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Do you think your cat is under the weather? Taking their temperature could help you determine when it's time for them to see a vet. Like humans, a cat's temperature will change when they're ill. Knowing the normal temperature for cats allows you to gauge whether your feline's body temperature is too high or low, which may indicate a serious illness.
Monitoring your cat's temperature for changes can keep them healthy, even if they're not exhibiting any other symptoms. Your cat can't tell you when they don't feel well, so checking their vitals could be a matter of life and death.
What is a cat's normal temp? Cats naturally have warmer body temperatures than humans, falling somewhere between 100.5F to 102.5F. However, their temperature can change throughout the day, so it's essential to know your cat's regular temperature to distinguish whether they're sick.
- What Is A Cat's Normal Temperature?
- Factors That Can Increase A Cat's Body Temperature
- Factors That Can Lower A Cat's Body Temperature
- When To See A Vet About Your Cat's Temperature
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Notes
What Is A Cat's Normal Temperature?
A normal temp for cats falls between 100.5F to 102.5F.1 However, some cats may have a temperature of 99F while others have a temperature of 103F. This doesn't necessarily mean they're sick, so knowing your cat's baseline is important.
Several factors impact a cat's temperature, which can change throughout the day based on daily activities.
Fever in cats
A fever in cats is a temperature that's higher than 103F; this temperature is considered a low-grade fever. If your cat's temperature reaches 106F or higher, it's regarded as a medical emergency, and you should take your cat to the vet immediately. Like humans, cats with high fever are at risk of brain and heart damage that can lead to death.
If your cat has a fever, they're likely experiencing other symptoms, such as:
- Lack of appetite
- Decreased or increased thirst
- Warm to the touch
Cats with a fever may not experience all of these symptoms. For example, if your cat is drinking a lot of water, it can also be due to a fever because it can help cool them down.
There are several common causes of fever in cats, including infections, heatstroke, stress, and poisoning. Therefore, if your cat has a fever, the best thing you can do is contact your veterinarian for the next steps.2
Hypothermia in cats
Hypothermia in cats occurs when their body temperature drops too low — usually around 100F — and is often caused by being out in the cold weather, blood loss, some illnesses, and sedation.3 Indoor cats are less likely to experience hypothermia because they're not exposed to the elements, but it can still happen to any cat, depending on their unique circumstances.
Hypothermia is a serious medical condition that must be treated immediately because a sudden drop in body temperature can cause kidney and heart damage and affect your cat's ability to fight infection.3 If your cat is hypothermic, they'll likely experience symptoms other than a lower-than-normal body temperature, including:
- Pale gums
- Loss of consciousness3
How To Know If Your Cat's Temperature Is Normal
The only way to tell if your cat's temperature is normal is to use a thermometer. You can't accurately determine if your cat has a fever by touching them because a change in skin temperature could be due to several reasons, such as from sleeping near a heating vent to lying in the sun.
There are several ways to determine your cat's temperature, but the most accurate is via the rectum.4 Other options are via the ear or armpit. However, they're less accurate and unreliable, so your vet will always use a rectal thermometer.
Unfortunately, taking a cat’s temperature rectally at home can be challenging. Here are a few steps that may help:
- Grab your supplies. To make the process more comfortable for your cat, use a rectal thermometer designed for pets, fragrance-free, water-soluble lubricant, a towel, and a treat to reward them for good behavior. You can use a glass or digital thermometer, depending on your preferences. If you're using a glass thermometer, remember to shake it beforehand to ensure the mercury line is positioned correctly.5 You'll also benefit from having a second person to hold your cat while you take their temperature.
- Lubricate the thermometer. Coat the tip with lubricant to prepare it for insertion.
- Hold your cat. Hold your cat gently or have the second person hold your cat between the neck and shoulders. If you're doing this without help, you can press your cat firmly against your side with their backside facing forward.5
- Insert the thermometer slowly and gently into the cat's rectum. When you're ready to begin, gently lift your cat's tail and insert the thermometer about an inch deep. You'll feel some resistance, but gentle pressure can help your cat's muscles relax.5
- Note the temperature reading and remove the thermometer. If you're using a digital thermometer, it will beep when it's done. However, if you're using a glass thermometer, it can take much longer, so you'll need a timer.
- Wash your hands and clean the thermometer. After reading your cat's temperature, you can give them a treat, wash your hands, and clean the thermometer to prepare it for next time.
Factors That Can Increase A Cat's Body Temperature
Cats get fevers for the same reasons as humans; a fever is the body's way of fighting infection. Raising the internal temperature can eliminate various pathogens that make your cat sick. Fevers generally occur when the immune system is compromised, which may be due to the following:
- Infections. Bacterial, fungal, and viral infections, such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), feline leukemia virus (FeLV), and Feline Herpesvirus, can cause fevers in cats.
