Every cat looks different and acts in unique ways, including the way their bodies work. Rather than a single number, the normal temperature of a cat varies between individuals. Veterinarians can tell you about cat average temperature, but who has an average cat? What’s normal for your kitty may mean your Mom’s cat has a fever and vice versa.
You should learn about the cat temperature range and what’s a normal cat temperature for your individual pet. Since you are your kitty’s first line of defense, educating yourself about what’s normal can alert you when your cat needs veterinary help.
What Is a Normal Cat Temperature Range?
Temperature in a cat refers to the measure of body warmth. The cat temperature range in an adult cat varies from 99 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. The cat’s age, and even breed, influences what constitutes a normal temperature of cats, though.
Lightly furred breeds like the Cornish Rex and Devon Rex feel warmer to the touch because they have less fur, but usually still fall within the average cat temperature range. But the gene mutation that created hairlessness in the Sphynx cat breed also compensates for the lack of insulating fur. A normal temperature of a cat runs about two- to four- degrees warmer in the Sphynx breed than in hairier felines.
Kittens don’t have the ability to regulate their own body temperature until four weeks old. They stay warm by piling together with littermates and snuggling with their mother to maintain normal cat temperature.
You can ask your veterinarian to tell you your cat’s temperature during the next exam. However, many cats become stressed during exams and may have a slightly elevated temperature as a result. It’s better to take your cat’s temperature at home in familiar surroundings.
A digital rectal thermometer works best, but cats understandably hate the rude intrusion. Associate the activity with positive things for kitty—maybe during a brushing session or while eating a favorite treat. You may also use an infrared ear thermometer, but ask your veterinarian to demonstrate the proper and safe way to use this on your cat.
Over the period of a week, take your cat’s temperature at least three times, but at different times of the day. Then average the readings for your pet’s baseline normal temperature. That way, you can include your cat’s individual “normal” temperature in his home health record. You’ll want to revisit this monthly in a five-minute Pet Health 5 check-up that includes tracking temperature, so you know your cat’s normal.
What Can Increase My Cat’s Temperature?
As in people, we refer to an increase in your cat’s normal temperature as a fever. Many things, from accidents, exercise, or illness, can increase the normal temperature of cats.
A fever usually results from a bacterial or viral infection when the body mounts an immune response. While a long-lasting high fever can cause severe problems, many holistic veterinarians suggest that a mild fever benefits your cat by making it more difficult for the germs to survive.
You may not know your cat has a fever. Kitties hide illness extremely well—another reason for using the Pet Health 5 monthly home check-up. Feverish cats may seek out cool places to rest, and likely will show other signs of illness, like hiding, refusing to eat, or changes in elimination habits. Here are fourteen conditions that can cause your cat’s temperature to rise.
Often the result of cat fights, an injury from bites or claws can lead to pockets of infection beneath the skin. Cat skin heals so quickly it often seals bacteria inside. The area swells with pus, with the infection sending your cat’s temperature soaring.
Overdoing playtime can temporarily elevate your cat’s temperature. Cats do not normally pant to cool off the way dogs do. So if your cat indulges in the “zoomies” or plays for too long with the dog, and you see panting, chances are he needs a time out to recover. If panting goes on longer than a few minutes, check with your vet.
Seizures result from many things, such as poisons, head injuries, metabolic imbalances, or epilepsy of unknown causes. Electrical impulses inside the brain misfire, and the resulting convulsions characterized by involuntary jerky or paddling motions temporarily increase the cat’s temperature. Most cat seizures last only a few seconds to a couple of minutes before they recover. Seizures that last longer than five minutes need veterinary help.
This tick-borne protozoal disease, also known as bobcat fever, only affects cats and is endemic in Missouri and neighboring states. The infection causes multiple organ failure, with respiratory distress, lethargy, and a sudden spiking fever. Parasite control products as well as keeping cats inside in endemic regions will help protect your cat.
Eclampsia and Mastitis
Eclampsia (milk fever, due to low calcium levels), and mastitis (infection of mammary glands) can prompt elevated temperature in nursing mom-cats. Spaying your girl kitties prevents pregnancy and eliminates the risk of these conditions.
Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
These cat-specific viruses suppress the immune system, making cats prone to a wide range of infections and illnesses. A waxing and waning fever can be one of many signs. Thankfully, today veterinarians have highly effective preventive vaccinations to protect our cats.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
Persistent fever is a hallmark of FIP, especially in kittens. This deadly disease results when an innocuous coronavirus mutates within a cat’s body. Experts continue to research why FIP arises in some cats and not others. We have no preventive vaccination available, but experimental treatments appear to show 80% of confirmed cases of FIP can be cured. We still wait for these treatments to become FDA-approved and widely available.
Cats can’t cool themselves efficiently because they only sweat through paw pads, and rarely pant. Instead, cats lick themselves and the evaporation of saliva cools the body. But when outside temperatures equal or exceed normal cat temperature, evaporation and panting won’t work. Hyperthermia happens mostly during the summer in hot weather when cats can’t escape high temperatures. Being left inside a parked car, long exposure to a groomer’s heated blow-dryer, or climbing into the clothes dryer are common causes. You’ll see signs of panting, drooling, vomiting, bright red gums, bloody nose, and a temperature up to 106 degrees.
