Taking your cat’s temperature is the only sure way of knowing if they are suffering with a fever. Providing your cat isn’t resisting too much, it should only take a couple of minutes. A cat’s normal body temperature is between 100.5 – 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Any temperatures higher than that may need a visit to the vet, depending on any other symptoms present.
Signs of a fever
There are certain behaviors that typically accompany a fever in cats. They enable the cat to conserve some energy while their body fights whatever disease is present that is causing the fever. A fever fights off disease by slowing down the growth of viruses and bacteria through stimulation of the immune system. While they can be effective in fighting illness, however, fevers that become higher than 106 degrees Fahrenheit can cause issues such as organ damage. If your cat has a fever this high, you should contact your vet immediately.
Here are some possible signs of fever:
- Lack of activity or energy
- Loss of appetite
- Decreased drinking
- Decreased grooming
- Rapid breathing or shivering
How to take your cat’s temperature
The Vets explain that you can take a cat’s temperature via its ear or rectally, the latter of which is typically more accurate. If you are specifically trying to determine how high your cat’s fever is, then use a rectal thermometer. It is much easier and quicker to use a digital thermometer. Of course, always ensure that your cat’s thermometer is kept separately and that it’s only ever used on your cat.
What you will need
To take their temperature rectally, you will need:
- A human rectal thermometer
- KY Jelly or Vaseline for lubrication
- A timer (with a second hand if not digital)
- A towel
Prepare the thermometer first, then the cat
Make sure the thermometer is switched on and set to zero, then use the KY Jelly or Vaseline to lubricate it. Then, stand your cat on top of the counter, rest their face in the crook of your elbow (with its tail end facing towards your other hand), and hold it with your arm securely. If it makes it easier, consider wrapping your cat in a towel with its rear end protruding out. This process can of course be a lot easier with a helper.
Insert the thermometer
Lifting your cat’s tail with one hand, use your other hand to insert the thermometer steadily and slowly into its anus, until it reaches a depth of approximately ½ to 1 inch. You should feel their sphincter muscle tighten and then relax again. Keep the thermometer in place for at least two minutes (or for digital thermometers, until it beeps). As you do, talk to your cat in a soothing voice to try and keep them calm.
Remove and wash
Slowly remove the thermometer, and record the date, time and temperature taken. Immediately then wash the thermometer with disinfectant soap and warm water, and ensure that it is stored separately from any other household thermometers. Wash your hands thoroughly, as well as the sink in which you washed the thermometer – cat feces can contain a variety of harmful bacteria.
Taking a cat’s temperature via their ear
While you may come up against less resistance if you choose to take their temperature via the ear, the process can actually be a little trickier. Ear thermometers have to be accurately placed in just the right spot to obtain an accurate reading. Your cat may generally tolerate this method better than having its temperature taken rectally, but if they do try to get away, try grabbing it by the scruff of the neck. This usually (at least temporarily) calms most cats down.
Holding the digital ear thermometer horizontally, keep your cat’s head still while you insert it into their ear. When it beeps to signal that it has a reading, record the temperature and thoroughly wash the thermometer.
- Most cats will resist this process and may even scratch or bite you, so wear long sleeves and possibly even some protective gloves
- If the process is proving particularly difficult, it may be necessary to find someone who can help you to hold the cat while you take their temperature – they can then pet the cat too to help keep it calm
- Once you have read their temperature, let them go – they will likely sulk for a little while but they will be fine
- Offer them a snack or treat afterwards, unless their illness appears to be digestive
Remember, a temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit or over is dangerous and you should take them to see a vet immediately. If it’s over 103 degrees Fahrenheit, call your local vet for advice as to what to do next.