If you’ve ever cuddled with your cat and touched her ears, you may have been surprised by the warmth. Cat ears feel almost hot, especially in contrast to a human’s body temperature. However, this is usually normal. You don’t need to worry as long as your cat’s ears don’t feel red-hot and your cat has no other medical symptoms.
Cats have hot ears because they naturally have an elevated body temperature. A cat should have a body temperature of 100.0-102.6 °F (37.8-39.2 °C). This temperature is higher than the average body temperature of a human, and therefore, we perceive it as hot. Your cat’s ears will get hotter in the warmer months because they are sensitive to changes in temperature or weather. Of course, a cat with a fever may also have particularly hot ears, so watch for other symptoms.
A sick cat may pant, refuse to eat or drink, be lethargic, have severe itching, or vomit.
In this case, hot ears might indicate that your cat is overheated.
She may be sick due to an allergic reaction, heat stroke, infection, ear mites, or hyperthyroidism.
Her body then raises its internal temperature to get rid of this illness.
Since a cat’s ears’ skin and fur are thinner than other parts of her body, this is where you will notice the heat difference first.
What Does It Mean When Cats Have Hot Ears?
In most cases, when cats have hot ears, it just means that they are healthy and balanced. This is natural because your cat’s body temperature is higher than yours.
Cats have naturally evolved to have a higher body temperature.
Domestic cats originally descended from roaming desert cats with little water access. Therefore, they did not have a strong thirst drive.
As a result, these ancient cats avoided drinking much water, even when they needed it. Instead, the cats relied on getting it from food.
This trait has been passed on to today’s domestic cat.
Dehydrated animals, however, tend to have an elevated body temperature. This is especially true when desert-like conditions prevail.
Since cats were not bred as specifically as dogs, they still have the lack of thirst drive of their desert cat ancestors. All of this leads to your cat having much hotter ears.
Of course, that doesn’t mean your cat will have colder ears if he drinks more water.
This is your cat’s natural state. Her body has adapted to the lack of water, a byproduct of this survival tactic.
However, this is only true if your cat is not showing any other symptoms. Cats can still develop a fever, which is usually due to illness.
The problem is that you may be unable to tell the fine line between hot and feverish ears in a cat.
Therefore, you must watch for additional signs to determine whether your cat is healthy or sick.
Is It Normal for Cats to Have Hot Ears?
In cats, hot ears are not just an evolutionary byproduct. They are also an active means of protecting your cat from the cold.
Cats’ ears are just as susceptible to temperature changes as the rest of their body.
This is because the ears are not covered with much fur or have a protective layer of fat.
Therefore, the thin tissue is even more sensitive to these changes.
Vasodilation, or vasodilatation, often occurs in a cat’s ears when it is warmer outside.
And vasoconstriction, or vasoconstriction, occurs in the colder months.
Vasodilatation happens when blood vessels increase blood flow to remove excess body heat.
Vasoconstriction occurs when the blood vessels constrict to retain heat in the more critical parts of your cat’s body. These are primarily the head and torso.
Your cat’s ears should feel warm when they are vasodilated and much colder when they are vasoconstrictive.
This will help your cat avoid damaging his ears when he walks around in cool weather. It can also help prevent your cat from overheating when comfortably basking by a window.
Therefore, feeling your cat’s ears when resting in a sunny spot is best. The ears may feel warm but not burning hot, as if the cat has a fever.
If the ears feel too hot and your cat is panting, this could be a sign of heat stroke. You can help her cool down by:
- Rubbing the cat’s body with water
- Adding ice cubes to the water bowl
- Turning on a fan or the air conditioner
Is It Bad if Cats Have Hot Ears?
It’s usually not harmful if a cat’s ears feel hot. However, hot ears combined with other symptoms can indicate illness.
Your cat is probably sick if it:
- Isolates himself more than usual
- Eats or drinks less
- Breathes rapidly
Attentive cat owners may also notice that their cat’s coat is duller. If the skin expands but does not immediately contract, this is a sign of dehydration.
Remember that most cats try to hide signs of illness, seeing it as weakness.
In the wild, larger animals often attack or even kill sick cats.
