ALL ABOUT DOGS and CATS Resource Center for Canine & Feline Lovers
Pet Health Articles
The Easiest Way to Assess Your Cat’s Health
By Jennifer Viegas
If your veterinarian were to ask you to take your cat’s
temperature at home, would you know what to do? This often-
necessary task might seem simple, but it requires preparation and
practice. Dr. Jodi Korich, a veterinarian and the director of
Partners in Animal Health at Cornell University’s College of
Veterinary Medicine, explains what you should do both now and
when the moment of need arises.
Cat First-aid Kit
It helps to create mini “sub-kits” within your cat’s basic first-aid kit, with each containing items required
for specific tasks. For the temperature-taking portion of the kit, you’ll need:
•Thermometer While you can use a standard glass thermometer, Korich believes a digital one is safer. “If
you accidentally drop the thermometer, which can happen when trying to control a squirming cat, it
won’t then break and shatter,” she explains. “A digital thermometer is also flexible and will move with
•Lubricant It facilitates insertion of the thermometer. Korich suggests three choices that work equally
well: mineral oil, KY Jelly and petroleum jelly.
•Alcohol You should have this in your kit anyway, for treating certain wounds. In this case, it will be
used to clean off the thermometer.
•Paper towel This is useful during cleanup.
Taking Your Cat’s Temperature
Even before your cat is ill, it’s important that you perform a few practice temperature-taking runs.
These instructions assume that you are using a digital thermometer. To begin, lightly coat the tip of the
thermometer with lubricant. Have all the other required items within reach.
If possible, “Try to find a friend or family member who can help out,” advises Dr. Korich. One individual
can then serve as the “cat holder,” securing the cat with both hands between the feline’s neck and
shoulders. If the cat might bite or scratch, have this second individual wear gloves and use a towel to
hold the feline patient.
If you’re working alone, hold your cat against your side. Wrap an arm around the front of your cat so it
cannot break free. If possible, place your cat on a raised surface, such as a table.
Lift your cat’s tail, but be gentle. If you pull too hard, you can hurt your cat, which might then bolt.
Insert the thermometer into your cat’s anus. “There will be some initial resistance, due to contraction
of the anal muscles,” warns Korich. Hold the thermometer until it beeps, signifying that a temperature
has been taken.
When finished, “It’s important that you don’t forget the treat,” says Korich. This will help to ease your
cat’s tension and reinforce that the temperature-taking process is rewarding and not threatening.
Korich says temperatures falling between 100.4 F to 102 F “are considered to be normal for cats.” If
your cat is emotionally stressed, however, its temperature could go up to around 103 F.
When to Take Your Cat’s Temperature
According to the Hale Veterinary Group of Wiltshire, England, “pyrogens,” or substances that change
the level at which the body temperature is maintained, cause fever. Pyrogens include “bacteria, viruses,
toxins, some drugs and natural substances released by the body in response to inflammation.” Cat
temperatures tend to hold steady, so rises and falls strongly indicate that something is wrong.
Korich says your veterinarian might ask that you take your cat’s temperature after it has undergone a
surgical procedure or has been diagnosed with an illness. “Visits to the hospital can be tremendously
stressful for cats, so home monitoring under a veterinarian’s supervision can allow the cat to recover
quicker,” she explains.
“Cats are notoriously secretive about illness,” says Korich. Temperature is one key indicator of sickness
that your clever feline cannot fake or hide.
Jennifer Viegas is the managing editor of The Daily Cat. She is a journalist for Discovery News, the news
service for the Discovery Channel, and has written more than 20 books on animals, health and other