How can you tell if your cat has a fever? In humans, a kiss from a warm forehead can give you a hint. But you can’t tell if your cat has a fever by feeling a hot, dry nose, as many people believe. The only way to know for sure, whether with a human or a cat, is to take their temperature.
A normal temperature in cats ranges from 38º to 39º C. Fever in cats occurs when temperatures rise above 39º C. Although fevers can be helpful in fighting disease, a fever above 41º C can damage organs. Contact the vet immediately if your cat has a high fever.
Learn about the causes, signs and symptoms of fever in cats and what you need to know about how to take your cat’s temperature and how to care for a cat with a fever.
Causes of fever in cats
An increase in body temperature above normal is called hyperthermia. Abnormal or unregulated hyperthermia in cats can result from being in a very hot environment or having increased muscle activity, for example.
However, fever is a specific type of regulated hyperthermia. It develops when you increase the set point in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that acts as the body’s thermostat. Fever generally occurs when the immune system is activated by conditions such as:
- A bacterial, viral, or fungal infection.
- A tumor
- Trauma injury
- Certain medications
- Diseases like lupus.
A fever for more than two weeks for no apparent reason is called a fever of unknown origin (FUO).
Fever symptoms in cats
Fever-causing illnesses in cats can also cause certain tell-tale behaviors. These behaviors, which evolved in wild animals to help them survive illness, allow cats to conserve the energy needed to produce fever. Fevers fight disease by stimulating the immune system and slowing the growth of bacteria and viruses.
Watch for these signs of a fever:
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of energy or activity.
- Decrease in drinking
- Decreased grooming
- Trembling or rapid breathing.
Your cat may also show other specific signs of illness, such as sneezing, vomiting, or diarrhea .
Tips for taking a cat’s temperature
The only way to know for sure that your cat has a fever is to take her temperature.
A pediatric rectal thermometer is the most accurate method of taking a cat’s temperature. A digital thermometer is safer than a glass thermometer. It won’t break if you let it go, and it gives a signal when it’s time to check the reading. You can buy one from your vet or at the pharmacy.
- Before you begin, take out all the supplies you will need:
- The thermometer
- A lubricant for the thermometer, such as petroleum jelly.
- Alcohol and paper towel to clean the thermometer.
- Shake a glass thermometer so that the mercury is below the 37º line. To check it, hold it up to the light and turn it. To use a digital thermometer, turn it on.
- Coat the tip of the thermometer with a lubricant.
- Have a helper hold your cat with its back facing you. Or if you are alone, cradle your cat’s body firmly against you with one arm.
- Gently lift the tail and slowly insert the thermometer into the anus. Gently turn the thermometer from side to side to relax the muscles. Once this happens, insert the thermometer about an inch into the rectum, but do not force it.
- Remove a digital thermometer when you hear the beep. Leave a glass thermometer in place for about two minutes.
- Remove and clean the thermometer with alcohol. Read the temperature by holding a glass thermometer to the light and turning it.
- Treat your cat if your cat has not been vomiting.
Treatment of fever in cats
Cats showing signs of fever for more than 24 hours or a fever of more than 41 ° C at any time should see their veterinarian. The vet can perform tests to determine the source of the fever and take steps to treat the underlying problem. If the source is a bacterial infection, for example, antibiotics may be needed . The moderate dehydration or severe is treated with intravenous or subcutaneous fluids.
Never give your cat medication without the advice of your veterinarian. Some fever medications, such as acetaminophen, are toxic to cats.
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