Even if your cat knows you and your family are not a threat, they may need to hide until they are better.
So, if you notice the symptoms listed above, keep your eyes open. Additional signs will help you figure out what’s going on with your cat.
Your cat’s hot ears could be an allergic reaction to something in your home.
Allergies appear in cats’ skin and ears rather than sneezing or sniffling. You may also notice that your cat is scratching his ears more often.
Possible allergens for a cat may include:
- Pollen from trees, weeds, and grass
- Mold and mold spores
- Flea bites
- Certain medications, shampoos, soaps, or cleaning products
- Certain woods, fabrics, or plastics
When you take your cat to the vet, they can try to figure out what exactly your cat might be allergic to.
This way, you can do your best to make sure your cat avoids these allergens from now on.
Signs of Fever
Hot ears are a primary symptom of your cat struggling with a fever.
However, you don’t need to worry if your cat is moving well and eating and drinking regularly. You may have just mistaken hot ears for feverish ears.
To be sure, you should observe the cat’s behavior throughout the day. It may be that she has a fever but hides it when the cat:
- Secludes itself from you and your family
- Does not eat much
- Curls up instead of curling up
- Has an excessively warm belly or armpits
A fever is usually nothing to worry about long-term. It usually occurs when a cat’s immune system tries to fight off bacteria, viruses, or other mild illnesses.
The fever should go away on its own over a day or two. However, other factors are at play if your cat’s fever lasts longer than two days.
Your cat’s fever may be caused by a bacterial infection from an injury or trauma that you should find.
If you have ruled out visible injury or clear signs of illness, your cat has a fever of unknown origin.
Veterinarians sometimes refer to this as a fever of unknown origin (FUO).
It is advisable to note any physical or behavioral changes in your cat carefully. This will help your veterinarian more quickly determine the cause of your cat’s fever.
Signs of Heat Stroke
A cat can suffer heat stroke when its body temperature reaches 105.8 °F (41.0 °C) or more. In addition to hot ears, you will also notice other symptoms. These include:
- Lethargy or other signs of weakness
- Excessive panting
Heat stroke can be very harmful, as it can quickly dehydrate your cat. This can be particularly dangerous for cats that drink very little water in the first place.
Heat stroke can also cause the following:
- Cerebral edema (swelling of the brain)
- Bone marrow suppression that causes a decrease in red and white blood cell production
- Increased metabolism
- Degradation of muscle tissue
- Blood clotting disorders
Signs of Infection
An ear infection can easily cause your cat’s ears to swell or become inflamed and red. They will also feel hotter.
Your cat may scratch his ears frequently or rub his head on furniture to relieve the uncomfortable itching. This can make the problem worse.
Your cat may also shake its head and excrete excessive amounts of earwax. This will cause an unpleasant odor.
You can detect this early by doing an ear exam yourself occasionally. The hairless part of a cat’s ears should be clean and free of strange odors.
Your cat may have an ear infection if you notice that they:
- Are red from excessive scratching
- Are scaly
- Are scabby
- Produce discharge
Excess earwax, yeast, or other debris will also likely raise the temperature of your cat’s ear canal and the outer ear, called the pinna.
Ignoring these symptoms for too long can damage your cat’s eardrum. Therefore, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian to protect your cat’s hearing.
Signs of Ear Mites
If your cat’s ears are hot and itchy, this could indicate that he has ear mites.
Ear mites tend to spread pretty quickly among domestic cats. That’s why it’s so important to get the infestation under control as soon as you notice your cat’s ears itching.
A simple occasional inspection of your cat’s ears should help identify the problem.
Ear mites are easily recognized as a black, grainy-looking substance. They look a little like coffee grounds in your cat’s ears.
Other signs of ear mites include inflammation of your cat’s ears that feel warm or hot. These mites feed on your cat’s ear tissue, wax, and other debris in the ear.
If they take hold too long, these mites might cause ear infections or damage your cat’s hearing. Therefore, it is vital to examine a cat for ear mites regularly.
Signs of Hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism is a health problem that often affects older cats.
Hyperthyroidism is when your cat has an overactive thyroid gland that drastically increases metabolism.
