Cat Vital Signs-Respiration, Heartbeat and More

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  • Normal Health Ranges in Cats at a Glance

    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
    Gestation period 61 to 63 days

    How to take your cat’s temperature

    This is 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 a 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 challenging to find the femoral artery to check the pulse, another method that 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 amount per minute.

    How to check your cat’s respiration

    One respiration is 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 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 a cat’s gums

    The 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 – Heatstroke 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.

    Signs of pregnancy in cats

    Unlike humans, it is not possible to determine a pregnancy via a blood or urine test in cats.

    • 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 palpate the abdomen and feel the babies.