Do cats get fevers?

The cat has a warm nose…the ears feel hot to the touch too. Does kitty has a fever? There is a common belief that a cold and wet nose or cold ears are indications that the pet is healthy. A cat with warm nose is therefore believed to have a fever. Do cats get fevers? Yes, cats can get fevers. However, the way the nose and the ears feel are not reliable ways in determining if the cat has an elevated temperature. In cats, fever can be diagnosed by using a rectal temperature.

Fever is body temperature that is above the cat’s normal temperature range of 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Cat parents would naturally be concerned with the cat’s abnormally high body temperature. However, this elevated temperature is actually beneficial to the cat as it is the body’s internal control to fight the invasion of infection and disease-causing bacteria and viruses. A part of the brain called hypothalamus works as the thermostat in the cat’s body. The hypothalamus will command the brain to reset the temperature control setting whenever small molecules known as pyrogens are sensed in the blood. Pyrogens are fever inducing substances that are found in cell wall of some bacteria. Fever is the body’s response to the invasion of viruses and bacteria as these foreign matters do not thrive in hot environments. Elevated temperature would prevent the growth of the invading microorganism thereby enhancing the capability of the immune system to fight the infection.

Viral and bacterial infections are the common reasons for the cats fever. A cat can get fever if the function of the immune system is activated by health concerns like a tumor or cancer and other disease like pancreatitis. A cat that has sustained injuries or traumas can have fever as well. Fever can be a side effect of the medication the cat is taking. There are instances when the cause of the cat’s fever cannot be identified. Cats with fever of unknown origin (FUO) would be ill for more than two weeks and generally the temperature would be higher than 103.5 °F.

Cats with health concerns have the tendency to hide. A cat that hides in dark corners should give the owner a cue that all is not well with the pet. A fevered cat would feel hot to the touch. However, some cat owners may not have the habit of cuddling and petting the pet thus the abnormally high temperature of the cat may not be noticed. A cat with fever will show other symptoms. Just as with fevered humans, cats with fever would be lethargic and have no appetite. Cats are not really big on drinking water but a cat with fever will altogether refuse water. As infection is one of the most common causes of fever, the pet parent can look for draining wounds, abscesses and swelling in the cat’s body. A rectal temperature is the most accurate way of knowing if the cat’s temperature is abnormally high.

Some fevers would not need any treatment. It would be best to allow mild fever to run its course as the elevated temperature helps in the destruction of the invading viruses and bacteria. Slightly elevated temperatures can be dealt with at home. Fever that is higher than 106° F is dangerous especially if the fever has lasted for 2 days or more. Body temperature this high can already damage organs. Medications must be administered to break the fever. Treatment will be based on the underlying cause. Several diagnostic tests will be conducted by the vet to determine the cause and the source of the fever. Antibiotics are given if fever is due to bacterial infection. The cat would be given supportive care if the fever is caused by viral infection.