Why Are My Cats Ears Hot? Do Warm Ears Indicate That My Cat Is Sick?
With the amount of time we spend petting our cats each day, it becomes easier to notice something new or wrong with them.
Have they grown bigger than last week, and their coat becomes fluffier and smoother? At times, we may also find ourselves asking, “Why are my cats ears hot during the day and colder at night?”
As a cat owner, you will discover different things about your feline friend and develop a deeper connection with him with each day and each bonding session that passes by.
It’s also normal to freak out and be disturbed at times. During these instances, just relax, breathe, compose yourself, and don’t assume or overanalyze. It’s always best to be knowledgeable about things, instead of acting impulsively or panicking.
So, in this article, let’s find out more about our cat’s bodies, and why at times, their ears are warm, and at times they’re cold. Are these signs that your feline friend is sick or are these changes perfectly normal?
Why Are My Cats Ears Hot?
In most cases, hot ears indicate that a cat is healthy and well-balanced. And it’s perfectly normal for them since their body temperature is relatively higher than a human’s normal body temperature. Also, a cat’s ear temperature will change depending on his immediate environment.
It’s worth noting that cats’ ears play an essential role in the regulation of their body temperatures. Since their ears are thin, exposed, have less body fat, and are not covered with so much fur, they are vulnerable to changes in outside temperatures.
Additionally, cats have also evolved to have a naturally warmer internal temperature. Domestic cats are descendants of desert cats that were freely roaming in the wild and hardly had access to water. Hence, they developed a high tolerance for thirst, or they displayed a lack of strong urge to drink.
This behavior caused them to avoid drinking plenty of water even if they needed it. Instead, desert cats relied more on meat for their body’s fluid requirement since foods were more abundant than flowing water. This trait has also been passed to our domestic cats.
Dehydrated cats tend to have increased body temperature. And since the domestic cats that we have today are not as thoroughly bred as dogs, they still retain such lack of thirst drive from their ancestors in the desert. This results in their ears being hotter than other animals.
However, this does not mean that cats who drink more have cold ears. A cat’s hot ears are part of his natural state. Their bodies have adapted from a lack of water, which is simply a byproduct of their ancestors’ survival tactic.
Hot cat ears are only normal, though, if your feline friend doesn’t display other symptoms. Cats still develop fever as a result of an illness. And in order for you to determine whether your cat is sick or not, you need to watch out for other symptoms, such as weakness, loss of appetite, decreased grooming, rapid breathing, and so on.
Is It Fine For Cats to Have Hot Ears?
As mentioned earlier, as long as there are no other symptoms involved, it’s entirely normal for cats to have hot ears, especially during warmer weather. Hot ears in cats are not only an evolutionary byproduct, but also an active way for them to regulate their body temperature, and/or protect themselves from the cold.
The blood vessels in a cat’s ears will dilate when it is warmer, and constrict during winter or colder months. As a result of vasodilation, the flow of blood throughout the body is increased, which relieves cats of excess body heat. Vasoconstriction occurs when the blood vessels constrict to retain heat to the most important parts of the body, such as the torso and the head.
Essentially, a cold environment means a reduction in blood flow to the ears to retain heat in the more important parts of the body. This causes a cat’s ear to feel cold to touch. In a warm environment, the opposite happens. While this may look like a small thing, it can be lifesaving for our feline friends.
Their ears’ ability to regulate body temperature can help avoid damage in their ears during cold weather or while in a cool location. And it can help prevent their body from overheating when they are sunbathing or lying for a prolonged time in a sunny part of the house.
Do Warm Ears Indicate That My Cat Is Sick?
Most cat owners would automatically think that the presence of hot ears in felines is an indication that their cat is sick. And this is an expected response considering that for us humans, a temperature rise is associated with fever, which is the body’s natural way to fight off infection or illness.
So, let’s just say your cat’s hot ears indicate that he has a fever due to an underlying health issue. Should you be worried? Should you take your cat to the vet right away? The good news is that, most often, you don’t have to since a fever is also your cat’s way of fighting off a mild infection or illness. You’ll likely notice your feline buddy resting in cooler areas to relax and regain his strength.
Moreover, if apart from having hot ears your cat is also breathing rapidly, experiencing an increased temperature in his whole body, and eating and drinking poorly, there may be a more serious health issue that needs to be checked and addressed by your veterinarian.
What Is a Cat’s Normal Body Temperature?
Cats are naturally warm creatures, and their normal body temperature usually ranges from 100-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a few degrees higher than our baseline internal temperature.
And as mentioned earlier, cat ears fluctuate based on the temperature of their environment. The same is true with other parts of their body, particularly their nose, paws, and tail.
Is It Bad If Your Cat’s Ears Are Hot?
Generally, it isn’t bad for cats’ ears to feel hot. If your cat’s ears are warmer than usual, try to feel around his stomach and paws. A cat with a fever will be hot throughout his entire body. Sick cats also tend to spread out their body rather than curl up.
Moreover, hot ears in conjunction with other symptoms could indicate an underlying medical condition. And as mentioned earlier, sick cats will usually have rapid breathing, they will isolate themselves, and they won’t drink or eat much. Additionally, sick cats may have a duller coat, and their skin won’t snap back immediately when you try to stretch or pull it out (which is a sign of dehydration).
