Why Do My Cat's Ears Feel Hot?
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Petting our cat has many benefits for both the feline and ourselves. Not only does it reduce stress and strengthen our bond together, it gives us an opportunity to observe them for any problems. If we pass our hands over their ears and feel a warm temperature, it might be cause for concern. If a cat has hot ears, we need to consider both environmental and pathological reasons why this may be the case.
If we ask ourselves why do my cat's ears feel hot?, AnimalWised provides the possible reasons this is so. While a vet will be the only one who is able to give an accurate diagnosis, we look at when there is no problem if a cat's ears are warm and when treatment may be required.
Why are my cat's ears hot?
If you notice your cat's ears feel hot to the touch, you do not always have to be alarmed. In fact, the first possible cause might be an obvious one. If your cat has been spending their nap time splayed out in the sun or lying next to the fireplace, it is understandable that this part of their body might feel warmer than usual. To know if the problem is pathological or environmental, we need to look at the context of why a cat's ears are hot.
Cats can be reserved when they face problems, often going into hiding when they feel unwell. Knowing both the general habits of felines as well as the specific behavior of our own cat will help us to determine the cause. They may include:
- Exposure to a heat source: as we stated above, your cat may simply have been laying out next to a heat source such as the sun or a radiator. Cats like the sun and other heat sources because heat is passed on by convection, warming their body when cold. Even sleeping in a ball and wrapping their paws over their ears, can increase the temperature due to their own body hear. If this is the case, you will see that the ears will soon cool once away from the heat source.
- Fever: one of the most common explanations of why a cat's ears are hot is due to fever. A cat's immune response will elevate their temperature and their ears may be used to regulate it. However, a fever diagnosis will only be confirmed when an accurate temperature reading is taken. See our guide to taking a cat's temperature to find out more.
- Infection: when part of a cat's body is warmer than normal, it could mean an infection has been contracted. If you notice the cat's ears are hot, red and they are behaving strangely, you will need to take them to the vet. Scratching their ears to reduce irritation is also a common symptom.
- Allergy: if a cat's ears are hot and red, it may also be the result of an allergic reaction. The allergens can be various, such as food, fleas bites, textiles, etc. A vet will need to carry out various tests to ascertain the particular allergens affecting a cat. Often this will be a process of elimination.
- Diseases: some specific ear diseases such as otitis in cats may be the cause of the change in temperature. This is due to the immune system's response and they should cool down once the pathology is treated.
If a cat has hot ears do they have a fever?
As we have already stated, one of the main functions of a cat's ears is to regulate their body temperature. However, there are more considerations to make if we suspect our cat has a fever. It is necessary to pay attention to other symptoms of fever in cats. The cat's paw pads are one of the few places on the feline body from which they can sweat. If you feel sweat (not saliva from a cat licking their paws), then a fever may indeed be present.
Another symptom which may suggest the presence of fever is if the cat's nose is both warm and dry. However, if we want to know undoubtedly whether a cat has a fever, we need the vet to take their temperature. The normal body temperature of a cat lies somewhere between 99.5 ºF (37.5 ºC) and 102.5 ºF (39.1 ºC). If the temperature is a little higher there may be an issue with the reading, but as soon as it moves past 103.6 ºF (39.8 ºC) then fever is present.
What does it mean when a cat's ears are hot?
In general, if a cat has hot ears, but displays no other symptoms and they soon return to normal, there is little cause for concern. Part of the reason for this is that a cat's ears have many blood vessels. Their warm blood might circulate there, especially if they are trying to heat up their body, making them seem abnormally hot when everything is fine.
As we can see by the readings above, a cat's normal body temperature is higher than our own, so they may only feel comparatively warm. We should also note that cats with longer ears may be more likely to be warmer due to their size.
We need to be careful when the cat does display other symptoms, beside having warm ears. They might be overtired (which is sometimes hard to tell with cats), appear apathetic, be aggressive, do not react well to stimuli or generally change their usual demeanor. In these cases, there is a high probability something is wrong. To resolve any doubts and to initiate any necessary treatment, we should go to a veterinarian.
It should be noted that Siamese type cat breeds and albino cats may be more sensitive when it comes to their ears. We should be particularly careful with these breeds.
My cat's ears are hot and red
If your cat's ears are not only warm to the touch, but redder than usual, it is likely due to one of two main causes (although there are potentially others):
- Ear infection: as we have said before, infections can cause otitis, otherwise known as inflammation of the epithelium (the ear tissue). An infection can come from dirt or small cuts and abrasions. The redness and heat derive from the body's immune system trying to fight back against it.
- Ear infestation: one of the most common problems cats experience with their ears is due to infestation from insects and mites. Fleas and mites feed off a cat's skin and the ears are particularly sensitive. As they don't have as much fur on them as other parts of their body, you may notice problems with their ears before you see the infestation elsewhere.
One of the most common mites which appear in a cat's ears are Otodectes cynotis. These are mites the size of a grain of salt and they act by laying eggs in the cat's ear canal. These eggs hatch and after 21 days are ready to reproduce and proliferate the infestation. They can cause great irritation to the cat, leading to the cat wanting to scratch their ear repeatedly and making it further inflamed.
Again, if you suspect a problem, taking the cat to the vet is necessary. There are many other types of parasites which can infest a cat and lead to ear problems. These articles on mites on cats and common ear problems in cats will provide you with some helpful information.
Why do my cat's ears feel cold?
Now that we have seen why a cat's ears may seem hot, we may wonder if there are problems when we feel our cat's ears are cold. In these instances we need to make similar considerations. Firstly, we should look at environmental factors. If you have an outdoor cat and they go outside, then they may simply have ears which feel cool due to the weather. Sitting in a draft may cool down a cat's ears just as staying in sunlight might make them feel warm.
An internal cause of a cat having cold ears may have more concerning origins. If a cat's ears are cool to the touch, especially when they should otherwise be warm, it is possibly due to poor blood circulation. This means not enough blood is getting to their extremities which may result in cold ears. If this is the case, it could be a sign of a problem with their cardiovascular system. including serious issues such as congenital heart failure.
Another problem might be due to poisoning, resulting in coldness of their ears. If this is the case, you will need to look at other symptoms, most of which will be fairly obvious. You can see these and more in our article on symptoms of poisoning in cats. If this is the case, taking them to be checked will be a veterinary emergency.
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to Why Do My Cat's Ears Feel Hot?, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.