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How Do I Give CPR to a Cat? Step-by-Step Guide

Written by: Lorre Luther

Last Updated on June 7, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

performing pulmonary rescucitation with an ambu bag on a cat

How Do I Give CPR to a Cat? Step-by-Step Guide

Feline cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a skill every cat companion should master. It doesn’t require you to learn a ton of jargon or master multiple veterinary medical techniques, but in an emergency, providing CPR can be the difference between your cat making it to the veterinarian or not. CPR and assisted breathing essentially keep oxygen body moving through your cat’s body if its heart stops beating 1.

The process is most efficiently performed by two people: one to breathe for the cat and another to perform heart compressions. While CPR and assisted breathing can buy a bit of time until a veterinarian can see your pet, unfortunately, most cats that require this sort of intervention ultimately don’t survive 2. Read on for a step-by-step guide to doing CPR on a cat.

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Cats often don’t recover if they’ve reached the point of requiring CPR at home. So it’s critical to do everything possible to avoid needing to resuscitate your cat due to an avoidable emergency. Take the time to cat-proof your home. Get rid of plants such as lilies that are toxic to cats. Install child locks on cabinets where you keep cleaning supplies and other products like essential oils your cat shouldn’t get into.

Take your pet to a veterinarian for a yearly wellness checkup. Senior cats should be seen at least twice a year. Regular veterinary visits and blood work are essential to catching chronic diseases early.

Keep an eye on your cat’s overall health and have them seen immediately if they start having trouble breathing, begin experiencing seizures, or become super lethargic. Sick cats that don’t receive the care they need only get worse, often collapsing and losing consciousness if the underlying condition isn’t addressed. Late discovery of feline diseases often results in fewer potential treatment options and increased mortality.

veterinarian doctor holds cat
Image Credit: H_Ko, Shutterstock

But even if you do everything you can to ensure your cat remains safe and healthy, a situation may arise in which you need to provide CPR. But before you begin CPR, assisted breathing, or any other medical intervention, you first need to determine if your cat is unconscious but breathing or unconscious and no longer breathing on their own.

If your cat is unconscious but breathing on their own, take your pet to the emergency veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment. If your cat isn’t breathing on their own, but their heart is beating, assisted breathing might be all that’s required. CPR with assisted breathing may be needed if your pet has stopped breathing and their heart is no longer beating. To determine if the cat is breathing, look at the animal’s chest to see if there’s movement. Put your ear close to your cat’s nose to hear faint breath sounds better. Below you’ll find the steps involved in feline-assisted breathing and CPR.


How to Give CPR to a Cat

1. Remove Any Obstructions

Open your cat’s mouth and take a good look inside. To ensure your pet’s airway is clear before you begin assisted breathing, use your finger to remove any obvious obstructions. Bring your cat’s tongue to the very front of their mouth and use your hand to close their jaw.

2. Breathe Into Your Cat’s Nose

Straighten your cat’s neck to open the passageway from your cat’s nose to their lungs. While keeping your cat’s mouth shut with your hand, breathe into your pet’s nose. Use short puffs instead of long hard breaths. Aim for about one puff every 4 or 5 seconds.

3. Keep Going for 3 to 5 Breaths

Give your cat anywhere from three to five puffs of air, then check to see if their heart is beating. If your cat’s heart is beating, but they’re still not breathing, keep going with the assisted breathing. Around 10 puffs per minute are the ideal assisted breathing rate when a cat’s heart is beating but they’re not breathing on their own.

4. Determine If You Need to Begin Chest Compressions

If your cat still doesn’t have a heartbeat after the first round of assisted breathing, consider administering chest compressions. Ideally, you’ll be able to quickly find someone willing to help, as administering CPR and performing assisted breathing simultaneously requires two people.

5. Begin Chest Compressions

To perform CPR on your cat, lay your pet on their side, encircle their chest with your hand, and squeeze rhythmically—aim for around 100 compressions per minute. You’ll want the chest to decrease by about ⅓ during each compression. Use gentle but firm pressure to ensure sufficient compression.

6. Continue Assisted Breathing

Keep count of the compressions and deliver one puff of air for every 15 squeezes. It’s best to perform feline CPR with two people—one who can concentrate on heart compressions and another to provide assisted breathing. Delivering compressions can actually be quite fatiguing, so it helps to have a second person who can step in. Compressions should be counted aloud to facilitate chest compression and assisted breathing coordination.

7. Switch Places to Avoid Fatigue

Switch places every 2 minutes with your fellow first-aid colleague to fight fatigue and ensure your pet receives the support they need until veterinary assistance becomes available. Continue with assisted breathing and chest compressions until your cat can breathe on their own or a veterinarian is treating them.

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Unfortunately, most cats that require CPR don’t survive even after they make it to the veterinarian. The best option is to take your cat to the veterinarian immediately if they start exhibiting signs of serious illness, such as difficulty breathing, seizures, lethargy, blood loss, diarrhea, or vomiting.

You can prevent chronic feline illnesses from sneaking up on you with regular veterinary checkups and blood tests to keep track of your pet’s kidney and liver functions. Please don’t wait until there’s a crisis at home before getting your cat the necessary medical care.

Featured Image Credit: Lebedko Inna, Shutterstock

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