- Medications and vaccines. Some vaccinations can cause a short-term fever in cats as a normal reaction. Any symptoms associated with medications and vaccines should be mild and only last for a few days. However, if they last longer, consult your vet as soon as possible.
- Toxin ingestion. Toxin ingestion is another common cause of a raised body temperature in cats because the body is trying to fight off the toxins and heal itself.
- Parasites. Parasites can weaken the immune system and make cats susceptible to secondary infections that cause fevers.
- Tumors and internal injuries. Fevers are often a sign of inflammation in the body, which can be caused by injuries and tumors.
If your pet's temperature is much higher than a healthy cat's temperature range, your vet will perform various tests to identify the underlying cause.
Unfortunately, some causes may remain unknown even after tests. If this is the case, your vet will address the symptoms with various treatments, ranging from supportive care and IV fluids for dehydration in cats to antibiotics.
Factors That Can Lower A Cat's Body Temperature
If your cat is experiencing dangerously low body temperatures, they must be treated quickly. Even if your cat's temperature is just one degree below the normal range, it could indicate hypothermia, which requires fast action to prevent serious complications and death.
Common causes of hypothermia in cats include:
- Cold environments. If your cat is left outside in the cold for too long, they're at risk for hypothermia. Seniors and kittens are at an increased risk and get hypothermia much sooner because they can't properly regulate their body temperatures.
- Being wet. Being wet will make your cat colder, no matter the season. If your cat stays wet for too long and gets cold, they can develop hypothermia, especially if it's a chilly day or the water is too cold.3
- Sedation. Some drugs used for anesthesia can cause a drop in body temperature, and cats are at risk of hypothermia because they're sedated and can't keep themselves warm.3
- Illnesses: Several illnesses can cause hypothermia in cats, including pyometra — an infection of the uterus , allergic reactions, and toxin ingestion.
- Blood loss: Your cat's blood keeps them warm, and if they lose too much of it, they can become hypothermic.3
Treatment for hypothermia in cats depends on the severity, but vets may use insulating blankets to raise their core body temperature slowly. The main goal of treating a hypothermic cat is to warm them up and prevent internal organ damage.
When To See A Vet About Your Cat's Temperature
You should contact your vet whenever you're worried about your cat's temperature. They can tell you whether your pet’s temperature falls in the normal cat temperature range or if you should bring them in for treatment. Additionally, you should always see a vet if your cat is experiencing additional symptoms, such as:
- Lack of appetite
- Loss of consciousness
- Change in behavior
It's much more common for a cat's temperature to be slightly elevated than for it to be lower. Therefore, any degree lower than a cat's normal temperature should be considered a medical emergency.
However, many things can raise your cat's body temperature short-term, such as lying in the sun or physical activity, so you should consider how long your cat has had a fever and whether they've engaged in any activities that could affect your readings.
Frequently Asked Questions
What temperature is too high for cats?
A fever is considered any temperature that falls outside average cat temperature ranges. Technically, 102.6F is considered a mild fever. A fever near 106F or higher is a medical emergency because it can cause internal organ damage.
How should I take a cat's temperature?
A rectal thermometer is the most accurate way to take your cat's temperature. No other thermometer can give you consistently accurate readings, and touching your cat's body, ears, or nose isn't reliable.
What can affect a cat's body temperature?
A cat's core body temperature rarely changes because they're so good at regulating it. For example, they might shiver to warm up if they're cold. Meanwhile, they'll find a cooler place to nap if they're too warm from lying in the sun all day. Several things can impact your cat's ability to regulate their body temperature, including illnesses, weather, sedation, and toxin ingestion.
Knowing the normal temperature for cats can help you determine when it's time to take them to the vet. A mild fever is much less severe than a drop in body temperature, but it can indicate illness. If your cat has other symptoms, you should take them to the vet regardless of their temperature because cats can be sick without a fever.
Talk to an online vet today to discuss your cat's symptoms and find the right treatment based on their temperature, age, weight, and overall health.
Fielder, Susan E. "Normal Rectal Temperature Ranges - Special Subjects." Merck Veterinary Manual, 31 Jan. 2023, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/special-subjects/reference-guides/normal-rectal-temperature-ranges.
"High Temperature (Fever) in Cats." PDSA, https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/pet-health-hub/symptoms/high-temperature-fever-in-cats.
"Hypothermia in Pets." PDSA, https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/pet-health-hub/conditions/hypothermia-in-pets.
"Taking Your Pet's Temperature." The Animal Medical Center, 17 Nov. 2020, https://www.amcny.org/blog/2017/07/19/taking-your-pets-temperature/.
Korich, Jodie, and James Richards. "Taking Your Cat's Temperature." Cornell University | Partners in Animal Health, https://partnersah.vet.cornell.edu/pet-owners/temperature.