The Telltale Signs of Kitty Fever. Do Cats Feel Warm When Sick?

What is a fever in cats?

A fever in cats is defined as an elevated body temperature above the normal range. The normal body temperature for cats ranges between 100.5°F and 102.5°F (38°C and 39.2°C) (source).

A fever indicates that a cat’s body is attempting to fight off an infection, inflammation, disease, or other condition. It is the body’s natural response to raise its internal temperature to make itself less hospitable to viruses and bacteria (source).

Some common causes of fever in cats include:

  • Viral or bacterial infection
  • Immune system disease
  • Inflammation or infection of any body system
  • Cancer
  • Medication or vaccine reactions
  • Trauma or injury

It’s important to identify and treat the underlying cause of a fever in cats. A persistent fever can lead to dehydration, seizures, organ damage, and other complications if left untreated.

How can you tell if a cat has a fever?

There are several signs that may indicate your cat has a fever:

Symptoms of fever in cats

Common symptoms of fever in cats include:1

  • Lethargy or lack of energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shivering or trembling
  • Panting
  • Discomfort or acting depressed

Changes in behavior

A feverish cat may exhibit unusual behaviors like:2

  • Hiding or seeking isolation
  • Seeking out cool surfaces to lie on
  • Decreased interest in playing or petting
  • Loss of litter box habits

Warm/hot ears, paws, nose

Fever causes a cat’s extremities to feel warmer. Check the ears, paw pads, and nose for signs of an elevated body temperature.3

Do cats feel warm when feverish?

Cats can feel slightly warmer even with a low grade fever, usually around 1-2°F above their normal body temperature (Greenboro Veterinary Hospital, 2021). The increase in body temperature during a fever makes cats feel hot or warm to the touch.

However, the warmth is often localized to areas like the ears and paws, which are important for regulating body temperature (VetMed Animal Hospital, 2022). As a cat’s temperature rises with fever, the blood vessels in the ears and paws will dilate to release more heat. This causes these areas to feel noticeably warmer.

With higher fevers above 103°F, the warming effect becomes more widespread and cats will feel hot over their whole body (WebMD, 2023). They may seek out cool surfaces to lie on or avoid cuddling. So while cats can feel warm with even a slight fever, more intense warmth is a sign of high fever requiring prompt veterinary attention.

Checking a cat’s temperature

Taking a cat’s temperature rectally is the most accurate method. To do this, first prepare the thermometer by lubricating it with a little petroleum jelly. Carefully lift the cat’s tail and insert the thermometer about an inch into the rectum. Make sure not to insert it too far. Hold the tail and thermometer still for the required time per the thermometer’s instructions, usually around 1 minute. The average normal temperature for a cat is 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cats’ temperatures can fluctuate a little throughout the day. Generally, rectal temperatures over 103 degrees Fahrenheit indicate a fever. However, the specific normal temperature range can vary slightly between individual cats. It’s a good idea to take your cat’s temperature when they are healthy to know their normal baseline.

If your cat’s temperature is over 103 degrees, they likely have a fever. Temperatures over 104 degrees warrant an immediate call to the veterinarian, as high fevers can be dangerous. Lower grade fevers between 103 and 104 may not require an urgent vet visit, but you should monitor your cat closely and contact the vet if the fever persists more than a day or two. It’s important to identify and address the underlying cause of the fever as soon as possible.

Knowing how to properly take your cat’s temperature at home allows you to monitor for fevers so you can get timely veterinary care if needed (Source). Track any temperature elevations and alert your vet promptly if you have concerns.

Treating a fever in cats

Bringing down high fevers is an important part of treating a feverish cat. Fevers above 104°F can be dangerous if left untreated. Methods for reducing a high fever include cool (not cold) water baths and cool compresses to the head, neck, and paws. Only use lukewarm water, as anything colder could cause shivering which may raise the body temperature further. Limit baths to 5-10 minutes.

Keeping your cat hydrated is also crucial when treating a fever. Dehydration occurs rapidly in feverish cats. Make sure fresh, clean drinking water is always available. You can also give an oral rehydration solution prescribed by your vet. Ice chips or frozen treats provide hydration as well. Watch to ensure your cat is drinking adequate amounts.

Medications and supplements may be prescribed by your vet to reduce fever and treat any underlying illness. Common options include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories like meloxicam to lower temperature and provide pain relief. Antibiotics may be used for bacterial infections. Supportive supplements like vitamins and probiotics can also help strengthen the immune system.

It’s important not to give any medication to your cat without your vet’s guidance, as improper dosages can be dangerous. Follow your vet’s treatment plan closely and monitor your cat’s condition. With proper fever care guided by a veterinarian, most cats recover well.

