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When your kitty is under the weather, she can't exactly ask for a pain reliever or an ice pack to help her feel better, so you may find yourself asking, "does my cat have a fever? And, how can I tell if she does?" Learn how to identify the symptoms, causes and treatment related to your cat's fever.
There are tell-tale signs when humans have a fever, and these same symptoms also are visible in kitties, such as lack of appetite, weakness or lethargy, shivering, dehydration or ears that are warm to the touch. In addition to a rapid heart rate and/or increased respiratory rate, cats may exhibit other symptoms specific to the illness that may be causing the high fever, depending on what ailment is troubling your feline friend.
The most conclusive way to determine if your cat has a fever is to take her temperature. A cat's normal body temperature is between 99.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. A temperature above this range may indicate a fever.
Ear thermometers may be easier and more convenient for pet parents, but as Petcha explains, "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." Be sure to lubricate the thermometer with petroleum jelly and leave in for at least two minutes to get the most accurate result. Be sure to not stick a rectal thermometer in too far as the rectal tissue is sensitive and can cause damage to your cat. Also, never use a mercury thermometer on your cat because if the thermometer breaks it can be very harmful for your cat's health and life.
Although not the most appealing or comfortable method, taking the rectal temperature is the best way to answer the question of whether or not your cat has a fever. If you are uncomfortable taking your cat's temperature, contact your veterinarian right away so you can take her in for an appointment and have her temperature taken by a professional. It is also important to bring in your cat's vaccination record to help your veterinarian get the best record of any other illness that your cat may not have been vaccinated against to help narrow down what is causing your cat's fever.
Once you determine your cat has a fever (or, pyrexia, as it's known in medical terms), your vet will determine whether further testing is required to determine the cause. Knowing the cat's health history will be of great help. If you have to bring your cat to an after-hours veterinary office instead of her regular doctor, be sure to bring documentation of her history, especially a list of medications, as sometimes cats can have a bad reaction to certain drugs.
Similar to fevers in humans, there is a wide range of possible causes for fever in cats, the most common of which is a bacterial infection. Other possibilities include immune system or inflammatory issues, exposure to toxins, a disorder or a disease. It's also possible that fever in cats is caused by an unknown problem, at which point you and your vet can discuss the next steps.
Along with rest and hydration, fevers in cats typically are treated with antibiotics. As with taking your cat's temperature, getting your cat to take medication may not be easy, but it's important. If she spits out her pill or won't eat the cat food in which you've hidden it, VCA Hospitals provides great tips for giving pills to a feisty cat. One method includes wrapping her in a towel for comfort and security. It's a good idea to employ a helper to assist with this challenging job.
In some instances, your vet can provide you with a liquid medication, which is easier to administer.
It's not easy to watch your fur baby suffer from a fever, but in addition to following your vet's instructions for medical care, there are things you can do to catch an illness before it progresses. Performing regular cat maintenance (brushing her teeth, clipping her claws) and check-ups (look at her ears, monitor her eating and drinking habits) provides you with a great baseline for your kitty's health.
And don't forget to smother her with snuggles and cuddles. A little love goes a long way to help your kitty get well soon!
Christine O'Brien is a writer, mom, and long-time pet parent whose two Russian Blues rule the house. Her work also appears in Care.com, What to Expect, and Fit Pregnancy, where she writes about family life, pets, and pregnancy. Find and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien