As a pet owner, it’s super important to know how to recognize if your cat has a fever. Just like with humans, when a cat has a fever, it’s usually a sign that something isn’t right. A fever can be a clue that something more serious is going on with your cat’s health.
I wanted to sharpen my skills so I could be confident in recognizing any warning signs that my cat may have, like a fever.
For a person, you can usually pick up on fever by placing your hand on the person’s forehead. But with cats, it’s quite different.
So, how can I tell if my cat has a fever? The most accurate way to check a cat’s temperature is with a rectal thermometer. A healthy feline temperature ranges from 100 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. You may also be able to detect a fever by feeling the cat’s ears, stomach, and armpits for abnormal warmth and by observing behavioral changes, such as lethargy.
Now that I know exactly how to use a thermometer safely, in addition to checking for other signs of increased temperature, I feel much better prepared to notice if my cats are suffering from a fever.
And if they are, I know a few things I can do to help remedy it before heading to the vet for a checkup.
If you care about your cat the way I care about mine, then you’ll definitely want to be prepared and familiarize yourself with the facts about feline fevers.
How to Tell If Your Cat Has A Fever
Being able to check your cat’s temperature at home can be an important skill.
In some cases, it can be that little push you need to take your feline in for a checkup with the vet.
And in other cases, seeing that her temperature is normal can be the comforting reassurance you need to carry on with the day.
With that said, some pet owners (myself included!) are somewhat intimidated by using a thermometer at first.
While a thermometer is the most accurate way to check if your cat has a fever, there are also some other steps you can take at home.
First of all, you may be able to tell if your cat has a fever by feeling her skin.
Some of the best places to check are the:
These are sensitive areas without as much fur, meaning you will be able to gain close contact with her skin.
If all of these areas feel considerably warmer than normal, there’s a good chance your cat has a fever.
The key words here are warmer than normal.
This implies that you know the normal feel of your cat.
Every feline has a slightly different temperature feel to them, and who better to know how your cat feels normally than you, the pet owner!
Let this be a good incentive to take note of the temperature your cat normally feels when you hold her on a good, healthy day.
Also, take note that all of those sensitive areas listed before (ears, stomach, and armpits).
They’re likely to feel warm to the touch if your cat has a fever.
If just one area, like the ears, feels warm, it’s not necessarily a sure sign that she has a fever.
My cat, for example, loves to sunbake out on the front porch in the heat of summer.
Sometimes she is out there for hours, and I have to literally pick her up and force her to come inside so she doesn’t overheat.
After lying in the sun, her ears are usually warmer than normal – but this doesn’t mean she has a fever!
It’s just a temporary effect from napping in the sun. This is why it’s important to check multiple areas for warmth and wait a bit to see if the warmth is persistent.
Another way to tell if your cat has a fever is to observe her behavior.
A change in behavior often coincides with a fever, because your cat is probably fighting off an infection or illness.
Lethargy and an aversion to food are two changes in behavior that may tip you off to a feline fever.
While these measures are good for every cat owner to know, the most accurate way to tell if your cat has a fever is to take her temperature with a thermometer.
For felines, a normal temperature can fall anywhere in the range of 100 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
A temperature reading that exceeds this range is referred to as pyrexia, which is the medical term for having a fever.
How to Take Your Cat’s Temperature Safely
If it’s necessary to take your cat’s temperature using a thermometer, it is absolutely essential that you learn how to do it correctly and safely.
When a thermometer is not used properly, it can lend to a false temperature reading.
But even worse, it can cause discomfort or harm to your cat.
There are different types of thermometers available for home usage.
# Glass thermometers: requiring you to be able to determine the numerical temperature yourself by gauging the dye level with the measuring ruler on the side of the thermometer.
# Digital thermometers: on the other hand, will show you the reading in numerical form once the temperature has been assessed.
Where you place the instrument also varies.
Some thermometers will take the reading from the ear.
In many cases, this is a much easier and pleasant experience for cats and their owners alike.
Alternatively, rectal thermometers require inserting the instrument into the cat’s rectum in order to get a proper temperature reading.
If using a rectal thermometer, be sure to follow the instructions that come with that particular thermometer.
It is incredibly important to perform a temperature reading safely and accurately so that your cat isn’t harmed in the process.
