Cat Vital Signs: What Is Considered Normal?

Temperature, Respiration, Heart Rate, and More

What is a "normal" heart rate for your cat? How long are cats pregnant for? Does a body temperature of 102.5 Fahrenheit 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/Moment/Getty Images

    Feline "normal" body temperature range is 100.5 to 102.5 Fahrenheit (38.0 to 39.2 Celsius). A body temperature below 100 or above 103 Fahrenheit 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; a veterinarian is not required.

  • 02 of 05

    Respiratory Rate

    Sleeping cat by a window
    Marser / Getty Images

    A normal cat respiratory rate (number of breaths per minute) is 16–40 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 in 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.

    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 120–140 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 30 seconds and then multiply by two. When stressed, heart rates will increase. If the cat is healthy, this will normalize once a cat calms down. Cats that suffer from heart disease, heart conditions (cardiomyopathy), or other diseases such as hyperthyroidism, may have increased resting heart rates of 200 beats per minute in some cases.

  • 04 of 05

    Pregnancy

    A pregnant cat sleeping
    " really pregnant cat" ( CC BY-SA 2.0) by  rkimpeljr

    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 in the spring and 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. To protect normal brain and organ development, the best time to spay a cat is "as late as possible" but right before it reaches sexual maturity, which is between 4 to 6 months old.

    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 might be 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.