums first turn dark pink or red, then become grey.
  • Shallow but rapid breathing (greater than 40 per minute).
  • Slow capillary refill time.
  • Hypothermia (decreased body temperature).
  • Panting.

Emergency care:

  • Keep yourself and your cat as calm as possible.
  • Proceed with artificial breathing if your cat is not breathing on his own.
  • If no heartbeat or pulse, administer CPR.
  • If unconscious, check that the airway is open. Clear secretions from the mouth with your fingers.
  • If bleeding, control by applying direct pressure to the wound.
  • Place a towel or blanket on your cat to keep him/her warm.
  • Don’t give anything to eat or drink.
  • Keep your cat’s head lower than the heart to maintain blood flow to the brain.
  • Proceed to your vet immediately.


Treatment is aimed at providing supportive care and restoring and maintaining blood flow along with addressing the underlying cause.

  • Stemming blood loss
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Intravenous fluids
  • Providing external warmth (if suffering from hypothermia)

Shock is extremely serious and can quickly kill if not treated immediately. If your cat has been hit by a car but appears happy and well it is still important to take him to the veterinarian for a check-up because he may be in shock without you knowing.


[1] Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook – Delbert G. Carlson.

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