Like most cat owners, if you take every opportunity to scratch, rub or cuddle your cat, you may also be the kind of owner who notices odd things. Observant owners are very good at telling when something is not quite right or unusual.
Perhaps your cat’s eyes are tearing a little too much, or they seem depressed to you. Few things bother us as much as our sick cat does. And one slightly less common but legitimate observation we make is best referred to as “hot ears”.
Sometimes, it seems like a cat’s ears are unusually warm. Are they? The answer is yes, that can be, and the reasons for that may not be what you think. In some cases, it’s nothing to worry about. In other cases, you may want to take a closer look. So why are my cat’s ears hot?
Whatever the case, it’s good for you to know what’s happening. Here are the key reasons why your cat’s ears may be hot.
Why are My Cat’s Ears Hot? 6 Possible Reasons
Let’s start by addressing the pressing question. Do hot ears mean your cat is ill or suffering from something terrible? Not necessarily. Cats are very good at generally taking care of themselves, and hot ears may just be a symptom of some regular body functions. Let’s take a look at these first.
1. Cats Have a Higher Body Temperature in General
It’s worth knowing that a cat’s normal body temperature is warmer than a human’s. Yes, that little ball of fluff generally runs a few degrees higher than a human.
For the record, a cat’s normal body temperature is 101.0 to 102.5°F. A healthy human runs at around 98.6°F. If you feel confident enough, you can take a cat’s temperature through its ears with a pet thermometer.
This might explain why you always see your cat looking for areas with a lot of sun. They love snoozing in rays of sunshine. In hot climates, they like to be in shady but warm spots. On rainy days, your cat is less likely to stay outside for long periods. Unless they’re Maine Coons, who are weird that way.
Image by CESAR AUGUSTO RAMIREZ VALLEJO from Pixabay
2. Ears Help To Regulate Temperature
Part of a cat’s amazing body heat management system resides in the ears. They form part of a complex control system that includes the nose, tail, and paws. Their core temperature almost never changes, thanks to this incredible system of regulation. This is particularly interesting since cats don’t sweat other than minimally through their paw pads.
The ears have a vein system that constricts and expands according to what is required. When it needs to release heat, a cat’s ears form part of the body system that helps with that. As a result, a cat’s ears may actually feel warmer on a hot day.
Likewise, if you live in a climate with cold days, your cat’s ears may feel colder as it tries to conserve body heat.
3. Your Cat May Have a Fever
There is a possibility that your cat has come down with a fever. But hot ears will not be the only symptom in this case. When a cat is generally feeling hot to the touch (more than 103°F) and experiences any of the symptoms listed below for more than a day or two, chances are a fever of some variety has set in.
Other signs to look out for if you suspect a fever:
- Appetite loss
- Shivering or shaking
- Labored or rapid breathing
- Low energy
- Hiding / fearful behavior
- Slack of grooming
- Water intake decreased
Try to feel the temperature of the cat’s belly or under its arms. The best way to tell, of course, is to take its temperature as suggested above. If it’s exceptionally high, consult your vet immediately.
Side note: Can cats catch colds?
Image by Helmut Stirnweis from Pixabay
4. Your Cat May Be Suffering From Allergies
Cats, like humans, can suffer from allergies. Allergic reactions can generally cause bodily reactions like a rise in temperature. In cats, this might mean that the ears warm up. The usual allergy culprits are:
It’s very difficult to eradicate the dust from a home environment. Thankfully, a vet might be able to prescribe a medication to help manage the condition.
Another environmental cause, an allergy to grass, will cause irritation of the skin and possibly membranes.
Sneezy cats may be suffering from a pollen reaction. In some cases, the body reacts to an elevated temperature.
Mold gets into damp spaces, and your cat loves to be in those same spaces sometimes. Try to eliminate mold as much as possible from your home, or at least try to prevent your cat from getting into those spaces.
Some detergents cause bad reactions. If you suspect this is happening, try changing detergents for your washing and other cleaning materials.
It may be challenging to determine if your cat has a food allergy. The best advice is to stick to formulated cat food (and not human food). Even so, sometimes, an unexplained reaction happens to switch up the food if you suspect a food problem.
Food allergies in cats usually involve dairy-related products, beef, chicken or fish. Allergies can develop at any time, though a cat must have had previous exposure to the food element to develop.
Itching all around the skin, infections, and overgrooming are common signs of food allergies. Treating and eliminating a food allergy is a little complicated but usually involves a strict food trial period, during which most possible allergens are removed from the diet.
The doctor general says smoking is bad for you. But it may also be bad for your cat. Cats can be allergic to cigarette smoke.
Your perfume may cause a reaction in your cat’s nasal membranes, especially if you like to get close or spray in its presence.
Similarly, your lotions applied to your skin may cause a reaction with your cat’s skin or if it ingests any while licking you.
Fleas, as common as they are in some environments, carry substances that cause reactions in the skin.
All of the above can cause various degrees of fever or elevated temperature, which reflect in your cat’s ears. Some can be managed with a vet’s advice or prescription. Otherwise, an environmental change might do the trick.
5. They Might Have an Ear Infection
Ear infections aren’t as common in cats as they are in dogs. Hot ears are also not necessarily the most obvious symptom of an ear infection. That said, you may notice your cat is bothered by something related to its ears.
Don’t take ear infections lightly. An untreated ear infection can cause additional complications that may threaten hearing or even cause an additional life-threatening infection.
An ear infection has several other indications that you may notice. Look out for any of these:
- Unusual head tilting
- Unusual head shaking
- Pawing at the ears
- Lack of balance
- Discomfort when chewing, or eating
Image by Tania Van den Berghen from Pixabay
6. Ear Mites
One common affliction, especially in kittens, older cats, and cats that love being outdoors, is ear mites. When mites are present, the ears become inflamed, and little black spots of debris appear inside the ear.
Presumably, these mites cause itching. So your cat will be scratching and rubbing its ears incessantly. The ears, as a result, may become hot or damaged. Ear mites are nasty that way.
Ear mites are very annoying and not only for your cat. They are highly contagious and will pass from pet to pet. Only a vet-prescribed medication can totally get rid of them. Some owners insist on home remedies, though these aren’t recommended.
The problem is that mites can hide in places that can’t be reached by normal household substances, and the eggs are particularly hardy and resistant. Mites left untreated can also cause secondary infections.
Image by Tania Van den Berghen from Pixabay
Final Thoughts on Why Your Cat Has Hot Ears
In most cases, your cat’s ears may simply be hot because it’s going about their normal business of regulating your cat’s body temperature. If your cat is acting otherwise normal and healthy, there’s nothing to worry about.
This can be normal, but it’s good to look closer when you spot additional behaviors like those listed above. Remember that fevers and infections should not be ignored, and they could lead to additional complications.
Most “hot ear conditions”, if not normal, can be treated fairly easily. So enjoy the heat, especially on cold evenings.
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