Since you love your kitty, it is important to make sure they feel their best. To do so, one of the best indicators will be their body temperature. Just like us humans, cats are subject to fevers now and then. Whereas a human’s normal body temperature is about 37°C (98.6°F), a cat’s normal temperature is most often between 38 and 39°C (100.5 and 102.5°F).
Thus, if you feel your cat’s head and it seems a bit warmer than you would expect, there may be no cause for concern. However, if they are exhibiting other signs that make you think they may be under the weather, taking their temperature will give you a good idea if a trip to the vet will be necessary.
If you’ve never previously taken your cat’s temperature, it’s actually a somewhat simple process, and here’s everything you need to know to get started.
How to Take a Cat’s Temperature
While most humans have their temperatures taken with an oral thermometer, you should never attempt to do this with your cat. Since cats will bite down on whatever goes into their mouth, placing a glass thermometer filled with mercury in a cat’s mouth is a recipe for disaster. Instead, you’ll have two options for finding out your cat’s temperature.
For many people, you can do so rectally, which most experts agree will give you the most accurate reading and may actually be the easiest method. However, since this method makes some people nervous, you can also use a thermometer designed to be inserted into a cat’s ear. Ultimately, you should use whichever method with which you feel most comfortable.
Indications of a Fever
Prior to actually trying to take a cat’s temperature, observe your kitty to look for signs that may indicate a fever is present. Some of the most common signs include a loss of appetite, decreased drinking of water, lack of energy, rapid breathing or shivering, and possibly sneezing, vomiting, or diarrhea. If your cat exhibits any of these issues, it’s best to take their temperature and contact your vet. Remember that while fevers do stimulate the cat’s immune system and actually help in fighting off disease, a fever that approaches or exceeds 41°C (106°F) can lead to organ damage, so time is of the essence.
Preparing to Take the Temperature
Once you decide it is crucial you take your cat’s temperature, it’s time to get prepared for the process. First, you’ll need to decide if you want to take the temperature rectally or opt for an ear temperature. Next, you’ll need to determine if you think you can handle the task by yourself or if you’ll need assistance. If you know anything about cats, it’s that they can be unpredictable and, believe it or not, occasionally uncooperative if you’re trying to get them to do something of which they are not fond. Thus, you may need to enlist a volunteer to give you an extra set of hands and some moral support. Once you’ve taken these steps, you’re ready to begin.
What You Need?
If you have decided to take a rectal temperature of your cat, you’ll need not only a human rectal thermometer, but also a towel, a timer with a second hand, and something to lubricate the thermometer, such as KY Jelly or Vaseline. While you can use a rectal thermometer that has mercury in it and thus need to be shaken down prior to use, it’s often much easier to use a digital thermometer that will allow you to view the readout much quicker.
Preparing Your Thermometer and Your Cat
As with anything, being well-prepared prior to getting started is half the battle. This will be especially true with this task, since cats have an uncanny knack for knowing when you are up to something that involves them. Anyway, once you have your thermometer and it is set to zero, use some KY Jelly or Vaseline to lubricate its tip so that it will easily slip into your cat. Once you’ve got your hands on the cat, place it on a sturdy table or stand, and make sure it is standing up. Since the cat may be nervous, make sure you and anyone assisting you have a firm yet gentle grip on the cat. If you want, you can wrap it in a towel, which will give you more control over the cat and maybe help it to feel more secure. Also, since cats like to hide their faces when scared, let it rest its face in the crook of your elbow, while you have its rear end facing you.
Inserting the Thermometer
Once you and your cat are ready, carefully insert the thermometer into the cat’s anus. To do so, use one hand to lift the cat’s tail and the other hand to insert the thermometer into the anus to a depth of one-half to one-inch. When you feel the cat’s sphincter muscle tighten and then relax, you’ll know the thermometer is properly inserted. From here, you should simply hold the thermometer in place for two minutes and time it with the timer you have with you. However, if you are using a digital thermometer, you won’t need to worry about timing it, since it will beep when it is time for its removal. Also, don’t forget to talk to kitty in a soothing and calm voice along the way, since this will help keep you and your cat calm.
Removing the Thermometer
Once the two minutes are up that may have felt like two hours to you, gently remove the thermometer from your cat’s anus and record the temperature that was taken. If the temperature was at 39.5°C (103°F) or a bit more, call your vet and find out how you should proceed. However, should the temperature recorded be at 40.5°C (105°F) or more, make sure your cat is examined by a veterinarian immediately.