The over-activity of the thyroid gland commonly affects middle-aged and older cats. This increases the cat’s metabolism, which in turn can raise body temperature. Hyperthyroid cats often have an increased appetite and thirst, but lose weight, act hyperactive, and seek out cool places to rest to counter their increased temperature.
In the past called cat distemper, panleukopenia can be prevented with proper routine vaccinations. A cat infected with the virus spikes a sudden high fever, refuses to eat, acts depressed with vomiting and diarrhea, and displays a painful tummy (hunching posture).
Upper Respiratory Infections (Herpesvirus, Calicivirus)
A sneezy, snotty cat with runny eyes, and/or mouth sores may refuse to eat and have a fever. Caused by a combination of different bacterial and/or viral “bugs,” these infections can be hard to get rid of and may return each time your cat feels stressed. Most kitties are exposed during kittenhood. In the most serious cases, pneumonia can develop, and result in a high fever, strained breathing, coughing, and blue-tinged gums. Routine vaccinations can help prevent the illness.
What Can Decrease My Cat’s Temperature?
The normal temperature of cats can fall below what is a normal cat temperature to dangerous levels. Technically termed hypothermia, this decrease in temperature can result from metabolic disorders, or injuries, but most often happens from environmental exposure to cold.
Hypothermia falls into three categories, based on body temperature. The condition can be mild (90-99 degrees); moderate (82-90 degrees), or severe (below 82 degrees—they stop shivering).
Cats suffering from hypothermia may feel cold, especially ear tips and paw pads. They may shiver—or in extreme cases, lose the ability to shiver—and fall unconscious. Here are six common reasons a cat’s body temperature might fall.
Anesthesia slows heart rate, breathing, and neurological functions, which results in a drop in core body temperature. That’s why cats undergoing surgery or sedation are monitored and often placed on a heating pad to maintain the normal temperature of cats.
Newborn kittens can’t maintain normal cat temperature and rely on outside sources (littermates and mom) to stay warm. If the environmental temperature is below 99 degrees, kitten temperature drops, and they may die. Sick cats, old cats, and injured felines also may have difficulty maintaining normal body temperature in cool weather. A cat’s fur traps warm air next to the skin to insulate and help maintain body warmth. Wind and wet strips away this protection, so cats outside in cold weather quickly become hypothermic.
A drop in body temperature heralds the birth of kittens. The first stage of labor lasts about six hours, during which the cat’s temperature drops to 98-99 degrees. Monitoring your pregnant queen’s temperature helps alert you when she’s ready to deliver her babies.
The pancreas provides the body with digestive enzymes and insulin. Inflammation of the organ interferes with normal function, spilling these enzymes into the bloodstream and abdomen. Vague signs come and go, including lethargy, dehydration, loss of appetite, and a low body temperature.
Cats that swallow poisons like ivermectin (a parasite medication), acetaminophen (Tylenol), rat poison, or other toxic substances can develop bleeding disorders and low heart rates. That causes the cat’s normal temperature to drop to dangerous levels.
Shock refers to the collapse of the circulatory system. Shock usually results from injuries like burns, falling, injuries from being hit by a car, or severe dehydration. Septic shock from blood infection also can cause body temperature to drop. Cats suffering shock feel cold to the touch and may lose consciousness.
When Does My Cat’s Temperature Warrant a Vet Visit?
Refer back to your cat’s baseline temperature (cat average temperature) recorded on
the Pet Health 5 monthly checks. If your Sphynx cat’s normal temperature is a couple of degrees warmer than the average, adjust the chart accordingly.
A degree or two of temperature difference for one day probably won’t require a vet visit if your cat otherwise acts like she feels fine. But you’ll also need to take into account other symptoms like those referenced above to make a decision.
For example, a cold cat that stops shivering and falls unconscious is an emergency. A hot panting cat with a bright red tongue and gums with sticky saliva also needs emergency veterinary care. But in general, refer to the chart below for guidance.
|TEMPERATURE||WHAT IT MEANS||CALL THE VET?|
|106 degrees F or higher||Emergency!||YES, immediately|
|105 degrees F||High fever||YES, same day|
|104 degrees F||Moderate fever||YES|
|103 degrees F||Moderate Fever||YES|
|102 degrees F||Normal Range||NO|
|101 degrees F||Normal Range||NO|
|100 degrees F||Normal Range||NO|
|99 degrees F||Normal Range||NO|
|99-95 degrees F||Mild hypothermia||YES, same day|
|Below 95 degrees F||Emergency!||YES, immediately|
Cat temperature is one of the five vital stats we encourage you to monitor. Join us in our Pet Health 5 movement to start tracking your cat’s health. It’s super easy! We send a reminder on the 5th of each month with a checklist of what to do and how to do it. You’ll just need five minutes to check kitty stats and record them on the log.
Pet health and cat health is an important aspect of helping our felines live long and happy nine lives. Start today by taking your cat’s temperature and signing up for Pet Health 5.
Many things influence the normal temperature of a cat, from playing too hard to life-threatening crises. That makes it even more important to know what to watch for in case of a too-hot or too-chilly kitty.
Has your kitty ever had a fever, or suffered a condition when he got too cold? Did you take his temperature?
Please share your temperature-taking tips and experiences in the comments to help other cat lovers learn what to do.
About the Author: Amy Shojai, a certified animal behavior consultant, is the award-winning author of 35+ pet care titles and pet-centric thriller fiction. She lives in North Texas with her furry muses.