Last Updated on October 27, 2020 by Julia Wilson
A reference for normal ranges in cats and kittens as well as timelines including pregnancy, kitten development, teething, worming, and vaccinations.
At a glance
|Capillary refill time||1 to 2 seconds|
|Respiration||20-30 breaths per minute|
|Heart rate||130 to 220 beats per minute (adults)|
200-300 beats per minute (kittens)
|Temperature||100 – 102.5°F (37.7 – 39.1°C).|
|Blood pressure||Systolic – 110 to 160mm/Hg (millimetres of mercury)|
Diastolic – 55 to 100mm/Hg
This is the number of breaths a cat takes per minute. To evaluate a cat’s respiration, watch the rise and fall of the chest when the cat is relaxed and resting. A cat who has just run two laps around the house is going to have an increased respiration rate, which is completely normal in those
Call the vet?
|Normal||20-30 breaths per minute||No|
|Increased respiration (tachypnea)||> 30 breaths per minute||Yes|
|Decreased respiration (bradypnea)||< 20 breaths per minute||Yes|
- Noisy breathing
- Laboured, open-mouthed breathing
- Change in gum colour (see below)
- Sitting position (all four feet on the floor) with head extended and possibly elbows pointing outward
- Loss of consciousness
The heart rate is the speed in which the cat’s heart beats. It is normal for the heart rate (and respiration) to increase during periods of activity or stress.
To check the cat’s heart rate feel for the femoral artery, which is located close to the surface on the inside of the thigh at the groin. Alternatively, 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 number per minute.
|Normal||130 to 220 beats per minute (adults)|
200-300 beats per minute (kittens)
|Slow heart rate (bradycardia)||> 120 beats per minute.||Yes|
|Elevated heart rate (tachycardia)||> 220 beats per minute.||Yes|
- Shortness of breath
- Open-mouthed breathing
- Reluctance to exercise
Capillary refill time
Capillary refill time (CRT) is a simple method to determine the amount of blood flow to the tissue. Capillaries are tiny blood vessels which are close to the surface of the skin. It is the capillaries which give the skin its pink colour.
The best place to check the capillary refill time is on your cat’s gums. To do this, lift your cat’s upper lip and press the flat of your finger against the gum tissue. Remove the pressure, and you will see a white mark on the gum where your finger was placed. Using a watch with a second hand, time how long it takes for the pink colour to return to the white spot. In the healthy cat, it should take around 1 – 2 seconds to return to pink.
Capillary refill time
Call the vet?
|1 to 2 seconds-Normal||No|
|2 to 4 seconds-Moderate to poor||Yes|
|> more than 4 seconds-Emergency||Yes|
|< less than 1 second-Emergency||Yes|
Blood pressure is the force in which the blood is exerted against the walls of the blood vessels.
There are two readings from blood pressure tests:
- Systolic – Is the pressure as the heart contracts
- Diastolic – Is the pressure as the heart relaxes and fills with blood
|Normal||Systolic – 110 to 160mm/Hg (millimetres of mercury)|
Diastolic – 55 to 100mm/Hg
|Low||Systolic – 90 – 100mm/Hg or lower|
Diastolic – 50mm/Hg or lower
|High||Systolic – 160mm/Hg or greater|
Diastolic – 100 – 110mm/Hg
The cat’s body temperature depends on age, reproductive status, time of day, state of consciousness (temperature drops during sleep), activity level and infection. Thermoregulation is the scientific term for regulating body temperature, which occurs in several ways.
- Change in location – Moving to a shady spot if it’s hot, moving to a sheltered spot, or into the sun if it’s cold.
- Vasoconstriction or vasodilation –Narrowing or widening of the blood vessels to restrict or increase blood flow. Blood carries heat, which is then when it reaches the surface of the
skin. So on hot days, the blood vessels dilate to increase blood flow to the skin; on cold days they constrict to reduce heat loss.
- Hairs – Hairs stand on end when the temperature falls; this improves the insulating properties of the skin and coat.
- Shivering – When the temperature drops and the above methods are no longer effective, your cat will shiver. This occurs when muscles begin to shiver slightly to produce warmth by
expending energy. Shivering can also occur in response to fever.
- Sweating – This isn’t as important in cats as it is in humans. Cats do sweat a little through their paws.
Call the vet?
|Normal temperature||100 – 102.5°F (37.7 – 39.1°C).||No|
|Fever (pyrexia)||Mild fever – 102.6 – 104°F (39.2 – 40°C) |
Severe fever – > 104.1°F (40.05°C)
|Low temperature (hypothermia)||Mild hypothermia: 95 – 99°F (35 – 37°C)|
Moderate to severe hypothermia: 90 – 95°F (32 – 35°C)
Never administer human over the counter medications such as ibuprofen or paracetamol to bring down a fever in cats as they lack the necessary liver enzymes to metabolise the drugs which can prove fatal.
