Cat Body Temperature: Understanding Abnormalities and Taking Action

Do you know that measuring your cat’s body temperature can give you valuable insights into its overall health? Alongside heart rate and breathing rate, body temperature is one of the key vital signs of a cat. In this article, we will explore the causes and treatment of abnormal body temperature in cats, equipping you with the knowledge to take better care of your feline friend.

About Cats’ Body Temperatures

A cat’s body has a natural way of regulating its temperature, keeping it within a normal range. However, specific circumstances such as disease or stress can cause fluctuations. When a cat is resting, its baseline body temperature tends to be low, reflecting the lack of activity. Conversely, when a cat becomes active or stressed, the body temperature may rise slightly, usually accompanied by increased breathing and heart rates. Additionally, various diseases can significantly elevate or lower a cat’s body temperature.

Monitoring your cat’s body temperature can be a helpful way to assess its general health. Regularly recording your cat’s vital signs provides valuable information for your veterinarian, especially in emergency situations. By measuring your cat’s body temperature, you can better communicate your pet’s condition to the vet.

The Normal Body Temperature of Cats

A cat’s body temperature is measured in degrees Fahrenheit (F) or degrees Celsius (C). The normal range typically falls within narrow parameters: between 101°F and 102.5°F (38.3°C to 39.2°C). If the temperature falls below 100°F (37.8°C), it is considered too low. Conversely, if the temperature exceeds 103°F (39.4°C), it is too high. While these temperature levels are not absolute, they serve as a helpful general guide.

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How to Check Your Cat’s Body Temperature

Taking your cat’s temperature is a simple skill that all cat owners can learn. Here is a step-by-step guide to safely and accurately measure your cat’s body temperature:

  1. Use a digital rectal thermometer, which is inexpensive and widely available.
  2. Lubricate the tip of the thermometer with soap, petroleum jelly, or a lubricant gel.
  3. Gently insert the thermometer into the anus, about 1 to 1.5 inches (2 to 3 centimeters) deep.
  4. Hold the thermometer in place until it beeps or for about one minute.
  5. Take the reading and record it for reference.

While special ear thermometers for cats are available, rectal thermometers are more effective and trustworthy.

Causes of Abnormal Body Temperature in Cats

Abnormalities in body temperature can be caused by various factors. Let’s explore the two main scenarios:

Cat’s Body Temperature Is Too Low

If your cat’s body temperature falls below 100°F (37.8°C), it is considered too low. To ensure an accurate reading, take the temperature again 15 minutes later. If it remains low, book an urgent appointment with your veterinarian for a review. Possible causes of low body temperature include general debilitation, serious illness, exposure to cold temperatures (especially in outdoor cats), and low blood glucose.

Cat’s Body Temperature Is Too High

When your cat’s body temperature exceeds 103°F (39.4°C), it is considered too high. Again, recheck the temperature after 15 minutes to verify the reading. If it remains elevated, consult your veterinarian for further evaluation. The most common reason for a high temperature is an immune system reaction that releases chemicals into the bloodstream, raising the temperature above normal. Other potential causes include viral or bacterial infections, neoplasia (cancer), pain, excessive activity or exercise, exposure to high environmental temperatures, and fever of unknown origin (FUO).

Other Information From the Thermometer

After removing the thermometer from your cat’s rectum, pay attention to its appearance. It should have only a fine coating of feces, which you can wipe off with moist tissue or cotton. Check for increased wetness, as it could indicate diarrhea, blood, blackness (indicating digested blood), or excessive mucus—all potential signs of digestive disorders.

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Recording Other Vital Signs

If your cat’s body temperature is abnormal, it’s worth assessing other vital signs as well. Count your cat’s respiratory rate by measuring the number of breaths in 15 seconds and multiplying by four. Similarly, measure your cat’s heart rate by feeling its pulse and multiplying the number of beats in 15 seconds by four. Reporting all of these vital signs—temperature, heart rate, and breathing rate—to your veterinarian can provide a comprehensive picture of your cat’s health.

Treatment of Low or High Body Temperature in Cats

It is crucial not to attempt to treat your cat’s low or high body temperature yourself. Human-type drugs such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) are dangerous for cats and can cause severe toxic reactions. Instead, take your cat to a qualified veterinarian.

During the initial examination, the veterinarian will assess your cat’s body temperature and vital signs, performing a thorough physical examination. If necessary, additional investigations such as blood and urine samples, x-rays, ultrasound, and an EKG may be recommended. This comprehensive approach allows the veterinarian to identify the underlying cause of your cat’s abnormal temperature and provide appropriate treatment.

Treatment of Low Body Temperature in Cats

In addition to addressing the underlying cause, it is essential to warm up a cat with a low body temperature. You can achieve this by placing your cat in a warm room, using heaters, or applying heating pads or hot water bottles (ensuring at least three layers of toweling between the hot water bottle and the cat’s body to prevent burns).

Treatment of High Body Temperature in Cats

Treating the underlying cause of a high body temperature may involve antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medication, and other drugs tailored to the specific problem. Heat stroke caused by high environmental temperatures requires specific actions. Intravenous fluids may be administered to keep cats with high temperatures well hydrated.

A Helpful Skill

Learning how to measure your cat’s body temperature is a valuable skill that can provide additional guidance on your pet’s health. By recording your cat’s temperature and other vital signs, you can gather vital information to share with your veterinarian, promoting better care for your furry companion.

Katten TrimSalon is here to help you keep your cat healthy and thriving. Remember to consult with a professional veterinarian for personalized advice and treatment options. Your cat deserves the best care!