Can Stress Heat Up Your Cat? The Surprising Link Between Stress and Feline Body Temperature


A cat’s normal body temperature ranges between 100.5°F and 102.5°F. Small fluctuations in temperature within this range are normal, but significant increases above this can indicate an underlying health issue. Understanding the link between stress and elevated temperature in cats is important for monitoring your cat’s wellbeing.

When cats experience stress, their bodies initiate a “fight or flight” response, releasing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. This can lead to increased heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration. One effect is that stress hormones can temporarily raise a cat’s core body temperature. While this fever response is normal, prolonged or severe temperature spikes may require medical attention.

By learning about the connection between stress and fever in cats, cat owners can better interpret temperature fluctuations and identify situations that trigger anxiety or distress. Monitoring for other signs of stress alongside temperature changes allows for early intervention. This knowledge empowers cat owners to proactively manage stressful situations to support their cat’s health and wellbeing.

What is Normal Cat Body Temperature?

The normal body temperature range for cats is 100.5°F to 102.5°F (38°C to 39.2°C), according to VCA Animal Hospitals ( This is higher than the normal human body temperature of 98.6°F.

A cat’s body temperature varies throughout the day and is typically higher in the evening compared to the morning. According to Hill’s Pet Nutrition (, factors like age, activity level, and environmental temperature can all influence a cat’s normal body temperature range.

Kittens tend to have slightly higher temperatures than adult cats. The normal temperature for a kitten ranges from 100°F to 103°F. Elderly cats may have lower normal temperatures. A cat that is very active can temporarily have an elevated temperature from the exertion. And cats’ temperatures are regulated by the environment so their temperature may be higher on hot days.

How Stress Affects Cats

Stress triggers the release of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol in cats. These hormones prepare the body for the “fight or flight” response. Physiological changes include increased heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and body temperature When chronically stressed, the constant flood of stress hormones can start to cause health problems in cats.

Stress can also significantly impact a cat’s behavior and personality. Common signs of a stressed cat include hiding, aggression, restlessness, vocalization, and urinary marking. Cats may become more clingy and attention-seeking or more withdrawn. Appetite changes, overgrooming, and compulsive behaviors can also indicate anxiety in cats. Ongoing stress leads to an anxious, unhappy cat.

The Link Between Stress and Body Temperature

Research shows that psychological stress can directly affect body temperature in mammals. During times of stress, the body releases stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine. These hormones influence the hypothalamus, which regulates body temperature.1

Studies on rats have demonstrated that stress-induced hyperthermia is mediated by brain pathways distinct from infectious fever. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis gets activated, leading to increased thermogenesis and body temperature.2

In humans, significant psychological stressors can also cause body temperature to rise by a couple of degrees. This phenomenon is called psychogenic fever or stress hyperthermia. Research indicates it likely shares similar neurological mechanisms as seen in animal studies.3

Other Causes of Elevated Temperature

Aside from stress, there are some other illnesses and environmental factors that may cause an elevated temperature or fever in cats:


  • Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections affecting any organ in the body (VCA Animal Hospitals). Infections are one of the most common causes of fever in cats.
  • Cancer can sometimes lead to fever, especially lymphosarcoma or other cancers affecting the bone marrow (PetMD).
  • Immune-mediated diseases where the cat’s immune system attacks its own body (PetMD).

Environmental factors:

  • Heat stroke from being in a hot environment without enough ventilation or access to water. Cats are very sensitive to heat (WebMD).
  • Reactions to drugs or toxins. Exposure to toxins and adverse reactions to medications can sometimes trigger fever (WebMD).

It’s important to identify the root cause of fever in order to provide proper treatment. An accurate diagnosis from a vet is critical.

