Is Your Cat’s Warm Head Normal or a Cause for Concern?

Normal Cat Body Temperature

The average cat body temperature is 100.5-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit (38-39.2 degrees Celsius) according to VCA Animal Hospitals ( Cats regulate their body temperatures within a very narrow range – usually within a degree or two of 102 degrees F. Therefore, a slight rise or drop from a cat’s normal temperature can be indicative of a medical issue. Cats naturally run a degree or two warmer than humans.

Checking Your Cat’s Temperature

There are a few ways to check your cat’s temperature at home:

Rectal Temperature: The most accurate way to take your cat’s temperature is rectally with a digital thermometer designed for pets. Lubricate the thermometer with a water-soluble gel and gently insert about 1 inch into your cat’s rectum. Wait for the reading, usually within 60 seconds. A normal temperature is 100.5-102.5°F (source).

Ear Temperature: You can take your cat’s temperature with a digital pet ear thermometer. Place a probe cover over the sensor, lift your cat’s ear flap, and insert the thermometer gently into the ear canal. Normal ear temperature is 100-102.5°F (source).

Paw Pad Temperature: While not as accurate as other methods, you can get a rough estimate of your cat’s temperature by feeling their paw pads. Warm paws indicate a normal temperature, while hot paws may signal a fever (source).

Signs of Fever in Cats

There are several signs that may indicate your cat has a fever. Some of the most common signs include:

– Warm head – One of the most obvious signs is if your cat’s head feels unusually warm to the touch. A healthy cat should have a normal body temperature around 100-102°F. If the head feels significantly warmer, it could signal a fever.

– Warm ears – A cat’s ears help regulate body temperature. So if the ears feel hotter than normal, it can be a sign of elevated body temperature and fever (

– Lethargy, lack of appetite – When sick with a fever, cats often become less active and lose their appetite. Your once energetic cat may sleep more and turn down food. Lethargy and appetite loss are common fever symptoms (

Other potential signs include shivering, rapid breathing or heart rate, and glassy eyes. Monitoring your cat for these fever indicators can help determine if a vet visit is needed. But a warm head and ears are some of the most telling fever clues in cats.

Causes of Fever in Cats

Some of the most common causes of fever in cats include:


Infections are a very common cause of fever in cats. Upper respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, abscesses, and other bacterial, viral or fungal infections can all lead to fever. Some examples include feline panleukopenia virus, feline leukemia virus (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), and feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) 1.


Inflammation in the body, known as inflammatory response, often presents with fever. This can occur with inflammation of the intestines, liver, kidneys, joints, or other areas. Diseases like feline asthma, pancreatitis, and inflammatory bowel disease can cause inflammation and fever.


Cats with cancer, especially blood cancers like lymphoma, may run fevers. The cancer leads to inflammation and an elevated body temperature. Other cancers like mammary gland tumors can also cause fever in cats.

Treating a Fever

The main treatment for a fever in cats focuses on resting the body, maintaining proper hydration and nutrition, lowering the body temperature if it’s dangerously high, and addressing any underlying illness causing the fever.

It’s important to allow a cat with a fever to rest quietly in a comfortable, cool environment. Reducing activity helps conserve energy for the immune system to fight infection. Make sure fresh, cool water is always available to prevent dehydration.

Appetite may be decreased with a fever, but getting adequate nutrition helps recovery. Offer small frequent meals of the cat’s usual food. Nutrient rich, easily digestible foods can aid healing.

Medications may be prescribed by a veterinarian to treat fever symptoms or underlying illness. Antibiotics treat bacterial infections while anti-inflammatories reduce inflammation causing the fever. Reduce high fevers with medication if they reach dangerous levels above 104°F (40°C).

Addressing dehydration, providing nutrition, lowering a high fever, and treating any infection or illness causing the fever are key parts of caring for a cat with an elevated temperature. With supportive care and treatment of the underlying cause, most fevers can be successfully managed.

When to See the Vet

If your cat has a fever over 103°F or a fever that persists for more than 24 hours, it’s time to see the vet. A high fever can be dangerous for cats if left untreated. According to the Matthews Animal Hospital, a fever over 106°F can cause damage to your cat’s organs (source).

You should also contact your vet right away if your cat is exhibiting other concerning symptoms along with the fever, such as lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, etc. These signs may indicate an underlying illness that requires prompt veterinary attention and treatment. WebMD advises contacting the vet immediately if your cat has a high fever, as it could progress to a life-threatening emergency (source).

Waiting too long to seek veterinary care for a feverish cat can allow whatever is causing the fever to worsen. It’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your cat’s health. Don’t hesitate to call your vet, even if you’re unsure whether your cat’s symptoms warrant a visit. The vet can then advise you on the best course of action.

