Cats have a higher body temperature than humans, and their paws are soft and tactile. So, when a cat crawls into your lap, it should be a pleasant experience.
Take cold paws in cats seriously. Unless your pet has just left a cold surface, she should always maintain a warm temperature. Cold paws suggest that blood is not reaching her extremities, either due to ill health or injury.
- 1 What Temperature Should My Cats Paws Be?
- 2 Why Do Cat’s Paws Get Cold?
- 3 Only One of My Cat’s Paws Are Cold
- 4 How to Check the Temperature of Your Cat’s Paws
- 5 My Cat’s Paws are Cold, How Do I Take Its Temperature?
What Temperature Should My Cats Paws Be?
Cat paws can tell you whether your cat is too hot or your cat is too cold. Forget what you may have heard about checking the temperature of a cat’s nose. It’s a myth that feline noses denote a fever. Her paws can be a reliable gauge, though.
Cat paws and ears are considered the extremities of the feline body. If your cat is unwell, she’ll struggle to retain heat in these body parts. If your cat’s paws are constantly cool to the touch, then this suggests that something is wrong.
Your cat needs to have a body temperature of between 100 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit. 101 degrees, being right in the middle, is deemed normal. If your cat’s temperature drops below 100 degrees, she’s at risk of hypothermia.
Why Do Cat’s Paws Get Cold?
Cat paws are like conductors for their ambient temperature. The paw pads found on feline feet are sensitive. If the ground outside is cold, her paws will reflect this.
As a result, you’ll need to take care of your cat during cold weather. If she roams outdoors, discourage this during snowy spells. Her paws will get so cold that it affects her body temperature.
Her paws will also be cold if she has been walking on cold stone. This will be a transient and temporary issue, though. Your pet’s paws should quickly become warm again.
If your cat’s paws seem to be constantly cool, there may be a medical explanation. The most common explanations for this include:
- Low Blood Pressure
- Heart Disease
- Side Effects of Medication or Anesthesia
- Blood Clots
Check your cat’s body temperature if her paws feel cool to the touch.
If her temperature is otherwise normal, don’t panic. Keep an eye on her, and take action if 24 hours pass without improvement. If your cat is also lethargic and not eating or drinking, something more serious is occurring.
Hypothermia in Cats
Hypothermia (dangerously low body temperature) is the most common cause of cold feline paws. Hypothermia comes occurs in three stages.
- A temperature of 90-99 degrees Fahrenheit is mild hypothermia.
- A temperature of 82-90 degrees Fahrenheit is moderate hypothermia.
- A temperature below 82 degrees Fahrenheit is severe hypothermia.
Hypothermia can occur when a cat is exposed to cool temperatures for a prolonged period. Being locked out of the house during winter, for example. Wet fur can also cause hypothermia, especially in longhaired breeds of cat.
Aside from cold paws, the most common warning signs of hypothermia are:
- Shallow, labored breathing
- Slow heart rate
- Dilated pupils
- General lethargy
A cat with hypothermia must be warmed up, but this should be a gradual process. Wrap your cat in a thick blanket. If her hypothermia is moderate, add a hot water bottle. A hairdryer on low heat will also help.
In cases of severe hypothermia, your pet will need warming IV fluids. This can only be arranged by a professional.
Shock in Cats
Cats can go into shock. In fact, it’s likely if she experiences something traumatic. Common experiences that plunge cats into shock include injuries, blood loss, and allergic reactions. Common warning signs that your cat is in shock include:
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Withdrawn demeanor
- Weakness and lethargy
- Tremors and seizures
- Pale and discolored gums
If your cat is in shock, her body temperature will drop sharply. This, in turn, leaves her at risk of hypothermia. Naturally, this needs to be managed.
To treat a cat in shock, wrap her in a warm blanket. Your cat will need to be kept calm and allowed to recover. Reassure her as best you can, but don’t crowd your cat at this time.