Signs of Stress in Cats

There are a number of behavioral and physical symptoms that may indicate a cat is stressed. According to the Cats Protection organization, behavioral signs of stress in cats can include becoming more withdrawn or hiding more than usual, becoming less tolerant of people or other pets, changes in appetite, excessive vocalization, or aggression (

Physically, stressed cats may exhibit symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, excessive grooming leading to hair loss or skin damage, urinating outside the litter box, and changes in activity level. PetMD notes that stressed cats may seem restless and agitated, or lethargic and sleeping more than usual. They may also have dilated pupils and pant excessively (

Paying attention to any behavioral or physical changes in a cat can help identify stress factors and allow pet owners to take steps to minimize stressors. Talking to a veterinarian can also help determine if stress is causing or exacerbating medical issues.

Measuring Temperature Changes

It’s important for cat owners to be able to monitor their cat’s body temperature at home. The best tool for accurately measuring a cat’s temperature is a digital rectal thermometer. Before taking your cat’s temperature, make sure to lubricate the thermometer tip with a water-soluble lubricant like KY jelly or petroleum jelly. Gently insert the thermometer about 1 inch into your cat’s rectum and wait for it to beep, indicating the reading is complete ( Normal temperature for cats ranges between 100-102.5°F (37.8-39.2°C).

Contact your veterinarian right away if your cat’s temperature is over 103°F or under 99°F. A temperature over 103.5°F is considered a medical emergency. Other signs warranting an immediate vet visit include lethargy, vocalizing/meowing, and shivering. Your vet can run diagnostic tests to determine the underlying cause and provide proper treatment for the fever (

Managing Feline Stress

There are several techniques you can use to help minimize stress and promote relaxation in anxious cats:

Reduce Loud Noises – Cats have very sensitive hearing, so try to keep the environment calm by avoiding loud music, TV, vacuum cleaners, etc. Provide a quiet space where your cat can retreat. Use calming pheromones or treats to ease anxiety (Source).

Establish a Routine – Cats feel more secure when they have a predictable daily routine for feeding, play time, etc. Maintain regular schedules and avoid abrupt changes when possible (Source).

Give Plenty of Exercise and Play – Bored, inactive cats are more likely to feel stressed and anxious. Provide ample opportunity for daily exercise through interactive play sessions with feather wands, laser pointers, treat puzzles, etc.

Use Pheromones and Supplements – Feline pheromones and calming supplements with ingredients like catnip or L-theanine can help relax and de-stress a cat. Try Feliway diffusers or calming treats.

Reward Relaxed Behavior – If you notice your cat in a relaxed, calm state, reward the behavior with praise and treats. This reinforces the cat to remain relaxed.

Allow Access to Hiding Spots – Cats feel more secure when they can retreat to a safe, enclosed area like a box, cat tree house, carrier, etc. Provide access to “hideouts” around the home.

When to See the Vet

There are certain warning signs that indicate a cat’s elevated temperature requires prompt medical attention. These include:

  • A temperature over 104°F for more than 24 hours
  • Lethargy, weakness, or inability to move
  • Labored breathing or respiratory distress
  • Loss of appetite for more than 24 hours
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Signs of dehydration – dry gums, weakness, sunken eyes
  • Discharge from eyes or nose
  • Wounds, abscesses, or signs of injury/trauma

A high fever in cats can quickly lead to dangerous consequences like organ damage. Therefore, immediate veterinary care is recommended if a cat’s temperature remains elevated along with concerning symptoms. It’s especially crucial for senior cats or cats with underlying medical conditions. Early treatment greatly improves recovery and prevents lasting effects. Don’t hesitate to call the vet if a fever persists or gets worse despite home monitoring and care.



In summary, while stress can temporarily raise a cat’s body temperature, it is usually not high enough to be considered a fever. However, chronic stress can potentially lead to more concerning elevations in temperature over time. Signs of stress in cats may include changes in behavior, inappropriate elimination, and physical symptoms like tense muscles or dilated pupils. If your cat is exhibiting signs of stress or you notice an elevated temperature, try to identify and address potential sources of stress in their environment. Reducing stressors and providing engaging activities can help manage feline anxiety. But if temperature remains high or your cat seems ill, take them to the vet for an exam and proper diagnosis, as many conditions can cause an elevated temperature. With attentive care and stress relief, you can help keep your cat happy, healthy, and comfortable.

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