Heatstroke is a condition caused by the body overheating when the normal body mechanisms are unable to maintain the temperature within a safe range. The most common cause of heatstroke is from exposure to excess heat. Kittens, seniors and cats with an underlying medical condition are most at risk, although heatstroke can occur in any cat exposed to high temperatures. As expected, heat stroke is far more common in the summer months.
Call the vet?
|100 – 102.5°F (37.7 -39.1°C).||No|
|Heatstroke||Mild – 102.6 – 103.9°F (39.2 – 40°C) |
Moderate –104 – 105°F (40 – 40.5°F)
Severe – > 106°F (40.55°C)
- Rapid panting
- Bright red tongue
- Dark red gums
- Salivating (drooling)
- Rapid pulse
- Wobbly gait
- Capillary refill time of less than 1 second. To test this, lift the cat’s upper lip and place a finger on the gum applying a small amount of pressure. Remove your finger, and you should see the gum has turned white. Time how long it takes for the area to turn pink again.
- Vomiting (possibly with blood)
- Diarrhea (possibly with blood)
The colour of the gums can give valuable clues as to underlying disease your cat may have.
What it means
Call the vet?
|Bright red gums||Heat stroke or carbon monoxide poisoning||Yes|
|Pale gums||Anemia, blood loss or shock||Yes|
|Blue gums||Lack of oxygen (cyanosis)||Yes|
|Brown gums||Methemoglobinemia (methaemoglobin in the blood)||Yes|
|Yellow gums||Jaundice (liver problems)||Yes|
|Redness along the gum margins||Gingivitis/gum disease||Yes|
Pregnancy lasts between 63-65 days on average. Most cats are capable of mating, and conceiving from six months of age. Cats will mate with siblings and parents.
|0-7 days||20-24 hours after mating, the zygote, consisting of two cells forms. 4 – 6 days after mating, the ball (known as morulae) consists of approximately 30 cells. Around five days after copulation, the morula enters the uterine horn. By ten days, some blastocysts have hatched.||There are no visible signs of pregnancy.|
|Week 2 (8-14 days)||Implantation occurs 12-13 days after ovulation.||Palpitation of the uterus is possible as early as day 15, round 1cm swellings within the uterus may be felt by an experienced veterinarian.|
|Week 3 (15-21 days)||An ultrasound can detect the pregnancy, and the fetal heartbeat is visible. By 21 days the unborn kittens are between 1.2 and 2.5 cm. The fetal heartbeat can be detected around 22 days.||The queen’s nipples will become pink and enlarged. This is known as ‘pinking up’. Some cats will develop morning sickness by the third week of pregnancy.|
|Week 4 (22-28 days)||The embryo is now a fetus. The eyes and limbs are clearly forming; the toes on the forelimbs are starting to separate. Your veterinarian will be able to feel individual fetuses as discrete masses at this stage.||By the fourth week of pregnancy, she should have gained enough weight to make her pregnancy visible.|
|Week 5 (29-35 days)||The fetus is now approximately 58mm long from crown to rump. The limbs continue to grow; the claws and paw pads are now obvious. It will be difficult to feel individual kittens by 35 days.||You may notice some behavioural changes in your cat; she may become more affectionate as her pregnancy progresses.|
|Week 6 (36-42 days)||The bones of the fetuses have mineralised by 40-45 days and can be seen on an x-ray. The ear flaps, tail and genitalia are now obvious. The claws are well developed.||The queen is obviously pregnant.|
|Week 7 (43-49 days)||The hair follicles are beginning to develop. The skin is becoming thicker, and the hair follicles are beginning to sprout hair.||By this stage, the queen is quite large and becoming uncomfortable. You should be able to see and feel the kittens moving around at this stage.|
|Week 8 (50-56 days)||By 56 days, the crown-rump length is 121 mm (4.76 inches). Pigmented hair now covers the body of the unborn kittens.||The queen is still growing in size; she will be slowing down now due to discomfort. She may have toileting accidents.|
|Week 9 (57-63 days)||By 60 days the kitten is approximately 145 mm (5.7 inches) long from crown to rump.||The queen may show signs of nesting; her behaviour may change. Some can become quite clingy with their family; others prefer to be alone. She may start to produce milk.|
|Birth to week 1||Kittens are born with eyes closed and ears folded. They weigh between 90-100 grams. The umbilical cord stump falls off around day three. By the end of the first week, the kitten has doubled his weight.|
|Week 2||Eyes begin to open (all young kittens have blue eyes). First baby teeth erupt.|
|Week 3||Ears are now erect. Some kittens begin exploring.|
|Week 4||Canine teeth (fangs) have erupted. Hearing is well developed.|
|Week 5||Eyesight is now fully developed. Kittens begin to try solid food.|
|Weeks 6-8||Eye colour begins to change. Kittens are now extremely active. They should receive their first vaccination at six weeks.|
Cats have two sets of teeth, the baby teeth which erupt at two weeks until 6 weeks. These begin to fall out around 11 weeks and are replaced by the adult teeth.
