Heimlich Maneuver For A Choking Cat

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  • What is the Heimlich maneuver?

    Also called the hug of life, the Heimlich maneuver is a procedure used on a pet whose upper air passageway is blocked by a foreign object. Its purpose is to force the object out of the passageway by applying a sudden squeeze of pressure on the cat’s abdomen. This forces air up the windpipe and trachea and dislodges the object.

    Signs of choking in cats

    Pawing at the face, mouth and throat

    • Gagging
    • Anxious behaviour
    • Difficulty breathing
    • No breathing
    • Drooling
    • Forceful coughing
    • Loss of consciousness

    How to perform the Heimlich maneuver on a cat

    Open the cat’s mouth and pull his tongue forward, is it possible to remove the object with a finger sweep? Don’t perform a blind finger sweep as you may push the object further down. If this is not possible, you will have to continue onto the Heimlich maneuver below.

    • Remove the cat’s collar, if he is wearing one.
    • Pick up your cat and hold his back against your stomach, with his head up and his feet hanging down.
    • Place your fist just underneath the rib cage, you will feel the soft, hollow place easily.
    • Give four forceful thrusts with your fist (not your arms) inward towards your belly, while also applying an upwards pressure at the same time.
    • Check the mouth for the object with a finger sweep. If the object dislodges, it is no longer necessary to perform the Heimlich maneuver. If he is still not breathing, perform another check of the mouth as the object may have been dislodged enough to grab it with your fingers. Perform the Heimlich maneuver again if it still hasn’t been dislodged.
    • Check the ABC (airway, breathing, and circulation), and perform artificial respiration or CPR if necessary.
    • Seek veterinary attention immediately.

    Do not practice this procedure on an animal or person. Only use the Heimlich maneuver when absolutely necessary.


    • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

      Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She 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. Full author bio