Preventing Fevers

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


Keeping your cat up-to-date on core vaccinations can help prevent many common illnesses that may cause fever, such as feline panleukopenia virus, feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, rabies, and feline leukemia virus. Kittens should receive a series of vaccinations starting around 6-8 weeks of age, with boosters continuing through 16 weeks old. Adult cats need booster vaccines periodically according to your veterinarian’s recommendations, usually every 1-3 years. Vaccines help prime your cat’s immune system to fight off infections before they take hold in the body and cause illness. Discuss your cat’s vaccination schedule with your vet.

Parasite Control

Intestinal parasites like roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms and protozoa can sicken cats and lead to fever. Regular deworming as a kitten and preventative medications like monthly topicals and chewables help control parasites. Keeping your cat indoors and preventing exposure to parasite eggs or infected rodents can also reduce risk. Have your vet check a fecal sample annually and treat any parasites found.

Reduce Stress

Stress weakens the immune system, making cats more prone to illness and fever. Reduce stress by keeping routines consistent, making sure your cat’s needs for nutrition, play, scratching and litter box use are met, and minimizing changes to their environment. Providing stimulating toys, cat towers and perches, and affection can also lower stress. Using synthetic feline pheromones like Feliway can produce a calming effect.

Good Nutrition

Feeding a high-quality commercial cat food formulated for your cat’s age and activity level helps ensure proper nutrition for good health and immunity. Avoid poor quality or moldy foods. Make dietary changes gradually and keep fresh, clean water constantly available. Good nutrition supports your cat’s health and resilience against illness and fever.

Caring for a Cat With a Fever

If your cat has a fever, it’s important to provide supportive care to help bring their temperature down and keep them comfortable. Here are some tips for caring for a cat with a fever at home:

Offer food and water often. Sick cats often don’t feel like eating or drinking much, but staying hydrated is crucial when feverish. Try offering smelly foods like tuna or foods your cat normally loves to entice them to eat and drink. Make sure fresh water is always available.

Provide a cool resting area. Place an ice pack or frozen water bottle wrapped in a towel in your cat’s bed to help lower their body temperature. Or set up their bed in the coolest part of the house away from direct sunlight.

Monitor symptoms. Keep an eye on your cat’s symptoms like energy levels, appetite, and fever. Note if the fever persists more than 2-3 days or comes back after going away. Contact your vet if symptoms worsen or new ones develop.

Your vet may prescribe medications to help reduce fever. Be sure to give all medications as directed. With supportive care at home and your vet’s treatments, your feverish feline should be back to feeling fine soon.

Emergency Signs

If your cat has a fever over 104°F, it is considered an emergency situation. Temperatures this high can cause seizures, organ damage, and even death if not treated immediately. You should take your cat to the emergency vet right away if their temperature is above 104°F.

Difficulty breathing or panting are also emergency signs of fever in cats that require urgent veterinary attention. This could indicate pneumonia or another respiratory issue caused by the high fever. Shallow, rapid breathing is especially concerning.

If your cat becomes unconscious or unresponsive when they have a fever, you need to get them to the vet immediately. Loss of consciousness is a life-threatening symptom that means the body is overwhelmed and shutting down. It indicates organ damage or shock may be occurring.

In addition to temperature over 104°F, trouble breathing, and unconsciousness, other emergency fever symptoms include seizures, severe vomiting/diarrhea, bleeding, or purple gums/tongue. Don’t hesitate to rush your cat to emergency vet care if you observe any of these alongside the high fever.

Cats can deteriorate rapidly when their temperature climbs too high. Be vigilant for these emergency fever signs, as prompt treatment is essential for your cat’s chances of survival and full recovery. Don’t wait – get emergency vet help right away at the first signs of these dangerous symptoms.

Outlook and Prognosis

With proper care and treatment, most feline fevers will resolve within 1-5 days and do not signal anything serious [1]. The key factor is determining and addressing the underlying illness or infection causing the fever. Simple viral infections often clear up on their own, while bacterial infections require antibiotics. Parasites, cancer, and other diseases may require more intensive, prolonged treatment.

Kittens, senior cats, and those with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for complications from fever. But otherwise healthy adult cats can typically recover fully with rest, nutrition, hydration, and medication if needed. Bringing the fever down quickly is important to prevent seizures, organ damage, or brain inflammation. If the fever persists longer than expected, returns, or spikes over 104°F, veterinary assistance is recommended [2].

With appropriate care guided by a vet, most cats make a complete recovery. However, an untreated high fever can be dangerous. Monitoring temperature, symptoms, and investigating the cause are key to ensuring the best outcome.

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