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Healthy Cats

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Fevers in Cats

How can you tell if your cat has a fever? In humans, a kiss of a warm forehead may give you a clue. But you can’t tell if your cat has a fever by feeling for a warm, dry nose, as many people believe. The only way to know for sure -- with either a human or a cat -- is to take its temperature.

A normal temperature in cats ranges from 100.4º to 102.5º Fahrenheit. A fever in cats occurs when temperatures rise above 102.5º F. Although fevers may be helpful in fighting disease, a fever higher than 106º F can damage organs. Contact the vet right away if your cat has a high fever.

Learn about the causes, signs, and symptoms of fevers in cats and what you need to know about taking your cat’s temperature and caring for a cat with a fever.

Causes of a Fever in Cats

An increase in body temperature above normal is called hyperthermia. Abnormal or unregulated hyperthermia in cats may result from being in a very warm environment or having increased muscle activity, for example. However, a fever is a specific, regulated type of hyperthermia. It develops when the set point is increased in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that acts as the body’s thermostat. A fever usually results when the immune system is activated by conditions such as:

  • A bacterial, viral, or fungal infection
  • A tumor
  • Injury from trauma
  • Certain medications
  • Diseases such as lupus

A fever for more than two weeks with no apparent reason is called a fever of unknown origin (FUO).

Signs of a Fever in Cats

Diseases that cause a fever in cats can also cause certain telltale behaviors. These behaviors, which evolved in wild animals to help them survive illness, allow cats to conserve the necessary energy to produce a fever. Fevers fight disease by stimulating the immune system and slowing growth of bacteria and viruses.

Watch for these signs of a fever:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Lack of energy or activity
  • Decreased drinking
  • Decreased grooming
  • Shivering or rapid breathing

Your cat may also display other specific signs of illness, such as sneezing, vomiting, or diarrhea.

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