Cats redistribute their internal body heat when their metabolism increases. This can result in the following:
- Increased body temperatures
- Increased heart rate
- Increased appetite
- Weight loss despite increased food intake
- Restless or aggressive behavior
Hyperthyroidism is not something to be underestimated. This condition can lead to secondary hypertension if you don’t take your cat to the vet.
This is high blood pressure caused by another condition, in this case, hyperthyroidism. This can even lead to heart failure.
Should the Ears Be Hot Or Cold in Cats?
Your cat’s ears should feel warm most of the time because a cat’s internal body temperature is between 100.0 and 102.6 °F (37.8 and 39.2 °C).
For us humans, cat ears feel warm because we have a core body temperature of about 98 °F (37 °C).
Below is a handy list that you can use to determine if your cat’s body temperature is healthy or not.
- Below 100.0 °F (37.8 °C): hypothermia
- 100.0 – 102.6 °F (37.8 – 39.2 °C): Normal body temperature
- Above 103.5 °F (39.7 °C): Fever
- Above 105.8 °F (41.0 °C): Heat stroke
How to Take the Temperature in Cats
If your cat’s ears are particularly hot, you should learn to take their temperature.
Unfortunately, cats can only have their temperature taken rectally.
As you can imagine, this is not a pleasant experience for your cat, so make it as quick and easy as possible.
- Apply petroleum jelly or other lubricant to the thermometer.
- Distract your cat with treats beforehand.
- You may also need the help of a family member or friend to hold your cat during this process.
It is best to use a digital rectal pediatric thermometer. These thermometers are not only more accurate. They are also safer if your cat moves around too much.
Here’s how to go about taking the temperature:
- Slowly insert the thermometer inside the cat to allow its sphincter to loosen.
- Stop when the thermometer is inserted about an inch (2-3 cm) into the rectum.
- Slowly pull it back out once the thermometer has finished measuring.
- When you are finished, feed your cat more treats and give her space if needed.
- Also, clean and disinfect the thermometer thoroughly after each use.
If your cat’s temperature is slightly above average, your cat should be healthy.
However, if it is much higher than expected, you must take your cat to the vet. The expert can prescribe the medication your cat needs.
The vet can also help you determine what caused your cat’s hot ears or other illnesses.
Why is One of My Cat’s Ears Hot?
It’s not a concern if only one of your cat’s ears is hot and the other is normal or cold. This may mean your cat’s body is trying to regulate its internal temperature.
Perhaps one side of your cat is exposed to cold air and the other to a warmer source, such as a heater or sunny window pane. This could explain this slight difference.
It’s also possible that the cat’s ears don’t know what temperature to keep their body at. This causes her to have one cold ear and one warm ear.
On the other hand, it is also possible that your cat’s ears have poor circulation. You should be concerned about if your cat’s ears feel cold in cold weather and extra warm in warmer weather.
Your cat’s cardiovascular system may be disturbed, so you need to see your veterinarian.
What if My Cat’s Ears Are Cold?
However, if your cat’s ears are much colder than they should be, this can cause several problems.
For example, a cat can easily become hypothermic if its body temperature drops below 100.0 °F (37.8 °C). The heart rate and general body activity will decrease when this happens.
Your cat may even go into a coma if you are not careful.
You don’t need to worry if one of your cat’s ears is warm, but the other is cold. You may need to move your cat away from the cold source to warm it back up.
However, if your cat visibly shivers, breathes very slowly, or the rest of his body feels cold, the one warm ear is a particular case.
- Get your cat to a warm place as soon as possible.
- Also, dry your cat off with warm towels and blankets if your cat is wet.
- Get your cat to drink warm water, or place warm water bottles nearby.
- While you are trying to warm her back up, call your veterinarian. He or she should look at your cat right away, if possible. Quick action can prevent your cat from going into a coma or worse.
If your cat is only mildly hypothermic, any methods available should be sufficient to warm him back up.
However, in moderate or severe cases, your veterinarian may start an IV with warmed fluids or give your cat a warm water enema to warm him from the inside out.
Your cat should recover soon. However, observing your cat’s behavior for a few days after this procedure is still advisable.