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High temperature (fever) in cats

Black cat on white background

Overview

  • A high temperature (fever) usually means something is wrong.
  • If your cat has a high temperature you may notice them eating less, drinking less, that they are hot to touch, obviously unwell, low in energy, or that they just don’t seem themselves.
  • A high temperature can be caused by many different conditions ranging from minor to very serious.
  • Contact your vet if you think your cat has a high temperature.

Covid-19 update

If you think your cat may have a temperature it’s always safest to contact your vet for advice. It’s very unlikely that the COVID-19 virus will be the cause, see our information on coronavirus in pets for more details.

General information and symptoms

Normal body temperature for a cat ranges between 38-39°C, if it rises above the normal range your cat is likely to feel unwell and become lethargic (low in energy).

A high temperature can be caused by many different conditions ranging from minor to very serious problems. If your cat has a high temperature, you may notice that they feel hot to touch (especially their feet, ears or face), hide away, not want to eat, shiver and breathe more quickly than usual.

Causes

  • Infections and abscesses - especially cat bite abscesses.
  • Pain or inflammation (swelling) - due to conditions such as a urine infection.
  • Pyrexia of unknown origin - high temperature with no obvious cause.
  • Poisons/toxins - such as insecticides and slug pellets can cause muscle tremors and a high temperature.
  • Heatstroke - cats stuck inside hot spaces can become dangerously overheated.
  • Stress - cats can get easily stressed which sometimes raises body temperature.
  • Medicine reactions - can cause a high temperature.
  • Obesity - overweight cats find it more difficult to lose body heat so become overheated more easily.

When to contact your vet

You know your cat best, if you are concerned that they have a high temperature, or they show any of the signs listed above, book an appointment with your vet.

Treatment

Treatment for a high temperature depends entirely on the cause.

Pyrexia of unknown origin (PUO)

'Pyrexia (which means high temperature) of unknown origin’ means your cat has a high temperature with no obvious cause. This is a tricky condition to treat. It can take some time, and several different tests before a cause is found and the correct treatment is started. It’s very common to never find the cause but the high temperature to get better in a short space of time.

Published: April 2020

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Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only.

Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst