Cat Vital Signs: What Is Considered Normal?

What is a "normal" heart rate for your cat? How long are cats pregnant for? Does a body temperature of 102.5 F mean that your cat has a fever?

Becoming familiar with what is normal and what is not helps you identify health problems for your cat. If you visit the veterinarian at the first sign of a cat's illness, it is often a less expensive visit and your cat is more likely to have a favorable outcome.

  • 01 of 05

    Body Temperature

    Pretty gray cat with green eyes in home

    Purple Collar Pet Photography / Getty Images

    Feline "normal" body temperature range is 100.5 to 102.5 F/38.0 to 39.2 C. A body temperature below 100 or above 103 F warrants a call to your veterinarian. Keep in mind that some cats may become stressed in the veterinary office (or on the car ride to the office), and may seem to have a higher-than-normal body temperature temporarily.

    Guessing body temperature by the seeing moisture on the nose is not accurate. Sometimes a fever can be noticed by how warm the ears feel, but this is also not a reliable method. Really the only reliable way to check your cat's temperature is via a rectal thermometer. Luckily, taking your cat's temperature is a test that can be done by the owner at home; your veterinarian can show you how.

  • 02 of 05

    Respiratory Rate

    Sleeping cat by a window
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    A normal cat respiratory rate (number of breaths per minute) is 16 to 30 breaths per minute. Normal respiratory rates are assessed when the cat is at rest. To count your cat's breathing rate, watch the rise and fall of the body wall (rib cage) as the cat is lying down or sitting. Start your count from zero. Count for 30 seconds and then multiply by two.

    A cat that is in pain is experiencing heart or respiratory problems, is suffering from heatstroke, or is stressed, will usually have an increased respiratory rate. It is important to gauge the overall situation and condition of the animal to assess the respiratory rate. It is not normal for a cat to pant or breath with their mouth open. If you see this, your cat should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

    Other situations you should be aware of when it comes to a cat's respiratory system, the same as with humans, are upper respiratory infections and respiratory system allergies.

  • 03 of 05

    Heart Rate

    Two cats relaxing on a green cushion
    Akimasa Harada / Getty Images

    A normal cat's heart rate is 140 to 220 beats per minute. To count your cat's heart rate, place your hand just under the left "armpit" behind the front leg, and you'll be able to feel the heart as it thumps. Start your count from zero. Count for 15 seconds and then multiply by four. When stressed, heart rates will increase, so a relaxed cat should be on the lower end of the range, and an active or stressed cat should be on the higher end of the range. Cats that suffer from heart disease, heart conditions (cardiomyopathy), or other diseases such as hyperthyroidism, may have increased resting heart rates of greater than 220 beats per minute in some cases.

  • 04 of 05

    Pregnancy

    A pregnant cat sleeping

    rkimpeljr / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

    On average a feline pregnancy lasts 63 days but can vary from 57 to 69 days. Non-spayed female cats will go into a "heat" seasonally from spring through fall and may go into heat several times during the season. The period of heat lasts an average of about a week but can vary from three to 14 days. If a cat has been going through heat cycles every 10 days to two weeks, and then suddenly stops, it is very likely that she is pregnant.

    The only safe way to avoid a cat pregnancy is to consider spay surgery. The best time to spay a cat is a hotly debated issue, but most veterinarians currently recommend spaying around six months which is right before they are expected to have their first heat. Waiting to spay until after a cat goes into heat not only puts them at risk of getting pregnant, it also increases their risk of developing breast cancer which is a very aggressive form of cancer in cats.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Number of Teeth

    Young red cat shows his teeth
    Jean-Philippe Tournut / Getty Images

    Cats start out with 26 deciduous (baby) teeth. By six months of age, these baby teeth fall out and are replaced by 30 permanent adult teeth.

    If the baby teeth do not fall out and the permanent teeth erupt underneath them, this can lead to dental problems, such as increased tartar buildup, an uneven bite, and gum irritation. It is usually a good idea to have these retained teeth removed at the time of spay or neutering while they are already under anesthesia.

    The responsible cat owner is always on the lookout for bad breath. This can sometimes be a sign that something is wrong with the health of your kitty. Also, it's a good idea to learn how to brush your pet's teeth. Clicker training can help immensely in teaching any handling skills that you and your cat of any age need to have in support of good health.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.