Emergency 1 :: Vital Signs

This section focuses on feline vital signs:

  • Heart Rate
  • Temperature
  • Respiratory Rate
  • CRT
  • Mucous Membranes / Hydration Status

The following table is a guideline for normal feline vital signs. Please keep in mind that each individual kitty may exhibit differing vitals, especially in resting state and in exciteable or stressed states. This table is a baseline for healthy, adult cats.

Vital Signs (For normal healthy adult cats)

  • Heart Rate: 140 - 220 (beats per minute)
  • Temperature: 100.5 - 102.5 (in Farenheit)
  • Respiratory Rate: 24 - 42 (breaths per minute, in normal resting state)
  • CRT (Capillary Refill Time): < 2 seconds (less than 2 seconds)
  • Mucous Mebranes / Hydration Status: Healthy pink, moist, not dry or tacky / skin when tented, should snap back against the body instantly (color of gums / hydration status)


How To Check Vital Sings

Heart Rate:

  • Lay kitty on side (preferrably on right side, but either is fine)
  • Place hand over kitty's chest just behind the shoulder blade to feel for the pulse OR place hand inside groin area to feel for the femoral pulse
  • Count the heartbeats per minute (i.e., count beats for 15 seconds and multiply by 4)
  • Normal pulse at rest should be between 110 and 140 beats per minute. (If kitty has been recently active or excited, this can be significantly higher)

NOTE:  If kitty's heart rate is significantly higher or lower than the above normal range, please contact your vet for further instruction.



  • Lubricate the end of a rectal thermometer with a water-soluble lubricating jelly or petroleum jelly (K-Y jelly or Vaseline yellow petroleum jelly)
  • Insert thermometer into rectum 1/4 to 1/2 inch (no further)
  • Wait 2 minutes, or until thermometer beeps, remove thermometer and read results
  • Normal feline temperature is between 101 - 102.5 (F)

NOTE:  If kitty's temperature is significantly over or under the above range, please contact your vet immediately. Digital rectal thermometers are available at your local pharmacy and are much easier and safer to use than mercury thermometers. However, if you must use a mercury thermometer, make sure you shake it vigorously to get the mercury point to zero reading before insertion. It can take up to 3 minutes to achieve a reading on a mercury thermometer, thus, digitals are more efficient (it's also a good idea to keep a spare battery on hand for a digital thermometer, or buy a disposable type).


Respiratory Rate:

  • Kitty should be laying quietly in a relaxed position
  • Watch the chest rise and fall
  • Count the number or breaths kitty takes, for one minute
  • Normal resting respiratory rate is approximately 24-48 breaths per minute

NOTE:  If kitty's respirations are significantly higher or lower than the above range, please notify your vet immediately. If kitty's breathing is shallow, heavy, fast, labored, or if kitty is not breathing, contact an emergency vet ASAP. (please also take note of any gasping, gagging, coughing, etc in which case get kitty to an emergency vet ASAP).


CRT (Capillary Refill Time):

  • Pull back kitty's upper lip and find the gumline above her teeth
  • Gently press with your finger or thumb on the gum and release
  • The blood under the gum should return within 2 seconds
  • Normal CRT is 2 seconds

NOTE:  If kitty's CRT is less than or takes over 2 seconds for the blood to appear under the gum, please contact your vet immediately. * Pale, white, or dark red gums can signal an immediate emergency and require an immediate visit to your vet *


Mucous Membranes / Hydration Status:

  • Your kitty's mucous membranes are those of the gums and membranes found within the eyes and upper and lower eyelids
  • Pull back kitty's upper lips and examine her gums
  • Gently pull back kitty's lower eyelids and examine her coloring
  • Normal mucous membranes are a healthy pink in color, and are moist, also there should be tiny blood vessels present in the whites of her eyes
  • You can also test kitty's hydration status by performing the following: Gently pinch the skin behind and between kitty's shoulder blades, and lift up, (as in a tent), and immediately release. If the skin snaps back against the body in less than 1 second, kitty is most likely properly hydrated. If it takes longer than 1 second for the skin to snap back against the body, kitty may not be properly hydrated.

NOTE:  If your kitty's mucous membranes are pale, white or deep red, this can signal a serious health problem or emergency in which case please contact your vet immediately. Dry, sticky or tacky-feeling gums can signal dehydration, a serious matter if kitty is in a distressful situation. Other helpful indicators in establishing emergency situations include:

  • Bruising around the gums, and other areas of skin, such as the inner ears and abdomen areas, which can indicate severe anemia, blood loss or other critical situations
  • Jaundice or yellowing of the mucous membranes or skin, which can indicate kidney or liver problems
  • White or pale mucous membranes, blue, grey or purple mucous membranes, and white-colored skin can indicate severe blood loss, anemia, oxygen depletion and other critical situations
  • * If you note your kitty exhibiting any of the above signs, please contact an emergency vet ASAP *


CatHelp-Online wishes to remind you, if in doubt, call your vet!

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