Cat Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

Hopefully CPR is something that you will never have to use, but sometimes accidents happen and there isn’t enough time to get the cat to the vet for treatment, and it will fall on you, the cat’s carer to intervene with emergency first aid in order to keep your cat alive until you arrive at the veterinarian’s surgery and he can take over.

What is CPR?

CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR for short). It is a combination of mouth to mouth resuscitation and external heart compressions.

The purpose of this is to restore oxygen-rich circulation to the brain. Without oxygen, the cat will quickly die.

The following emergencies may require CPR

Shock, poisoning, prolonged seizures, coma, head injury, electric shock, obstructed airways.

There are three basic parts to CPR. ABC which stands for airway, breathing, and circulation.

Before you begin CPR on your cat

There are many possible reasons your cat’s heart may have stopped, some of which may be the result of an accident such as being hit by a car or electrocution. If your cat has been electrocuted is the danger still there? Before you touch your cat, ensure the electrical source has been turned off or moved. If your cat has been hit by a car and is still on the road, ensure that it is safe before going to the cat. Once you are with your cat you will need to check if your cat’s heart has stopped. To check this use the following methods:

  • Place your palm flat against his/her lower chest directly behind the left front elbow to feel for a heartbeat.
  • Observe the rise and fall of the chest.
  • Feel for a pulse. To do this, 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 (see image below).
  • Pinch your cat firmly between the toes to check for a response.
  • Feel for breath on the palm of your hand or your cheek.

checking a cat


Open the cat’s mouth and clear secretions or possible foreign body with your finger. If found, remove. If you cannot reach it with your finger or tongs, you will have to use the Heimlich maneuver.

Breathing (artificial respiration)

  • If your cat isn’t breathing but has a heartbeat then you will need to do artificial respiration on him. This must begin within minutes, so start artificial respiration immediately.
  • Lay the cat on a flat surface with his right side down. Tilt the head so the neck offers a straight passage into the lungs. Pull the tongue forward.
  • Place one hand around the muzzle to keep the mouth closed.
  • Put your mouth completely over your cat’s nose and mouth and blow gently into his nostrils. Watch to see if the lungs expand. Release to let the air come back out.
  • Give 20 breaths per minute until the cat breathes on his own or you reach a veterinarian.

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

  • This combines both artificial respiration with heart compressions.
  • If the cat isn’t breathing and his heart has also stopped you will need to begin CPR. It is best if there are two people to perform this, one for the breathing and one for the chest compressions.
  • Place your cat on his right side, on a flat, firm surface
  • Continue artificial respiration
  • Place the fingers and thumb on either side of the sternum, behind the elbows. Squeeze firmly, pressing in about 1 inch. Massage rate is 80 to 120 compressions per minute.
  • Perform 5 compressions for each breath.
  • Pause every 2 minutes to check for a pulse and spontaneous breathing.
  • Continue until the heart beats and the cat breathes on his own, or until you reach the veterinarian.
  • If your cat hasn’t been revived within 20 minutes there is little chance that he will be saved.


Julia Wilson is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. She enjoys photography, gardening and running in her spare time. Full author bio Contact Julia