Not a lot of use
How do I know my cat has a temperature? I don’t think the average cat owner will know that their cat has a temperature without checking it. What you may well notice is that your cat seems to be ill but you probably won’t know what the illness is or what is causing it. Therefore, this is a veterinarian’s work but there’s no harm in checking your cat’s temperature if you feel so inclined provided you are confident in your abilities, dextrous and sensible. Although, there is not a lot to be gained by checking your cat’s temperature because it is a diagnostic tool and being unqualified you are not in a position to use the information to diagnose cat illness with certainty.
General symtoms of illness
Clearly, a cat with a temperature (a temperature over 103°F or 39.4°C) will be ill. And the signs of that illness might b: loss of appetite, depression, lack of energy, decreased grooming, possibly shivering or rapid breathing if the cat has a fever.
Use of non-contact infrared thermometers (NCIT) in cats and dogs
I need to get out of the way the use of non-contact infrared thermometers in cats. Clearly, if they worked well, they would be ideal for cat owners i.e. non-qualified people because of extreme ease of use. However, my research indicates that they are not accurate enough at present. A test was carried out by Emily J Hall, Aisling Fleming and Anne J Carter (published on Veterinary Nurse Saturday, March 2, 2019) and the conclusion with respect to these devices was as follows: ‘The animal specific NCIT devices do not accurately report body temperature in cats or dogs, so their use in clinical situations cannot be recommended’. This was a UK test. I would expect a similar outcome in the US but I am unsure. Therefore the best way to proceed is probably as described below, in my opinion.
Way to proceed
I would have thought the best way to tackle the issue is like this. If your cat is noticeably ill but you are unable to diagnose the illness you might wish to measure your cat’s temperature which will give some pointers as to what is wrong. You have to be careful and use a decent amount of common sense if you’re going to try and take your cat’s temperature. You can find out how you do it online or through a book like I’m doing.
A digital rectal thermometer is positively the best instrument. You should lubricate the end of the thermometer with petroleum or K-Y jelly. With the cat standing, the tail should be raised. The cat should be held to ensure that she does not sit down and “using a slight twisting motion, gently insert the bulb [or end of the digital thermometer] into the anal canal 1 to 1.5 inches (25 to 35 mm)” (verbatim from Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook). Placing your hand under your cat’s stomach will help to keep her still and stop her sitting.
The thermometer should be held in place for three minutes. Remove it, wipe it clean and read the temperature. Clean the thermometer with alcohol to prevent transfer of disease. If you need to, read the manufacturer’s instructions as to how to read and use the digital thermometer, beforehand.
The big warning will be to avoid breaking the thermometer while taking a reading. That’s why I have suggested that you use a digital thermometer. You can buy them online (Amazon) incredibly cheaply at about £9 or $9 for the human ones and $20 for the pet one.
Call a vet
If your cat has a temperature then call your veterinarian and take it from there. This is vet’s work in truth so you should really call you vet if you think your cat is ill and bypass the temperature check.