It is also normal for sick cats to hide any signs of illness, as they consider it a sign of weakness. In the wild, sick cats are attacked by prey and wild animals.
So, to prevent themselves from being a hot target, they learned to hide what they truly feel. And this behavior was also passed on to the domestic cats of today. That’s why even if your cat knows that he is safe with you, he may still opt to isolate himself until he starts to feel better.
Moreover, aside from fever, there are several conditions that may accompany hot ears, which include infections, allergic reactions, heat stroke, ear mites, and hyperthyroidism. Sometimes, a cat's ears get heated as an emotional response, or as a response to stress and fear.
Signs of Infection
Ear infections can make your cat's ears inflamed and red, which makes them warmer to the touch. It's important to note that viral infections could come and resolve on their own with the help of your cat's immune system. Bacterial infections, on the other hand, are most often accompanied by wounds or injuries.
In addition, excessive earwax, yeast, or other build-ups can also increase the temperature of your cat's ear canal, as well as his outer ear or pinna. Leaving your pet untreated can cause more serious damage such as damage to his eardrum.
Hence, if you notice any signs of ear infection, such as the presence of a pungent smell, dark colored discharge, flaking, and redness from excessive scratching, you should take your cat to the vet immediately to prevent long-term complications, such as hearing loss.
The presence of red or hot ears can indicate an allergic reaction to something inside or around your home. In humans, allergies are usually accompanied by respiratory symptoms, but in cats, allergies are reflected more in their ears and skin.
Hot ears can result from various allergens in their environment including the following:
- Pollens from trees, grass, and weeds
- Mold and mildew spores
- Flea bites
- Medications, shampoos, soaps, or other cleaning products
- Certain surfaces, such as specific plastics, woods, or fabrics
Cats with allergies will often scratch their ears more often and rub their heads to the side in the hope of relieving their discomfort.
Signs of Ear Mites
Hot and itchy ears can indicate the presence of ear mites in cats. These parasites are quite often spread by pets within the family. Sometimes just looking at your cat's ears will confirm that the problem exists.
Ear mites are often identified as black and grainy substances. They would appear like coffee grounds inside your cat's ears.
Other signs of ear mites are swelling in cats' ears that makes them hot or cool. When left untreated, ear mites can cause cat ear infections and potential long-term damage to your cat's hearing.
Signs of Heat Stroke
Heat stroke can happen if a cat's body temperature reaches 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Other symptoms of heat stroke aside from hot ears include vomiting, excessive panting, and lethargy.
Heat stroke is dangerous because it can easily lead to severe dehydration, which can be lethal for cats. It can be particularly harmful to cats who rarely drink water. Heat stroke can cause several complications, which can all be life-threatening if not managed effectively.
Some of these side effects include cerebral edema or swelling of the brain, blood clotting disorders, increased metabolism, muscle tissue breakdown, and bone marrow suppression (which results in decreased red and white blood cell production).
Signs of Hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism affects cats of all ages but is more common in older cats. Hyperthyroidism occurs when cats have an overactive thyroid gland that raises their metabolism significantly.
The Journal of Application Physiology suggests that cats will redistribute their internal body heat when their metabolism rises.
This can result in increased appetite, increased body temperatures, elevated heart rate, restlessness, and weight loss despite an increase in food intake. When left untreated, hyperthyroidism can lead to secondary hypertension and heart failure.
Why Are My Cats Ears Cold?
On the other hand, if your cat’s ears are cold to the touch, he may also be experiencing different challenges. Cold ears in cats can be due to hypothermia or decreased body temperature (100 degrees Fahrenheit and below). With hypothermia, a cat’s heart rate and overall body functions will fall. And it can lead to coma when not managed on time.
If your cat has one hot ear and one cold ear, it should not be a cause for concern. You may simply need to bring your cat away from the cool place to warm him back again. However, if your cat is shivering, has decreased respirations, and his whole body feels cold, then, the one hot ear is an outlier in this instance.
When this happens, you need to bring your cat to a warm place as soon as possible. If your cat is wet, you need to dry him quickly and wrap him with warm towels. You can also place warm water bottles nearby, or place him on a heated bed.
While you are warming your cat up, take him to the vet immediately or call your vet and try to get him to attend to your cat right away. Time is of the essence. You need to act quickly to prevent your cat from slipping into a coma or worse.
When Should I Call My Vet?
Fever or hot ears are usually not enough reasons for you to call your vet right away as these are normal responses of a healthy cat. However, as mentioned earlier, there are also times when a cat is experiencing something more serious, which causes fever. Hence, a visit to the veterinary clinic may be needed. Your vet will be able to determine the exact cause of your cat’s fever and hot ears, and he can start your cat’s treatment regimen accordingly.
Most of the time, hot ears are simply part of a cat’s adaption to the temperature of his surroundings. So, if your cat doesn’t have abnormally hot ears accompanied by other symptoms, there is likely no reason for you to be alarmed, more so to panic.
However, if you feel that it’s a good idea and it gives you peace of mind, don’t hesitate to call your vet and get his expert advice. If your vet sounds concerned, schedule an appointment with him so your cat can get better the soonest time possible.