|26 (deciduous) baby teeth||30 (permanent) adult teeth|
When do the kitten’s teeth erupt?
|2 weeks||Deciduous (baby) incisors erupt|
|3 to 4 weeks||Deciduous (baby) canines (fangs) erupt|
|4 to 6 weeks||Deciduous (baby) pre-molars erupt|
|11 weeks||Baby teeth start to fall out and are replaced with the adult (permanent) teeth|
|16 weeks||Permanent incisors have erupted|
|20 weeks||Permanent canines (fangs) have erupted|
|24 weeks||All permanent premolars have erupted|
|6-7 months||Permanent molars come in in late kittenhood/early adulthood|
Kittens become infected with hookworms and roundworms via their mother when they are young kittens. Fleas spread tapeworm; even indoor cats can catch tapeworm.
Kitten worming schedule
|Every three months from then on|
Not all worming products can be used on very young kittens. Speak to your veterinarian about the most suitable worming product when treating kittens under 6 weeks of age. Panacur, Drontal and Beapar are suitable for two-week-old kittens. We have outlined some of the more popular worming products on our quick guide to cat worming products page.
Vaccinations are a way of preventing disease by introducing a weakened or killed form of the disease-causing organism. This stimulates an immune response which helps prevent the animal (or human) developing the full-blown disease should it be exposed to the pathogen in the future.
The most common vaccination in the cat is known as F3 or FCRVP; this is commonly referred to as F3 and is a core vaccine. This vaccine covers the following:
- Feline panleukopenia (feline enteritis/feline distemper)
- Feline herpes virus (cat flu)
- Feline calicivirus (cat flu)
Maternally derived antibodies (MDA) can affect the effectiveness of vaccines, which is why your kitten will require a series of THREE shots instead of just the one. Vaccinations in kittens should commence at 8 weeks of age. The guideline below is for the F3 (FCRVP) vaccine only.
Kitten vaccination schedule
|F3 (1st shot)||8 weeks|
|F3 (2nd shot)||12 weeks|
|F3 (3rd shot)||16 weeks|
|F3 (booster shot)||12 months|
|F3 (booster shot)||Every 12-36 months, as recommended by your veterinarian|
Rabies vaccination schedule
|First rabies vaccination||12 weeks|
|Rabies booster||Every 12 months|
Also called a chemistry profile, a biochemical profile is a series of tests your veterinarian may wish to perform to evaluate your cat’s health.
Performed on the clear/fluid portion of the blood, the biochemical profile evaluates a variety of bodily systems and can give an overall picture of how your cat’s organs are functioning.
Conventional (US units)
|Alanine aminotransferase (ALT)||5-130 u/L||5-130 u/L|
|Albumin (ALB)||24 – 41 g/L||2.4 – 4.1 g/dl|
|Alkaline phosphatase (ALP)||10-80 u/L||10-80 u/L|
|Amylase||500-1200 u/L||500-1200 u/L|
|Bilirubin-Total||0 – 6.84 u/L||0.0-0.5 mg/dL|
|Bilirubin-Direct||0 – 1.71 u/L||0.0 – 0.1 mg/dl|
|BUN||6.069 – 12.495 mmol/L||17 – 35 mg/dl|
|Calcium (Ca)||1.875 – 2.7 mmol/L||7.5 – 10.8 mg/dl|
|Chloride||111 – 125 mmol/L||111 – 125 mEq/l|
|Cholesterol (CHOL)||1.092 – 4.42 mmol/L||42 – 170 mg/dl|
|Creatinine||70.72 – 159.12 µmol/L||0.8 – 1.8 mg/dl|
|Glucose||3.85 – 8.25 mmol/L||70 – 150 mg/dl|
|Magnesium (Mg)||0.8-1.2 mmol/L||1.9-2.8 mg/dL|
|Phosphorous (P)||1.0659 – 2.4225 mmol/L||3.3 – 7.5 mg/dl|
|Potassium (K)||4.5 – 5.3 mmol/L||4.5 – 5.3 mEq/l|
|Sodium (Na)||147 – 156 mmol/L||147 – 156 mEq/l|
Complete blood count
A series of tests which evaluates the cellular components of blood (red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets). Vets often take this test to check for anemia, infections, and other health problems.
MCV-Mean corpuscular volume (fl)
Hematocrit (PCV) (%)
White blood cell (/µl)
Neutrophils (mature) (/µl)
Neutrophils (bands) (/µl)
0 – 300
Platelets (x 105/µl)
Plasma Proteins (g/dl)
Cat years to human years