Caring for a feverish cat

Caring for a cat with a fever at home involves keeping them comfortable, encouraging eating, and monitoring their symptoms closely. Some tips for caring for a feverish cat include:

Keeping them comfortable: Provide soft, warm bedding in a quiet area of the home. Cats with fevers often seek out warm, cozy spots. Allow them to rest and only interact if they seek attention.

Encouraging eating: Offer smelly, appealing foods like tuna, chicken, or canned food. Staying hydrated is critical, so provide fresh water. You can try warming the food slightly to increase appetite.

Monitoring symptoms: Check temperature regularly and watch for lethargy, breathing issues, lack of appetite, or other concerning symptoms. Keep a log to identify any changes. Contact your vet if the fever persists more than 2 days or gets higher.

While caring for a feverish cat at home, remember to limit stress, allow rest, and call the vet if you have any concerns. Most fevers in cats pass within 24-48 hours. With supportive care at home and your vet’s guidance, your cat should recover comfortably.

When to call the vet

If your cat has a fever over 103°F, you should contact your veterinarian right away. Fevers at this level can indicate a serious underlying illness that requires prompt medical attention. According to Matthews Carolina Veterinary Clinic, “If your kitty has a fever for longer than 24 hours or a fever above 106o F contact your vet to book an urgent appointment or visit your local emergency clinic” (1). High fevers put cats at risk of seizures, organ damage, and other complications.

You should also call your vet if the fever lasts more than 2-3 days without improving. Fevers are the body’s way of fighting infection, so they should start to get better within a few days as the immune system battles the illness. If the fever persists or gets higher, it could mean the infection is worsening and needs treatment.

In addition to the fever itself, watch for other signs your cat is feeling unwell like lethargy, appetite loss, vomiting, diarrhea, etc. Cats with these symptoms along with a fever are likely quite sick and need medical care. Don’t wait to see if your cat improves on their own – it’s better to have them examined and treated promptly.

Bottom line – trust your instincts. You know your cat best. If their fever or other symptoms concern you, don’t hesitate to call your vet, even if the fever falls short of 103°F. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your cat’s health.


Preventing Fevers in Cats

There are some steps cat owners can take to help prevent fevers in their cats:

Vaccinations – Keeping your cat up to date on core vaccines like feline distemper and rabies can help prevent many illnesses that may cause fever. Annual vet exams provide a chance to review which vaccines your cat should receive based on lifestyle and risk factors.

Parasite control – Internal and external parasites like worms, fleas and ticks can transmit diseases or cause infections leading to fever. Work with your vet on effective monthly parasite prevention medications and treatments.

Reduce stress – Stress weakens the immune system, making cats more prone to fever-causing infections. Keeping your cat’s environment calm and minimizing changes can help reduce stress. Provide stimulating playtime and affection daily.

Balanced diet – A nutritious diet supports good immune health. Feed your cat a complete and balanced cat food recommended by your vet. Avoid people food, which can upset the digestive system.

Fever complications in cats

A high fever can lead to potentially dangerous complications in cats. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, some common complications of fever in cats include:

Dehydration – Fevers cause cats to pant and salivate more, leading to fluid loss and dehydration. Dehydration can cause serious problems like electrolyte imbalances, kidney issues, and low blood pressure.

Seizures – High fevers above 106°F put cats at risk for seizures and neurological damage. Seizures can occur when the brain overheats.

Organ damage – Extremely high fevers can potentially damage organs like the brain, kidneys, and liver. Organ damage may require intensive hospitalization and treatment.

It’s critical to monitor a feverish cat closely and provide supportive care like fluids, cooling, and medication. Call your veterinarian right away if your cat’s fever persists or any concerning symptoms develop. Rapid treatment improves the prognosis and reduces the risk of complications from fever.

Prognosis for feverish cats

The prognosis for a cat with a fever depends on the underlying cause. In cases of minor infections or illnesses, the prognosis is usually good with proper treatment. The fever will often resolve once the infection is under control or the illness runs its course.

However, a very high fever (above 104°F) or a prolonged fever can potentially lead to complications like organ damage. So the longer and higher the fever persists, generally the worse the prognosis. Fevers lasting more than 3-4 days without explanation warrant further investigation and treatment.

For fevers of unknown origin, the prognosis really depends on the eventual diagnosis. Infectious causes often respond well to antibiotics and supportive care. But immune-mediated, cancerous or other systemic diseases may have a more guarded prognosis. Identifying and treating the underlying condition is key.

With prompt veterinary attention and appropriate treatment, most cats with fevers have a good prognosis and fully recover. But neglecting a persistent high fever can risk serious complications. Monitoring the cat closely and calling the vet if the fever persists or worsens is advised.


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