Does Your Cat Have a Fever?

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

Signs will tip you off that your cat has a fever but only a thermometer can confirm it. Via Anna Dudko Hemera/Thinkstock

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. Special ear thermometers for animals  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 Lumina Media. Find out more about the causes of cat fever. Read more about cat fever treatment.

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Cats · Health and Care