There are a few things you can do as a pet owner to help the process go more smoothly.
First, make your cat as comfortable as possible.
Your cat probably won’t like the idea of a rectal thermometer, so it can be a good idea to have a partner hold the cat securely and comfortably so that she doesn’t jump or jerk away when it’s time for the reading.
It is also helpful to lubricate the rectal thermometer with a water-based lubricant specifically intended for medical usage.
Then, carefully and slowly insert the thermometer about 1 inch into the cat’s rectum.
Be sure to do this gently, and don’t ever force the thermometer.
If you’re feeling resistance, stop and try again later.
You might be wondering how long to leave the thermometer in, which is one of the things I researched when looking into this topic.
Digital thermometers will beep when they are finished reading the temperature.
As soon as they beep, slowly slip the thermometer out and check the reading.
For glass devices, keep the thermometer inserted for two minutes before removing it to check the reading.
This will ensure enough time has passed for the thermometer to reflect an accurate temperature reading.
The key to this process is to be calm, gentle, and reassuring to your cat.
This may mean having a friend hold her securely and pet her while you take the temperature reading.
The last thing you want to do is stress your cat out, which can cause more harm.
If you feel unable to safely perform a temperature reading at home, take your cat to the vet.
They are experts for a reason!
Watching a vet take your cat’s temperature can also make you feel more comfortable with the process for the next time you suspect she has a fever.
What Causes Fever In Cats
Unfortunately, fevers aren’t typically a standalone symptom.
In other words, fever is usually paired with other noticeable symptoms, like lethargy, food aversion, or sneezing.
All of these symptoms are typically surface-level signs of an underlying health problem.
One of the most common feline health issues that can cause a fever is a bacterial infection.
This can stem from a scratch or bite mark that was inflicted outside, in a tussle with another cat, or after a run-in with another animal, such as a raccoon.
If your cat has an immune system deficiency, it can also result in a fever.
The best way to check for an immune system deficiency is to have your veterinarian run the proper tests.
The world can be a scary place out there – for indoor and outdoor cats alike!
Another cause of a feline fever can be exposed to a toxin or poisonous substance.
Many cleaning products and yard maintenance repellants can contain ingredients that are harmful to cats.
Be sure to use products responsibly and keep them stored away from your pets.
Finally, a fever may be a sign of something more serious.
Underlying medical disorders and diseases can cause fevers in felines.
If the fever lingers and does not seem to be getting better, consult your veterinarian to determine if an underlying medical disorder is to blame.
What to Do If Your Cat Has A Fever
The good news is that there are a few things you can do at home to alleviate your cat’s fever.
Many of these remedies are targeted at making the cat more comfortable, while some may even help to reduce the fever itself.
- Provide a cool space for your cat to rest.
This means adequate shade. Preferably, you should have a cool, dark room where the cat can relax and cool down.
- Creating a cold compress out of crushed ice wrapped in a thin towel or cloth can also provide respite.
Gently place the compress to your cat’s skin, rotating it to different areas.
- Encourage adequate hydration.
If a cat isn’t feeling well, it usually won’t have the same appetite or interest in drinking water as it normally would. Provide clean, cool water close by to help encourage the cat to stay hydrated.
Some sources claim that Echinacea and Sage can also help in fever reduction.
If you do decide to try this please consult your vet to see the dosage.
You can purchase essential oils from these plants and provide one or two drops to encourage fever reduction.
Finally, if the fever persists with no improvement, schedule a visit to the vet.
The vet will be able to pinpoint the cause of the fever and prescribe the appropriate antibiotics.
What is a cat’s normal temperature? A cat’s normal temperature can range from 100 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. A reading that exceeds 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit is classified as pyrexia or a fever.
Why are my cat’s ears hot? A cat may experience an elevated temperature at its ears if it has a fever or it is simply warmer than usual. Having warm ears is not necessarily a sure sign of a fever. To check for fever, take the cat’s temperature with a functioning thermometer or check other areas of the body, such as the armpits and stomach, as these areas will also be warm to the touch with a fever.
How long does a cat’s fever last? Some fevers may go away on their own after a few days. However, if a feline fever persists longer than 24 hours without signs of improvement, professional medical attention from a licensed veterinarian is recommended.