Checking cat's heart beat

Q. My cat seems to have a fast heart rate. What's normal, and how can I tell if my cat's OK?

A. A cat’s heart normally beats between 140 and 220 times per minute, with a relaxed cat on the lower end of the scale. It’s not unusual for a heartbeat to be high at the veterinarian’s, since cats don’t like being away from home, and they certainly don’t like being poked and prodded by strangers.

To take your cat's heart rate, you need a watch that clicks the seconds off visibly. Put your hand over your cat’s left side, behind the front leg. You’ll feel the heart pulsing beneath your fingers (if you can’t, you might talk to your veterinarian about getting some of the fat off your cat). Count the beats while 15 seconds clicks off your watch; multiply by four to get the BPM, or beats per minute.

While you’re at it, you might as well check out your cat’s respiration rate. Step back and watch your cat when he’s relaxed and standing. Count the number of times the abdomen and chest wall move in 60 seconds. A normal cat takes 15 to 25 breaths per minute. Normal feline body temperature is 100 to 102.5 degrees, read from a lubricated thermometer (petroleum jelly will do) gently inserted where the sun doesn’t shine.

If you come up with an abnormal reading (or have other concerns), get your cat to your veterinarian for a follow-up.