What Is a Fast or Slow Heart Rate for a Cat?

Posted by Dr. Roth on

What is a fast of slow heart rate for a cat?

Every now and then, a pet parent will snuggle with their cat and think, Wow, their heart is beating really fast! Then the pet parent’s heart will start racing. Is something wrong? What’s a normal heart rate for a cat?

So it’s no wonder that heart rate is one of the most common cat health topics that vets get asked about. It turns out that “fast is normal,” but there are exceptions to be aware of.

Cats Have Fast Heartbeats

Most cats have resting heart rates around 160 beats per minute, but that number could be as high as 220 if the cat has been exercising. 

For comparison, most humans have a resting heart rate between 60 and 100 beats per minute. That puts a cat’s resting heart rate around twice a human’s. Which makes it easy to understand why a pet parent assumes their cat’s heart is racing.

Don’t compare apples to apples, or cats to humans. If a cat ever seems like their heart is racing or sluggish, take the cat’s pulse and compare it to the average cat heartbeat..

How to Check a Cat's Heart Rate

Snuggling with a cat may be the sweetest way to feel their heartbeat, but it’s not the most accurate way to take a pulse. 

1. Find the Pulse Point

Cats have pulse points, just like humans do, but they’re located in different places. For most cats, the strongest pulse point will be on the inside of each back leg, in a slight recession about halfway between the front and back of the leg. 

Pet parents can also test a cat’s heart rate by feeling for a space on the cat’s left side, immediately behind that front leg. This is a great place to feel for a pulse if a cat won’t tolerate having their back legs touched. With a gentle enough touch, it can feel like welcome affection.

2. Calculate Beats Per Minute 

To find the cat’s pulse, place two fingers on the pulse point and feel for that sense of something lifting underneath. It feels a lot like taking a human pulse inside of the wrist.

Either feel the number of pulses in 10 seconds and multiply by 6 or feel for the number in 15 seconds and multiply by 4. The total is the cat’s heart rate in beats per minute.

When (and When Not) to Be Concerned

Some cats have resting heart rates on the low end of the scale, sometimes as low as 140. Other cats have fast heartbeats even while they’re sleeping, and it’s normal for pet parents to wonder if that’s a problem.

If a cat’s resting heart rate suddenly jumps above or dips below the normal range, look for other signs of heart distress:

  • ‌Lethargy
  • ‌Poor appetite
  • ‌Struggling to breathe while resting

‌Breathing problems can be a sign of heart disease, even without heart rhythm issues, so check in with a vet if a cat ever seems to struggle to breathe.

For more cat advice, including information about the normal heart rate for a cat, become a Fuzzy member today and access 24/7 Live Vet Chat. The Fuzzy Vet Team is available as an on-demand cat health source, ready and willing to answer pet parents’ most pressing questions.

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