There is no hard-and-fast rule as to how long it takes a cat to recover from the shock. It depends on the cause, and the severity of the shock. If she still has cold paws after 24 hours, seek medical help.
Low Blood Pressure in Cats
Low blood pressure, aka hypotension, is comparatively rare in cats. It can be a side effect of other conditions, though. In some unfortunate cases, it’s hereditary and inherited from a parent feline.
If your cat has cool paws but seems otherwise normal, hypotension could be to blame. Many cats do not show other symptoms of this condition. She’ll struggle to maintain her body temperature, though, because their heart beats so slowly.
Treating hypotension means treating the cause of the issue. This may be blood loss, or shock. Alternatively, it may be an underactive thyroid (aka hypothyroid.) If this is the case, your cat will be prescribed daily medication for life.
Heart Disease in Cats
Cats can be prone to heart disease (cardiomyopathy.) It’s divided into four categories:
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) sees the heart muscles thicken. This means that less blood is pumped through the body. In turn, it means less blood reaches the paws.
- Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is the opposite; it sees the heart muscles become very thin. The heart enlarges as a result, and again, cannot effectively pump blood to the paws.
- Restrictive cardiomyopathy (RCM) sees the heart’s wall become stiff and rigid. This means that blood cannot reach the heart to be pumped around the body.
- Intermediate cardiomyopathy (ICM) is a combination of HCM and DCM.
Sadly, heart failure can be difficult to diagnose early at home. Many pet owners do not realize that their cats are in danger until it’s too late. Regular healthcare checks will typically identify warning signs, though.
Medication and Anesthesia in Cats
If your cat has started a course of prescription medication, watch out for any side effects. Drugs can affect cats, just like they do humans. If her paws are constantly cold, speak to your vet. She may need a different prescription.
A general anesthetic will always leave your cat with cool extremities for a while. This is because her heart rate drops significantly while in surgery. It’s perfectly normal, and nothing to worry about.
A vet will monitor your cat’s post-operative heart rate and temperature. They will not discharge a cat until she’s safe. Just keep your pet warm, and let her relax for a few hours. Seek help if she doesn’t warm up after a day or two.
Vaccinations should not have a serious impact. If your cat has cold paws for a prolonged period after vaccination, return to your vet. She may be experiencing an allergic reaction, or be in shock.
Blood Clots in Cats
Blood clots must be treated as a matter of urgency. Blood clots cause cold paws because they prevent an appropriate blood flow from reaching the extremities. They are most common in the back paws of felines.
If your cat’s paws and nails are turning blue, she likely has a clot. Her paws are not receiving any blood, and thus not receiving any warmth. She will also struggle to walk on her affected leg. She may also cry in pain.
Blood clots are most frequently caused by heart problems. Obesity may be to blame, too. This means that, following diagnosis, the cause must be addressed. The clot itself, meanwhile, can be managed through medication.
A blood thinner will be critical. Previously, aspirin has always been applied. Recent breakthroughs suggest that the human drug Plavix (Clopidogrel) is cat-safe, though. MSPCA Angell discusses this in additional detail.
Only One of My Cat’s Paws Are Cold
You may find that your cat has warm front paws, but cold back paws. Alternatively, it may just be one paw that feels cold. This is arguably more concerning than all four paws having a low temperature.
Monitor a cat with one cold paw carefully. Is she also limping, or avoiding using the relevant leg? This suggests that she has an injury. Your pet may even be hiding a fracture.
In the event of such an injury, blood may be struggling to reach her paw. This will lead to a consistent coolness. Your cat will need scans and x-rays.
Even if your cat has two cool paws and two warm paws, don’t wait to find out what happens next. These could point to blood clots, or an unnatural pooling of blood. It certainly is not normal, and should not be treated as such.
How to Check the Temperature of Your Cat’s Paws
Cat owners can find it hard to understand whether their pet’s paws are cold. Many cats refuse to let humans touch their paws. This is a matter of protection for cats.
