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Normal Cat Heart Rate: What Should It Be?

Cat head tilt wondering what a normal cat heart rate is
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When we go to the doctor’s office, they almost always record our heart rate as part of our visit. The same is true for our feline family members when they go to the veterinarian. You might be wondering what a normal cat heart rate is and what changes to their heart rate mean. Read on to learn more!

Why Understanding a Cat’s Heart Rate Matters

Measuring your cat’s heart rate on a regular basis gives you an idea of your cat’s baseline. Significant changes from normal can alert you and your veterinarian to potential changes in your cat’s health. Some conditions, like hyperthyroidism or a heart arrhythmia, can cause a change in heart rate. You’re also likely to see an increase in heart rate when your cat is experiencing fear or pain. Determining what is causing the change in heart rate helps your veterinarian decide if treatment is necessary and what the treatment plan should be.

What Is a Normal Cat Heart Rate?

Cat looking up to camera at home

When we’re talking about a “normal” cat heart rate, we must consider whether we’re looking at an adult cat or a kitten. A normal cat heart rate for an adult cat is 140 to 220 beats per minute (bpm). Kittens usually have a significantly higher heart rate at rest than a mature cat, and it’s not abnormal for a kitten to be closer to 300 bpm.

Heart rates will also be higher in the veterinary clinic than at home because cats are often anxious and stressed in the clinic despite the veterinarian’s best efforts to be gentle and fear-free.

Physical activity also increases a cat’s heart rate. A cat lounging in a sunny window seat at home will usually have a lower heart rate than a cat with the zoomies or one who is vaulting cat trees.

We have created a cat heart rate chart to help you understand what’s normal, low, and high in an adult cat. You may find variation in what is listed as a normal heart rate for cats. When in doubt, we recommend you discuss concerns with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can help you determine what is normal for your cat and if you should be concerned about your cat’s heart rate.

Adult Cat Heart Rate Chart

Critically LowUnder 100 beats per minute
Low100 – 140 beats per minute
Normal140 – 220 beats per minute
HighOver 220 beats per minute

Keep in mind that each cat is an individual, so what’s normal for one cat may not be normal for another. If your cat’s heart rate is normally 150 bpm at rest, but you’re noticing that it’s consistently 210 bpm, then you may contact a veterinarian even though they’re still in the “normal” range.

If you feel your cat’s heart rate is abnormal, you need to determine if this can wait for a normal appointment or if it’s an emergency. If your cat is acting otherwise normal, you can likely just contact your veterinarian. If your cat is fainting, acting disoriented, repeatedly vomiting, or yowling in pain, these are signs you should see an emergency veterinarian.

Low heart rates are quite uncommon in cats. Once your cat falls below 100 beats per minute, they’re likely to experience fainting or loss of consciousness. This warrants a trip to the emergency veterinarian.

Abnormal Heart Rates in Cats

Cat with an abnormal heart rate at the vet

When listening to your cat’s heart rate, your veterinarian isn’t just taking a heart rate. They’re also listening for abnormal heart sounds, such as heart murmurs, or abnormalities in how the heart beats, called an arrhythmia. There is some interplay between heart murmurs, arrhythmias, and heart rate. While you as a pet owner may not be able to specifically recognize heart murmurs and arrhythmias, if you’re familiar with what’s normal for your cat, you may be able to pick up on changes.

If your cat’s heart beats with a normal rhythm but is faster than normal, this is called sinus tachycardia. Your cat may have a physiologic elevation in their heart rate. This means the heart rate is increased due to a normal stimulus. Normal situations in which your cat’s heart rate may increase include:

  • Excitement
  • Exercise
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Painful stimuli

Heart rate can also increase due to illness and disease. Pathologic causes of a high heart rate in cats could include:

  • Anemia or blood loss
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Infections
  • Blood clots
  • Abnormal electrical activity within the heart or arrhythmias

If your cat’s heart beats at a normal rhythm but is slower than normal, this is called sinus bradycardia. Causes of decreased heart rates in cats include:

  • Unconsciousness
  • Sedatives
  • Anesthesia
  • Seizures
  • Abnormal electrical activity within the heart or arrhythmias

How to Check a Cat’s Heart Rate

Cat laying down at the vet having their heart checked

Usually, it’s best to leave heart rate monitoring in cats to a veterinarian. If your cat has a significant change in their heart rate that requires medical attention, they typically have other signs that will alert you that they should see a veterinarian. Measuring your cat’s heart rate on your own can easily lead to a lot of anxiety for you. Keep in mind that veterinarians are trained not only to detect an abnormal heart rate but also abnormal heart sounds and rhythms.

If you are wanting to monitor your cat’s heart rate at home, there are two easy ways. In a lot of cats, particularly those who aren’t overweight, you can gently apply pressure with your hand on the underside of their chest between the two front legs and feel the heartbeat. You can also purchase a cheap stethoscope online that will allow you to listen to your cat’s heart. Cat hearts are easiest to hear on the left side of the chest behind and below the left armpit or in the middle of the chest between the two front legs.

Once you can feel or hear the heart, count how many times the heart beats over 15 seconds and multiply by four. This gives you the number of beats per minute.

Abnormal Cat Heart Rate: Next Steps

Cat looking up at home

If you suspect that your cat’s heart rate is abnormal, but your cat is otherwise acting like their usual self, you are usually safe just to call your veterinarian. They may recommend an appointment, or they’ll simply discuss your findings with you and determine if there is a cause for concern. If you notice your cat’s heart rate seems off and they’re not acting normal, consider seeking emergency attention for your cat.

If your veterinarian detects an abnormal heart rate, there are a few tests they may recommend running.

  • Chest X-rays: Chest X-rays allow your veterinarian to see the overall size of the heart and assess if the lungs look normal.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): An ECG involves sticking electrodes on your pet. This will create a waveform that allows the veterinarian to see if your pet’s heart has normal electrical activity. ECGs help determine if an arrhythmia is present, which can affect heart rate.
  • Echocardiogram: An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart. This test allows the veterinarian to see the individual chambers and walls of the heart. The veterinarian can see if blood is flowing normally through the heart and rule out tumors of the heart.
  • Blood work: Your veterinarian may want to run routine blood work. This can detect conditions like hyperthyroidism or infections that may affect heart rate. There are also blood tests that can detect damage to heart muscle, which your veterinarian may recommend.

If your cat has an underlying condition that is causing a change to the heart rate, such as hyperthyroidism or an infection, then treating the underlying condition should improve the change in the heart rate.

If the heart rate is abnormal due to a change in electrical activity within the heart (arrhythmia), then specific medications designed to improve arrhythmias may be recommended. Examples of medications that can be given to cats with arrhythmias include propranolol, atenolol, sotalol, and diltiazem, but it depends on your veterinarian’s specific findings. In severe cases, some medications may be given intravenously in the clinic. Rarely, a pacemaker may be recommended for a cat with an arrhythmia.

Your veterinarian is best suited to advise you on what’s normal for your cat. While it’s good to be knowledgeable about your cat’s heart health, we wouldn’t want you to get caught up in repeatedly checking your cat’s heart rate! Make sure you’re paying attention to other indicators of your cat’s health, such as their activity level, appetite, bathroom habits, and grooming behaviors. Pet parents will often notice changes in behavior that help the veterinarian figure out what’s going on and how to help our feline family members.