Your cat’s body temperature can be a fairly good indicator of disease. High temperature can indicate fever and, therefore, an infection, whereas low body temperature can give you a clue as to whether your cat is entering a state of hypothermia.
In today’s article, we’re looking at everything you should know about your cat’s temperature – what is normal and abnormal and how you can take it.
What is a normal cat temperature?
Ideally, your cat’s body should measure anything between 37.2 and 39.2 degrees Celsius (approximately 99 to 102.5 degrees F). These limits are used because, in some cases, the pet’s body temperature can vary depending on a number of aspects, such as whether the animal is pregnant, a kitten, or a senior, or if they’ve been in situations that might have affected them.
Along with your feline companion’s temperature, there are other normal vitals that you should pay attention to so as to tell whether they might be sick. These are your cat’s heart rate and blood pressure, which you might not be able to measure at home.
However, you can measure your cat’s respiratory rate by counting down the breaths that your pet takes per minute. Normally, your cat shouldn’t breathe faster than 20 to 30 times per minute, although that rate can be different if your cat was recently engaged in strenuous physical activity or under severe stress.
Measuring your cat’s temperature
There are two main ways to find out how hot or cold your cat’s body is. Using a rectal thermometer is by far the best option you have available, although it might seem quite challenging.
The other method would be for you to use an infrared thermometer (including one for babies) and get it as close as possible to your cat’s skin. Do not try to measure your cat’s temperature on their forehead as there is a small amount of hair there, too, and it could lead to an inaccurate result.
Your best bet would be to use the device on the inside of your cat’s ear, where not a lot of hair can be found. You can try to use an internal thermometer to measure your pet’s ear temperature, but you will have to insert it somewhat deep into the ear canal, so it can be more or less risky.
Using a thermometer rectally always calls for appropriate lubrication. You do not have to insert a lot of the device into your pet’s rectum – just the tip until the metal part is completely inside your cat’s body.
While this is by far the most accurate way of measuring your pet’s body temperature, they will have to be restrained properly. Also, most thermometers have to be kept in the same position for up to 30 seconds, or until they beep, so your cat will have to sit still for this amount of time. As a lubricant, you can use regular vaseline.
What can your cat’s body temperature tell you?
If the temperature that you measured with a thermometer is under 99 degrees F (37.2 degrees C), it could be a sign that your cat is hypothermic.
Pets that have the freedom to go outside in inclement weather, particularly those that haven’t been neutered or spayed, might get stuck in the cold. Such a situation can be life-threatening depending on the animal’s health status.
Cats that have to be given medication or are suffering from chronic disease, along with kittens and seniors, could develop hypothermia faster than their adult and healthy counterparts. Hypothermia is always an emergency and should be treated as such, so if your cat’s temperature is lower than the minimum limit, go to the vet clinic right away.
If your pet’s temperature is higher than 102.5 F (39.2 C), they have a fever. A temperature higher than 105 or 106 degrees F should convince you to take your cat to the vet right away, as in this case, your pet could sustain organ damage.
Cats that have hypothermia or fever are likely to share some clinical signs, with the most common ones being weakness and lethargy.
Hypothermic animals also have a decreased heart rate and respiratory rate (so under the 20-30 breaths per minute you can normally expect from a healthy cat). They can also be drowsy and feel cold to the touch.
Pets that have a fever will show additional symptoms, such as the following:
- Increased heart rate
- Fast breathing (sometimes even panting)
- Lack of appetite for food or water
- Absence of grooming
- Additional signs of illness like vomiting or diarrhea
While a fever is your cat’s body’s natural reaction against pathogens, which means that they are working toward getting healed naturally, it can also be very dangerous when the body temperature gets too high.
Bacterial and viral infections are two of the most common reasons why cats develop a fever. In some cases, these health conditions can lead to your pet’s condition deteriorating in a matter of hours, depending on how severe their clinical manifestations are. Veterinary assistance is necessary whenever you discover that your cat has a fever or is hypothermic.
If your cat’s body temperature is too low, you need to do your best to keep them warm. An electric heating blanket can be a solution in this sense, but if you do not have one available, you can fill up several bottles with warm water, cover them up in towels, and place them around your cat’s body. Keep your pet covered until you get to the animal hospital.
Besides being out in the cold, hypothermia can also occur when your cat has gone through trauma.
This happens because all of your pet’s organs begin slowing down, so the mechanism that ensures that your cat’s temperature remains within the normal limits does not function properly any longer.