If she feels at risk of attack, her front paws are the first line of defense. More specifically, the claws found on these paws. Restraining a cat’s paws means that they can’t fight back.
With a little training, you can convince your cat to let you check its paws. Follow these steps:
- Let your cat approach you in a quest for attention
- Relax your cat by petting her in whatever way they prefer
- Take one paw in your hand, scratch your cat behind the ear, and offer a treat
- If she rejects this, don’t force it. Wait for the next time before trying again.
- Eventually, the combination of treats and tickles will register. She will actively seek out paw handling. Extend this to all four paws and conduct regular temperature checks
Things may be difficult before they get better. Prepare yourself for a number of scratches. You’ll eventually be able to check their temperature through her extremities. Naturally, you can only tell so much through touch. You’ll eventually need to take a more scientific approach.
My Cat’s Paws are Cold, How Do I Take Its Temperature?
The temperature of your cat cannot be read through her paws alone. Instead, you’ll need to rely on a thermometer. There are two ways that this can be done:
- Rectal Thermometer
- In-Ear Thermometer
It’s always advisable to check your cat’s temperature if its paws are inexplicably cold.
Taking a Cat’s Temperature Rectally
A rectal thermometer is considered the most reliable way of reading a cat’s temperature. Unfortunately, it’s also the most uncomfortable for your pet.
Rectal thermometers are available in digital and analog forms. We recommend a digital thermometer. You’ll get reliable results much faster, and they’re safer. To take your pet’s temperature, follow this step-by-step guide:
- Keep your cat calm, and restrain her.
- Lubricate the thermometer with KY jelly or Vaseline before using it.
- Gently insert the thermometer around an inch into your cat’s rectum.
- Hold it steady until it beeps (in the case of a digital thermometer.) If you use a mercury thermometer, it will take around two minutes to get an accurate reading.
- Remove the thermometer as soon as you have your reading, and release your cat.
- Sanitize the thermometer thoroughly, ideally using alcohol, before putting it away.
Take a look at the results displayed by the thermometer. If the temperature is between 100 and 102 degrees, she is fine. The coolness of her paws is environmental and transient.
Taking a Cat’s Temperature Through Its Ear
An in-ear thermometer is the best option if your cat is particularly squirmy. You’re less likely to injure her if she makes a sudden movement. These thermometers measure the temperature of blood in your cat’s brain.
That doesn’t mean that taking your cat’s temperature through their ear is easy, though. It’s still invasive, and many pets will resist the procedure will all their might. In-ear thermometers are also the most expensive hardware to purchase.
If you plan to use this thermometer, get your cat used to being touched on her ear. Offer her scratches and tickles in this area, so they consider ear attention to be a source of pleasure. Once you’re ready to take your cat’s temperature:
- Restrain the cat, with particular attention to her head. This needs to be a gentle balancing act. Don’t hold on too tight or you could cause injury.
- Hold the thermometer horizontally, and place it into your cat’s ear. You can push a little harder than you would in other parts of the anatomy.
- Wait for the thermometer to beep so that it has an accurate reading.
- Release the cat and check the results of the thermometer.
In-ear thermometers are not quite as accurate as other methods. The variance remains the same, though. If your cat is cooler than 100 degrees, she is too cold.
Just don’t rely exclusively on the results of an in-ear thermometer. If you still harbor concerns about your pet’s health, and its paws remain cold, investigate further.
Why Can I Not Take My Cat’s Temperature Orally?
An oral temperature would be less intrusive than either of these options. Unfortunately, it’s out of the question for cats on safety grounds. Oral thermometers contain mercury. As the MSD Veterinary Manual explains, this substance is highly toxic to cats.
Your cat will almost certainly bite down on a thermometer in its mouth, making them dangerous. That’s without even considering the glass that is also used in the manufacture of a thermometer.
If your cat has cool or chilly paws, it may be a passing issue. Before you panic, think about where your cat has been. If she's been walking on cool marble, for example, her paws will need to warm up. Constant coolness in cat paws is a warning sign.