How to Take Your Cat's Temperature

A High Temp May Require a Visit to the Vet

Veterinarian examining cat in vet's surgery
Your vet can check for fever, but you can check your cat's temperature at home, too. Robert Daly/Getty Images

How can you tell if your cat has a fever? In humans, a touch of a warm forehead may give you a clue. But you can’t tell if your cat has a fever by feeling for a warm, dry nose, as many people believe. The only way to know for sure is to take its temperature.

Your cat's normal temperature is between 100.4°F and 102.5°F. Higher temperatures may require a visit to the veterinarian, depending on other symptoms. Although fevers can sometimes be helpful in fighting disease, a fever higher than 106º F can damage organs. Contact your vet as soon as possible if your cat has a high fever.

Signs of Fever in Cats

Diseases that cause a fever in cats can also cause certain behaviors. These behaviors allow cats to conserve the necessary energy to produce a fever. Fevers fight disease by stimulating the immune system and slowing growth of bacteria and viruses.

Watch out for these telltale signs of a fever:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Lack of energy or activity
  • Decreased drinking
  • Decreased grooming
  • Shivering or rapid breathing

Your cat may also display other specific signs of illness, such as sneezing, vomiting, or diarrhea.

How to Take Your Cat's Temperature

So you suspect, based on the signs above, that your cat may have a fever. Now, it's time to take your cat's temperature.

The whole process should take about 2 to 3 minutes:

  1. Assemble supplies on your kitchen counter: human rectal thermometer, Vaseline or KY Jelly, watch or clock with second hand, and towel.
  2. Shake the thermometer down with a quick snap of your wrist to 96°F, then lubricate the thermometer with the Vaseline.
  3. Stand the cat on the counter and hold her securely with your left arm. Her face should be resting in the crook of your elbow with her tail end toward your right hand. If necessary, wrap her in the towel with her butt end protruding.
  4. Lift the cat's tail with your left hand while inserting the thermometer slowly and steadily into her anus, to a depth of ½ to one inch, with your right hand. You will feel her sphincter muscle tighten, then relax.
  5. Hold the thermometer there for two minutes while softly talking to her.
  6. Remove the thermometer and record the temperature.
  7. Wash the thermometer well with warm water and disinfectant soap, then store separately.

Tips

  1. This project will be much easier if you have someone to hold the cat and pet it while you lift her tail and insert the thermometer.
  2. A temperature of 105°F is a dangerous level and your cat should be seen by a veterinarian immediately. If it's between 103°F and 104.5°F, you should call your veterinarian for advice.
  3. A digital thermometer will be easier to read, and will beep when ready to be read.
  4. If you find this project too messy, consider an ear thermometer.

What You Need

  • Thermometer
  • Vaseline or KY Jelly
  • Timer
  • Towel