Does Your Cat Have a Fever?

A vet explains how to recognize a feline fever and take a cat's temperature.

By Elaine Wexler-Mitchell, D.V.M.

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Sick Cat With Fever
Cats with fevers are generally lethargic and have no appetite, according to Elaine Wexler-Mitchell, DVM. Although popular culture has led us to believe that a healthy cat has a cold, wet nose and therefore a warm, dry nose is indicative of a fever, this is not always true. Many conditions, including environmental temperature and the cat's state of hydration, affect how cold and wet a nose is. If your cat's ears feel hot to the touch, she may have a fever.

The only reliable way to determine if your cat has a fever is by taking her temperature. A cat's normal body temperature is typically between 100.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Human ear thermometers are not reliable for taking your cat's temperature due to the way they are calibrated and the different shape of a cat's ear canal. There are special ear thermometers for animals that are useful with cats, but they cost several hundred dollars. The best and most economical way for you to take your cat's temperature is by using a pediatric rectal glass or digital thermometer. Taking your cat's temperature usually takes two people: one to restrain the cat and the other to insert the thermometer.

Conventional thermometers should be lubricated with petroleum jelly or water soluble lubricants such as K-Y Jelly and left in the rectum for two minutes. Digital thermometers are lubricated and left in the rectum until they beep. On hot days or if a cat is stressed, her body temperature may reach 103.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Veterinarians are concerned when temperatures reach 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If your cat does have a fever, bring her to your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Reprinted from Ask the Vet About Cats © 2003. Permission granted by BowTie Press.

Find out more about the causes of cat fever.
Read more about cat fever treatment.

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Does Your Cat Have a Fever?

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Reader Comments

jesse    International

5/18/2014 9:18:22 PM

I have a question. I have a cat who had just gotten fixed on Friday May 16 2014. The vet had said that she did really good with the procedure. When we got her home she slept all day I thought that this would be normal but 2 days later she is showing any signs of recovery. It seems like she is getting worse. She hasn't ate or drank anything and she has been throwing up. All she does is sleep all day and that's not like her to do she is usually a little butt head and won't leave you alone and she likes to play fetch all the time with a jax piece it's her favorite toy and she doesn't even wanna do that she seems really sick and not like her self I need help please. If anyone can give me advice on what I should do I would really appreciate it. Oh and she seems to be breathing harder and faster

Susan    Columbus, OH

4/1/2013 10:02:44 PM

Does the fever come with failing kidneys

Lucy    Madison, WI

3/7/2013 7:03:31 AM

Good article. I know my poor vet must cry when my cats come in, they are Manx an have no tails to hold on to.

Carol    Fall River, WA

1/31/2013 12:04:10 PM

Very informative----please keep up the good work

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