To keep the thermometer in good shape and ready for the next time, always wash it with warm water and disinfectant soap, then make sure to dry it thoroughly and store it away from other thermometers that may be used on humans. Also, don’t forget to wash your hands and the sink you used very thoroughly as well, since cat feces can be known to contain many types of dangerous bacteria.
Taking Your Cat’s Temperature via the Ear
Should you feel that trying to take your cat’s temperature rectally is a bit more than you can handle at the moment, that’s okay. Instead, you can still get a reasonably accurate reading by taking an ear temperature. However, you will need to have on hand a thermometer designed specifically for this, so keep this in mind. Also, much to the surprise of many cat owners, it is sometimes much more difficult to get kitty to agree to an ear temperature than a rectal temperature, so you may actually have an easier time overall if you work with the cat’s rear end than its head.
To get started with an ear temperature, you may want to wrap your kitty in a towel and have an extra set of hands nearby. If your cat tries to run off, you can usually hold them by the scruff of their neck to calm them down long enough to take their temperature. Once you’re ready, insert the digital ear thermometer into the cat’s ear, making sure to hold it horizontally while keeping your cat’s head as still as possible.
Although you may have to practice a few times to make sure you get the ear thermometer positioned exactly where it needs to be within your cat’s ear, there will be one major benefit once you master this technique. Whereas taking a rectal temperature usually takes two minutes, an ear temperature can often be done in less than five seconds. Thus, if you have a kitty that does not want to stand still for very long, this may be a great option for you. Once you have your reading, let your kitty go, record the temperature, and clean the thermometer.
Much like humans, a cat’s temperature will likely fluctuate during the day. Therefore, unless you think your cat is seriously ill and requires immediate medical attention, it may be to your benefit to take their temperature early in the day and then later in the evening. Generally, a cat’s temperature is lowest in the morning and increases into the afternoon and evening. Therefore, if you are trying to track your cat’s temperature over a period of time, taking readings at these times of the day will give you an accurate assessment of what may be going on.
Causes of Elevated Temperatures
As for what may cause your cat to have an elevated temperature, they can range from things which are not at all serious to ones that are dangerous. For example, your cat’s temperature will probably be higher after it has spent some time running around and playing. In other situations, it may have a higher temperature if it is scared of something or has just experienced a traumatic event. As for potential medical problems, a high fever may indicate an infection is present within your cat, or perhaps that it has an endocrine or autoimmune disorder. In some instances, a high fever can be produced by an adverse reaction to medication it may be on to treat various conditions. Therefore, if your cat does show a high fever, it is always best to discuss your concerns with your vet and find out what they recommend.
Beware of Bites or Scratches
While some cats will let you do virtually anything to them while offering no resistance, others are a bit more high-strung and may not appreciate your efforts in trying to keep them healthy. Because of this, you should always take into account the possibility of getting scratched or bitten while taking your cat’s temperature. To guard against this, it is usually a good idea to wear long sleeves during the process, and possibly some gloves as well if you think they may be needed.
Expect Your Cat to Sulk
If your cat is like most others, it will do all it can to make you feel extremely guilty after you have taken its temperature. Therefore, once you’ve gotten the information you need, let your cat jump down from the table or stand and run off so it can sulk for a little while. Depending on your cat’s personality, the sulking may last for only a minute or two or perhaps longer. However, if you recorded an especially high temperature for your kitty, don’t let them sulk too long. Instead, get them out from their hiding place, place them in a pet carrier, and pay an immediate visit to your veterinarian.
The Power of Kitty Treats
If your cat is not showing signs of digestive problems such as diarrhea or loss of appetite, making a peace offering with a few kitty treats or a can of food can quickly turn an unhappy kitty into one who is once again your best feline friend. Since you will want your kitty to know you were not trying to be mean to it by taking its temperature, always make sure you keep a few of its favorite treats on hand to use once you’re finished. Chances are that once it catches a whiff of what you’re waving under its nose, all hard feelings will be forgotten.
Since your cat’s health is of the utmost importance, being able to accurately and safely take their temperature can be crucial to helping them maintain a long and healthy life. Due to cats being notorious for their ability to hide the fact that they are not feeling well, never procrastinate and take chances with your kitty’s health. By being able to take their temperature rectally or by their ear, you can find out if your cat is sick and get the medical attention they need.