The Easy Guide to Taking Your Cat’s Temperature at Home


Monitoring a cat’s temperature is an important way to check their health and wellbeing. A cat’s normal body temperature ranges between 100.5°F and 102.5°F (source). Changes in temperature outside this range, especially a high fever, can indicate an underlying illness or infection that requires veterinary attention.

Cats are very good at hiding signs of sickness. A fever may be the only obvious symptom of an illness in its early stages. Taking a cat’s temperature at home allows owners to identify a fever and seek timely treatment. This can prevent conditions from worsening and reduce suffering for the cat.

In healthy cats, monitoring temperature also provides a baseline to compare to if the cat falls ill in the future. Knowing a cat’s normal temperature makes it easier to identify any variations that could signal a health problem. Overall, regularly checking a cat’s temperature is a simple way for owners to monitor health between veterinary visits.

Normal Cat Temperature Range

The normal body temperature range for cats is between 100.5°F and 102.5°F (38.1°C and 39.2°C) according to VCA Animal Hospitals. Cats, like humans, have a baseline body temperature that can vary slightly between individuals but generally falls within this normal range.

It’s important to know your cat’s normal temperature when they are healthy, so you have a point of comparison if they develop a fever. Track your cat’s temperature over several days when they are well to identify their average normal temperature.

Minor temperature fluctuations throughout the day are normal as a cat’s temperature may be a little lower in the morning and increase later in the day. But significant or persistent increases above their regular baseline could indicate a fever requiring veterinary attention.

When to Take a Cat’s Temperature

Some common reasons to take a cat’s temperature at home include:

  • Your cat is acting lethargic or less active than usual (
  • Your cat is vomiting or has diarrhea
  • Your cat is not eating or drinking normally
  • You want to monitor your cat during an illness or after a medical procedure
  • Your cat feels warm or has other signs of fever like red ears or gums
  • You want to establish your cat’s normal temperature range when healthy

Taking your cat’s temperature at the first signs of illness can help identify a fever and prompt quicker veterinary care if needed. It’s a useful diagnostic tool for any concerning symptoms.

Choosing a Thermometer

There are several types of thermometers that can be used to take a cat’s temperature at home:

Digital Thermometers

Digital thermometers are a popular option for taking a cat’s temperature. They provide a fast and accurate digital readout. Many models designed specifically for pets have a flexible tip to make insertion easier (VCAA).

Rectal Thermometers

Rectal thermometers are inserted a short way into the rectum to get an internal body temperature reading. This is the most accurate method but can be difficult to do at home. Use a lubricant and be extremely gentle (Pet Pro Supply Co).

Ear Thermometers

Ear or tympanic thermometers take a temperature reading in the ear canal. They are quick and relatively easy to use. Make sure to follow directions closely to get an accurate reading (A-Z Animals).

Forehead/Skin Thermometers

Forehead and skin thermometers read the surface temperature and are not as accurate as other options. However, they are the least invasive option if your cat strongly objects to other methods.

Preparing to Take a Temperature

Before taking your cat’s temperature, it’s important to create a calm environment to reduce stress. Choose a quiet room away from other pets or children. Have the thermometer and lubricant ready beforehand. Some cats may be anxious about having their temperature taken, especially if it’s their first time. Try wrapping the cat in a towel or blanket to gently restrain them. Speak in soft, soothing tones and pet them to help them relax. Offer treats or catnip as positive reinforcement. If the cat remains agitated, consider having two people present – one to hold and one to take the temperature.

Make sure the thermometer has been sterilized per the manufacturer’s instructions. Lubricate the tip with a small amount of petroleum jelly so it slides in smoothly. Position the cat on your lap or a steady surface like a table. Be patient and work with your cat’s natural movements instead of fighting them. With preparation and care, taking a temperature can be stress-free for both you and your feline.

Taking a Rectal Temperature

Taking your cat’s rectal temperature is the most accurate method to measure their body temperature. Follow these steps:

  1. Choose a digital thermometer made for pets. Do not use a glass mercury thermometer, as these can break and cause harm.
  2. Apply a small amount of petroleum jelly to the tip of the thermometer to lubricate it.
  3. Hold your cat still and gently lift their tail. You may need someone to help restrain the cat.
  4. Gently insert the thermometer about 1 inch into the cat’s rectum, angling slightly towards their naval.
  5. Hold the thermometer in place until you hear the beep, indicating it has recorded the temperature.
  6. Gently remove the thermometer and check the reading.
  7. Clean the thermometer thoroughly with rubbing alcohol to sanitize it after each use.

