Fever in cats

As in humans, an elevated temperature in cats is often a sign of illness. Symptoms are similar and can include fatigue, loss of appetite and rapid breathing. We have summarized the most important information about fever in cats for you and explained how you can measure the body temperature of your velvet paw.

Table of Contents:

What is fever in cats?

The brain triggers an increase in body temperature by sending out neurotransmitters that trigger certain behavioral reflexes. These in turn cause the cat to heat up. For example, less body heat is released to the outside because blood vessels in the skin contract. Also, the cat may be shivering to raise its body temperature as a result.

Fever in cats: Causes

Fever is considered a protective mechanism that supports the immune system and fights infectious agents. Triggers are certain substances that initiate an increase in temperature in the brain. The origin of these substances can be quite different: Infectious agents such as fungi, bacteria or viruses can release fever-inducing substances. In addition, inflamed or dead tissue, such as in the case of dental inflammation or after a tick bite, but also certain toxins or even medications can cause fever. Last but not least, tumor cells or the body’s own immune cells can also release such fever-inducing substances.

The most common causes of fever in cats are thus:

  • Injuries
  • Infections
  • Immune related diseases
  • reduction of bleeding and effusion
  • Bone marrow diseases
  • Tumors

Particularly in the case of infectious diseases, an elevated body temperature has a positive effect on the healing process: this is because many pathogens have certain temperature ranges at which they prefer to multiply. So the increase in temperature can slow or eliminate growth. Bacteria also need a certain environment to survive. Often, at higher temperatures, they change in such a way that certain substances are no longer available and they die off. Immune cells can even be activated or increased by some fever-inducing substances.

You should not confuse fever with a so-called hyperthermia, i.e. heat stroke. The body temperature of the cat is also increased. However, the cause here is different: More heat is produced by the cat than the body can give off. Often this occurs with young, overweight or. untrained animals, when muscle activity is unusually high or they become very agitated. Too much heat from the outside can also trigger hyperthermia. Cats should therefore not stay in unventilated, closed rooms when the outside temperature is very warm. Large or short-nosed cat breeds are especially at risk for heat stroke.

Recognizing fever in cats

The normal temperature in cats is between 38 and 39 degrees Celsius – if this temperature is elevated, this is of course the most important sign. Nevertheless, there are individual differences, so it is advisable to measure the body temperature of your healthy cat from time to time. This is how you get to know the personal normal value of your house cat. Please note: In stressed quadrupeds or immediately after physical exertion, the body temperature can be increased by up to 1.5 degrees, and without the cat has a fever.

To see how to take a fever in cats, see our infographic (click to enlarge):

The following symptoms may indicate a fever in your cat: Fatigue, loss of appetite, pappy gums, a rapid heartbeat (over 130 beats per minute) or rapid breathing (over 40 breaths per minute). With these signs you should pull out the fever thermometer in any case.

Even though fever in cats can be a helpful indication, it does not have only positive effects, because metabolic processes in the cat run faster. Your pet may lose weight, for example, if the fever lasts longer. Also, heat damage to body tissues can occur if the temperature is above 41.6 degrees. The central nervous system of the cat is very sensitive. And here’s how fever can lead to seizures, coma and, in rare cases, even death. In addition, the gastrointestinal tract, the kidneys, the muscles and the heart can be damaged by the too high body temperature and it can trigger liver function as well as blood clotting disorders.

Treating fever in cats

If and how you should lower the body temperature of your cat in case of fever, depends on the case. If it is for example an acute infection, it can be counterproductive to reduce moderate fever. In this case, you should regularly check the temperature and offer your darling enough water. Improvement should occur after two days. If the fever lasts longer or the cause is not obvious, you should definitely contact your veterinarian.

At 41 degrees and above, you should see a veterinarian as soon as possible, as temperatures at this level can be very threatening. Your veterinarian will ask you for a detailed preliminary report, u.a. Also whether the cat has had a tick recently, and perform a thorough clinical examination to find further clues to the trigger of the fever. Subsequently, further examinations may be necessary, such as z. B. Blood tests, x-rays, ultrasounds, tissue samples, or examination of body fluids. If necessary, the veterinarian can help your cat immediately by means of infusions or fever-reducing medication. Once the cause of the fever has been determined, the veterinarian will try to eliminate it with medication or surgery to stop the fever.

Reducing fever in cats

  • Drink plenty of water: offer your cat enough water.
  • Cooling wraps: Cover the cat with damp cloths or create a gentle airflow with a fan. Attention: too cold, z. B. by ice-cold water or even ice, it should not become – this could raise the temperature in the worst case even further.
  • Paw wraps: wrap around paws cloths moistened with highly concentrated alcohol. When alcohol evaporates, it removes excess heat from the body. Take care that your darling does not lick the alcohol.
  • Massages: a light massage can stimulate the blood flow to the skin and thus promote the release of heat. However, since massage can be uncomfortable for your cat, keep an eye on its reaction.
  • In all measures, the following applies: Be calm and affectionate towards your patient. If he gets too excited, this could drive the temperature up unnecessarily.

This article was reviewed by veterinarian Melanie Ahlers .

The above information is not a guide to self-diagnosis and treatment of animal diseases. Pet owners should always consult a veterinarian for advice if their pet has a health problem. Diagnoses over the Internet are not possible.

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