Cats are lovely creatures, they are loyal yet independent and great fun to have around the house. Some cats are brilliant mousers whereas others are happy to just lie on a windowsill in the sun. As long as a cat has a cosy corner, they are happy and content felines. However, when they are feeling under the weather cats tend to hide away, no matter how friendly they happen to be. If you notice your pet is not quite themselves and they are not around as much as they normally are, it could be they are coming down with something which is when you need to find out if they are running a temperature.
The normal body temperature of a cat ranges anything between 100 - 102.5°F (37.7 – 39.1°C) and it is regulated by a number of factors. However, when there's an infection present, the body naturally increases its internal temperature as a way of fighting off and killing any of the infectious organisms that are present. This is what is known as pyrexia.
The body controls its temperature via some external factors, this is called thermoregulation. In short, the body can increase or decrease its temperature as a result of changing location, an example being to move out of the sun and into the shade. Other ways the body regulates its temperature include:
When a cat has a high temperature, there are two reasons why it happens. The first is because of a fever, known as pyrexia and the second is hyperthermia. When the high temperature is caused by a fever, the chances are the cat is suffering from some sort of infection and in order for the body to fight it off, it increases its internal temperature.
Hyperthermia on the other hand happens due to the external temperature being higher than a cat's body temperature and when they cannot regulate it down by way of thermoregulation. A good example of this would be if a cat was locked in a hot car for too long – they would quickly overheat and would urgently need to be taken to the vet to receive medical attention.
Also known as hypothermia, a cat will suffer a low body temperature if they are outside in cold conditions and which prevents them from stabilising their body temperature by way of thermoregulation. Again a cat that is suffering from hypothermia due to a low body temperature, would need to be taken to the vet as a matter of urgency.
Very young kittens find it hard to maintain their body temperature which is why they should always be kept in a warm environment where there is a constant and stable level of warmth.
If you think your cat is running a temperature, and in particular if it is either under 99°F (37.2°C) or over 104°F (40°C), then you need to get them to the vet as soon as you can so they can diagnose the problem and treat your cat accordingly. It is really important to bring a fever down or if the cat is suffering from hypothermia due to being exposed to the cold, their body temperature needs to be stabilised. If you think your cat is experiencing heat stroke, they would need to be treated by a vet as quickly as possible so they can make a full recovery. It is never a good idea to try to treat your cat at home if they are suffering from hypothermia.
Cats with temperatures need to see a vet as soon as possible so it's important to know what their normal temperatures should be. It is a very good idea to ask your vet to show you how to take their temperature so you know what to do safely without injuring your cat or yourself. However, if you're not that keen on taking their temperature yourself, it is far better to take your cat to the vet than not to take them. If you think their temperature is either too low or too high ther is a good reason for this. Remember it's far better to be “safe than sorry” and that most conditions when caught early enough are far easier to treat.