Mercury Rising: How To Tell If Your Cat Has A Fever

Posted on: 29 January 2016


A fever occurs when your cat's body temperature rises above the normal range in an immune response to infection, traumatic injury and certain diseases. Fever should always be considered a sign of illness. Taking your cat's temperature and observing for additional symptoms will determine how urgently your cat needs to get to the animal hospital for treatment.

Signs of a Fever

If your kitty is under the weather, you may observe the following signs of a potential fever:

  • Lethargy
  • Decrease in, or lack of, appetite
  • Decrease in water intake
  • Breathing more rapidly than usual

Depending on the cause of the fever, she may also exhibit symptoms of the underlying illness. In some cases, the source of the fever is never determined. Such cases are diagnosed as fevers of unknown origin.

The Nose Does Not Know

Contrary to the old wives' tale, a warm, dry nose is not indicative of a fever in your cat. Whether your cat's nose is warm, cold, dry or wet depends primarily on where her nose has been. Feeling your cat's outer ear can serve as a slightly better potential fever detector, but since your cat's normal body temperature range exceeds your own, your cat may always feel warm to your touch. Although your cat is not likely to appreciate the violation, the only accurate method for assessing your cat's temperature is to employ a thermometer.

Taking Her Temperature

Once you are armed with a digital rectal thermometer that has been lubricated with petroleum jelly, grab a partner. One of you should assume the task of restraining your kitty while the other takes her temperature. Gently lift your cat's tail and insert the thermometer into the rectum. Once it has been inserted, hold the thermometer in place until it beeps. While the thermometer is reading, both of you should speak to the cat in reassuring tones. As soon as the thermometer beeps, extract it from your cat's rectum and release her. If she has not been vomiting, you can hand over a treat as a peace offering. Do not be surprised if she declines and instead darts into hiding to brood and to tend to her wounded pride.

Feverish Figures

The normal perfect temperature for a cat is 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Just as individual humans can normally run a slightly higher or lower temperature than the designated normal 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, cats can also span a range that is considered within normal limits. If your cat's temperature falls between 100.5 and 102.5, then her temperature is normal. If her temperature registers 103.5 or higher, then you have confirmed that she has a fever, and a visit to the veterinarian as soon as possible is warranted. A fever is considered dangerously high when your cat's temperature exceeds 104.0 degrees Fahrenheit, and you must consider this an emergency.

Treatment Plan

You may turn to your own medicine cabinet in attempts to reduce a fever when you or your loved ones are sick, but avoid the aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen when caring for your cat. These drugs are highly toxic to cats.

Once the cause of your cat's fever is determined, treatment will be primarily targeted at resolving the cause. Additionally, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotic therapy, rest, rehydration and symptomatic treatment as needed. If you're looking for an emergency veterinarian, visit Robert Irelan DVM.