Taking a cat’s temperature rectally provides the most accurate reading of their core body temperature. Be gentle, steady, and patient when inserting the thermometer to minimize stress and discomfort for the cat.

Taking an Ear Temperature

Taking a cat’s temperature with an ear thermometer is a quick and easy method. Here are the steps for taking an ear temperature:

  1. Choose a digital ear thermometer designed for pets. Make sure it’s turned on.
  2. Gently hold your cat and position her on your lap or a surface where you can access her ear. You may need someone to help restrain her.
  3. Gently pull back the fur around the ear to expose the ear canal opening.
  4. Insert the thermometer probe gently into the horizontal ear canal. Do not force it if your cat resists.
  5. Press the button to take the temperature reading. The thermometer will beep when done.
  6. Read and record the temperature, then remove the thermometer.
  7. Reward your cat with treats and praise.

Ear thermometers designed for pets provide fast, accurate readings. Be very gentle, and never force the device into the ear canal. Taking a temperature this way is less invasive than other methods. Refer to the product instructions for proper usage.

Source: How to Take Your Cat’s Temperature

Interpreting the Temperature

Once you have taken your cat’s temperature, you need to know how to interpret the reading to determine if it is normal or indicates a fever. For cats, normal body temperature ranges between 100.4°F to 102.5°F (38°C to 39.2°C) [1]. Temperatures above 102.5°F are considered elevated and indicative of a fever.

It’s important to look at the full context when interpreting your cat’s temperature. For example, if your cat’s normal temperature is on the lower end like 100.5°F, then a reading of 101.5°F could be abnormal for them. On the other hand, a cat with a normal temperature of 102°F may not have a fever until 103°F or higher.

Keep a record of your cat’s regular temperature range when they are healthy. This makes it easier to identify any elevations that could signal illness or fever. Even subtle increases above their typical baseline, like 0.5°F to 1°F higher, can be meaningful.

Monitor for other symptoms when you detect an elevated temperature. Common signs of fever in cats include lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, and dehydration [2]. Rapid breathing, reddened ears or gums, and a fast heart rate may also indicate fever. Knowing your cat’s typical temperature and watching for accompanying symptoms allows you to identify a fever early and seek veterinary care as needed.

When to Seek Veterinary Care

There are certain cat fever symptoms that warrant an immediate visit to your veterinarian. According to Matthews Animal Hospital, contact your vet right away if your cat has a fever over 104°F. A temperature this high can lead to brain damage or seizures if left untreated. You should also seek prompt veterinary care if the fever lasts more than 24 hours or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms like:

  • Lethargy or lack of appetite
  • Visible pain or discomfort
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Signs of dehydration like dry gums
  • Discharge from eyes or nose
  • Frequent vomiting or diarrhea

A persistent high fever in cats can quickly become dangerous if not addressed. So if your cat exhibits a fever along with any of these symptoms, it’s important to schedule a vet appointment right away or visit an emergency animal hospital if after hours.

Caring for a Cat with a Fever

If your cat has a fever, it’s important to provide supportive care at home while monitoring their condition. Here are some tips for caring for a cat with a fever:

Make sure your cat stays hydrated by encouraging them to drink water or offering low-sodium chicken broth. Dehydration can occur rapidly when a cat has a fever, so providing fluids is essential.

Allow your cat ample time to rest. A sick cat needs sleep to help their immune system fight infection. Provide a quiet, comfortable area for your cat to relax and recover.

Monitor your cat’s appetite and litter box habits. Loss of appetite and changes in urination can indicate worsening illness.

Avoid over-bundling or overheating your cat, which can raise their body temperature. Keep them comfortably warm but not hot.

Gently wipe your cat’s ears and paw pads with a cool, damp cloth to help lower body temperature.

Make sure your cat is breathing comfortably and not showing signs of respiratory distress like open-mouth breathing or wheezing.

Weigh your cat daily if possible to check for weight loss that could suggest dehydration or declining health.

Record your cat’s temperature at regular intervals to identify any spikes in fever.

See your veterinarian promptly if your cat’s condition seems to worsen despite home care.

With attentive nursing care at home and veterinary guidance, many cats can recover fully from fevers when the underlying cause is treated.

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