Caring 4 Kittens
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Emergency Care


Any time a cat requires artificial respiration is an emergency. Contact your veterinarian immediately, head for the clinic while continuing attempts at resuscitation.

Determining if death has occurred

If death has already occurred there is no point in performing artificial respiration.

Place your ear on the unconscious cat’s chest and listen for a heartbeat. Each heartbeat consists of a strong low-pitched thud, followed by a less intense, higher pitched thud, followed by a pause.

Then feel for a pulse. Place your fingers at the middle of the inside surface of the rear leg near the point where the leg meets the body.

The heart rate and pulse rate should be the same. It is easiest to count the heart or pulse rate for fifteen seconds, than multiply by four to calculate the rate per minute.

Normal cats have heart rates between 165 and 200 beats per minute.

If no pulse or heartbeat is detectable and the pupils are dilated and non-responsive to light, it is probable that death has occurred.

Artificial respiration

Open the cat’s mouth. Pull out the tongue, and look as far back into the throat as possible to see if there are any obstructions. Wipe away any excessive mucous, or blood in the throat that might interfere with the flow of air.

Extend the cat’s head and neck. Then close the cat’s mouth. Inhale.

Holding the cat’s mouth closed, place your mouth over his or her nose (cover it completely) and exhale.

Watch for the chest to expand as you blow.

Remember a cat’s lungs are smaller than yours so you will not need to expel all the air from your lungs.

After inflating the lungs, remove your mouth to allow the chest to return to its original (deflated) position.

Repeat the inflation-deflation cycle twelve to twenty-four times per minute as long as necessary.


If you cannot feel a pulse or heartbeat in an unconscious and non-breathing cat, you may try external cardiac compression.

Cardiac massage must be combined with artificial respiration if any benefit is to be gained. Irreversible damage to the brain is believed to occur after three minutes without oxygen.

Place the cat on his or her side on a firm surface. Place your hands on the side of the chest over the heart and compress the chest firmly. Then completely release the pressure.

Don’t be rough, but don’t worry too much about damage to the chest.

The compression release cycle should be repeated 120 times per minute.

Intersperse an artificial respiration for every ten cardiac compressions. If someone is helping you give a respiration at the same time as every other heart compression.

Don’t expect the animal to revive during your attempts at resuscitation before obtaining veterinary services.

If consciousness resumes, however, keep the cat warm and quiet and proceed to a veterinary hospital.

These procedures put the resuscitator at significant risk of accidental injury and should be undertaken only by those willing to assume such risk.

Newborn kittens

If the queen doesn’t break the amniotic sac covering the kitten’s head within a minute or two, you should.

Hold the kitten in your hands or wrapped in a towel. Support the head so it doesn’t swing freely, than move the whole kitten vigorously in a wide arc from about chest to knee level. At the end of the arc the kitten’s nose should point to the ground.

Another method to remove excess fluids is to put your mouth over the kittens nose and mouth and suck.

Be careful not to suck to hard as this may cause the lung to collapse.


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