That’s it, you think your cat has an abnormal temperature, you’re worried… But what can I do, Dr. Franck?
Let me guide you through this short guide to know what is normal, and what is not.
To begin with, how do I check my cat’s temperature?
You’ve touched his forehead, ears and paws and they all feel warm. Okay, I’ll take your word for it. However, it has been shown that this is not an accurate way to do it (1).
In fact, the ONLY way to know if this temperature is abnormal is to take an accurate measurement with a thermometer!
Okay, Dr. Franck, I understand that my touch is not accurate. Where should I take the temperature and what kind of thermometer should I use?
The temperature taken in the mouth of cats is quite inaccurate and very inconvenient, so we forget about it!
Taking a temperature in the ear is possible with specialized thermometers. It is however necessary to handle this tool well because false readings are frequent otherwise (2). For example: it is not placed in the right place in the ear, so the figure obtained is not realistic.
Rectal temperature (at the level of the anus) is therefore preferable.
You just need a fast digital thermometer. I’m talking mostly about the ones that take a measurement in 5 to 10 seconds, because it’s not that the others aren’t correct, but it will be harder to keep your cat completely still for 1 minute.
In short, you gently insert the thermometer 1-2 cm and wait for the beep.
Be aware that there are other ways to take a temperature as well, however they are less commonly used (3) and therefore will not be covered in this article.
I now know that I need to use a rectal thermometer for my cat, that’s for sure!
Can I know what the norms are for this one?
It is generally accepted that the temperature can vary between 38 and 39.5 Celsius. That being said, you shouldn’t worry if a cat has a temperature of 37.5 C and seems completely healthy.
On the other hand, a fever can be considered to be present when it is closer to 39.8-40 Celsius.
Dr. Franck, my cat has a fever, what should I do?
- First of all, recheck it in a few hours to see how it is evolving. If it is stable or still rising, it is clearly not temporary.
- Second, look for other abnormal signs. Be aware that a fever rarely comes on its own, so all other symptoms are important.
- Third, take note of these temperatures and any other changes from normal over the past 2-3 days.
- Finally, understand that a visit to the veterinarian will probably be necessary as further investigation will be required.
That’s all you need to know for now. I hope this will enlighten you for the next time.
Tell me, I’m curious: have you ever had any unusual situations that happened when you wanted to check your cat’s temperature?
Source 1. Kennedy CR, Babyak JM, Rozanski EA. The accuracy of tactile assessment of canine nose temperature to identify rectal hyperthermia and hypothermia in dogs presenting on an emergency basis. Can J Vet Res. 2021 Jul;85(3):205-209. PMID: 34248265; PMCID: PMC8243800.
Source 2. Smith VA, Lamb V, McBrearty AR. Comparison of axillary, tympanic membrane and rectal temperature measurement in cats. J Feline Med Surg. 2015 Dec;17(12):1028-34. doi: 10.1177/1098612X14567550. Epub 2015 Jan 19. PMID: 25600082.
Source 3. Goic JB, Reineke EL, Drobatz KJ. Comparison of rectal and axillary temperatures in dogs and cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2014 May 15;244(10):1170-5. doi: 10.2460/javma.244.10.1170. PMID: 24786164.
Francis Lagacé has been a member of the Ordre des médecins vétérinaires du Québec since 2004. He practiced for 16 years in several veterinary clinics across Canada. He treated animals of all types, mainly cats, dogs and exotic animals (rabbits, rodents, ferrets, birds, reptiles). Since 2020 he has been working in the field of veterinary pharmacovigilance. You can find him on LinkedIn.