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Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook


Artificial breathing is an emergency procedure used to exchange air in the unconscious cat. Heart massage is used when no heartbeat can be heardor felt. When heart massage is combined with artificial breathing, it is called cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). As cessation of breathing is soon followed by heart stoppage and vice versa, cardiopulmonary resuscitation is most often required in the life-threatening situation.

CPR can be performed by one person, but it is easier if two people are available. One does the breathing and the other does the heart massage.

The following emergencies may require artificial breathing or CPR:

Shock Head Injury
Poisoning Electric Shock
Prolonged Seizure Obstructed Airways (Choking)
Coma Sudden Death

Determine which basic life-support technique to employ in an unresponsive cat:

IS THE CAT BREATHING? Observe rise and fall of the chest. Feel for airagainst your cheek.

If YES, pull out tongue, clear airway. Observe.

If NO, feel for pulse.

DOES THE CAT HAVE A PULSE? Feel for the femoral artery located in the groin.

If YES, employ Artificial Breathing.

If NO, employ CPR.


1. Lay the cat on a flat surface with its right side down.

2. Open the mouth and clear secretions. Check for a foreign body. If found, remove. If impossible to reach, execute the Heimlich maneuver (see RESPIRATORY SYSTEM: Foreign Object in the Voice Box).

3. Pull the tongue forward and close the mouth. Place your mouth over the cat's nose. Blow gently into the cat's nostrils. The chest will expand. Release to let the air come back out. Excess air will escape through the cat's lips, preventing overinflation of the lungs and overdistension of the stomach.

4. If the chest does not rise and fall, blow more forcefully; or if necessary, lightly seal the lips with your hand.

5. The breathing rate is one every four to five seconds (12 to 15 per minute).

6. Continue until the cat breathes on its own, or as long as the heart beats.


1. Continue with mouth-to-nose breathing.

2. Prepare for heart massage. Place the fingers and thumb on either side of the sternum, behind the elbows.

3. Compress the chest firmly six times; administer a breath. Then repeat. Massage rate is 80 to 120 compressions per minute.

4. If possible, do not stop heart massage while administering a breath.
5. Pause every two minutes for 10 to 15 seconds to check for pulse and spontaneous breathing.

6. Continue until the heart beats and the cat breathes on its own, or until no heartbeat is felt for 30 minutes.

Heart massage.Note the placement of the fingers and thumb on either side of the sternum behind the elbow.



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