If your cat is running a fever, it may indicate an underlying health problem that requires urgent care. Today, our Leighton vets discuss the causes, signs, and treatment options for certain types of fevers seen in cats.
Fevers in Cats
As with people, cats will often develop a fever if their immune system is fighting off an infection or disease. The normal body temperature for cats is around 100.4º to 102.5º Fahrenheit. A fever is characterized by a temperature of more than 102.5º F in cats.
If your feline friend shows any of the signs of fever below it is essential to seek veterinary care. Cats that develop a fever higher than 106º F are at serious risk of damage to their vital organs.
Signs of Fever in Cats
Depending on the underlying cause, if your cat has a fever you may notice the following symptoms:
- Lack of appetite
- Weakness or lethargy
- Rapid heart rate
- Decreased activity
- Decreased drinking
- Poor grooming
Taking Your Cat's Temperature
Taking your cat's temperature is fairly straightforward. Simply use a digital thermometer aimed at your cat’s ear, or use a pediatric rectal thermometer for a more accurate reading. Never use an older-style mercury thermometer when taking your pet's temperature! If the thermometer breaks it can be very harmful to your kitty's health.
The best way to accurately measure your pet's temperature and determine whether your cat has a fever is to use a pediatric rectal thermometer. Apply petroleum jelly to the thermometer to lubricate it, then gently insert it. It's important not to go too far as it could damage your cat's delicate rectal tissue. You may need someone to help you calmly restrain your cat while you insert the thermometer. Leave the thermometer in place for at least two minutes to get a correct reading.
If you think that your cat may have a fever but you are uncomfortable taking their temperature, contact your veterinarian right away for an examination. Your vet will be able to quickly assess your kitty's temperature and overall state of health.
Causes of Fever in Cats
Fevers generally occur in cats when their immune system is activated by conditions such as:
- Bacterial and viral infections
- Fungal infection
- Internal injury
- Autoimmune disease
- Certain medications
- A tumor
- Immune-mediated inflammatory disease
- Metabolic disorders
- Endocrine disorders
Conditions That Can Cause Fever in Cats
Outdoor cats are at the highest risk for exposure to diseases than indoor cats. Several serious conditions can cause fever in cats, including:
Bobcat Fever in Cats (Cytauxzoonosis)Bobcat fever is an acute, sometimes fatal disease in cats caused by the bite of a tick infected with the Cytauxzoon felis parasite. This condition often strikes healthy, young adult cats that spend time outdoors.
Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis)Valley fever in cats is caused by the inhalation of the soil fungus Coccidioides immitis found in desert regions of the Southwestern United States. Symptoms of valley fever in cats include fever, lethargy, poor appetite, and coughing, but can progress to severe joint and back pain, seizures, and blindness.
HaemobartonellosisHaemobartonellosis is an antibiotic-resistant bacterial blood infection seen in cats. This condition often leads to urinary tract infections and pneumonia which are very hard to treat.
EhrlichiosisEhrlichiosis is a tick-borne condition that can lead to fever in cats. The signs of Ehrlichiosis in cats include fever, swollen lymph nodes, lethargy, decreased appetite, abnormal bruising or bleeding, and eye inflammation.
Milk Fever (Eclampsia)Eclampsia typically occurs in cats approximately 4 weeks after giving birth to kittens. Early signs of milk fever in cats include a stiff walk, restlessness, and excessive panting.
Cat Scratch Fever (Bartonellosis)This condition can be transmitted between animals and from animals to humans. In cats, the disease is typically spread through contact with flea feces. Symptoms of cat scratch fever in cats include fever, swollen glands, lethargy, decreased appetite, and in some cases reproductive difficulties.
This is one of the most common parasitic diseases. Toxoplasmosis in cats can lead to symptoms such as fever, diarrhea, cough, difficulty breathing, jaundice, and seizures, and in severe cases, this condition can be life-threatening.
What to Do If Your Cat Has a Fever
It is important to NEVER give your cat human medications without the explicit advice of a veterinarian! Many human medications, such as acetaminophen, can be extremely toxic to cats.
Make sure your cat stays hydrated by ensuring that they have easy access to fresh clean water and make sure they have a comfortable place to relax.
If your cat has a fever that lasts longer than 24 hours or goes above 106º F visit your veterinarian or visit your local emergency animal hospital right away.
Your vet will do a full examination of your cat to determine the cause of your pet's fever, and prescribe the best treatment to help restore your cat's good health. In some cases, even after an extensive veterinary examination, the cause may not be evident and your cat could be diagnosed with a fever of unknown origin (FUO). If your cat has moderate or severe dehydration, intravenous fluids may be used to help your cat feel better and fight off illness.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms.