Cats aren’t able to tell us when they’re feeling unwell, so it’s up to us to recognize the symptoms. That can sometimes mean we start worrying about things that are actually perfectly normal.
Cats are warmer than humans, and their ears can heat up as they regulate their body temperature. Hot ears are rarely a sign for concern.
However, a change in behavior as well as hot ears might be an indication of an infection or illness.
Read our guide to learn more about why your cat’s ears might be hot.
CATS ARE NATURALLY SLIGHTLY WARMER
Enjoying a snuggle with your cat only to notice that their ears feel a little warm? It might seem a little alarming, but the first thing you need to know is that cats are naturally slightly warmer than humans.
The average human body temperature is 98.6°F, with anything over 100.4°F being a concern. Cats are slightly different. They have a typical body temperature range between 100.5°F and 102.5°F.
So, a temperature that would be a fever for humans is actually perfectly normal in a cat!
Cat ears aren’t protected by much in the way of fur or fat, so the temperature has a tendency to fluctuate.
YOUR CAT IS COOLING DOWN
It might sound slightly contradictory — heat as a result of cooling — but this is how cats keep themselves comfortable.
Ears play a key role in how your cat regulates their body temperature. Their ears are filled with blood vessels that can dilate and constrict.
When your cat wants to cool down, these vessels dilate, allowing the blood to travel quickly. Without much fur or fat, the heat can be quickly released, and the body cools.
The opposite happens when they want to get warm. The vessels constrict, so less blood passes through, and the body stays warm.
On a hot day, or if your cat has been lying in the sun, then their ears are likely to be warm as they maintain body temperature.
YOUR CAT HAS AN ALLERGY
Allergies are surprisingly common in cats, and can result in symptoms such as itchiness, sneezing, vomiting, and runny eyes. Allergies can be caused by insects, foods, dusts, pollen, and molds.
If you’ve noticed your cat has hot ears, itchy skin, and red patches, then they might be suffering from an allergy.
Pay close attention to when these symptoms appear, in case there is a common cause. If you think your cat is suffering from an allergy, speak to your vet.
YOUR CAT HAS A FEVER
Hot ears can be an indication that your cat is suffering from a fever. This doesn’t automatically warrant a reaction, as the fever might be a sign that your cat’s immune response is kicking in.
If this is the case, then they’re likely to find a cool place to lie down, as their body fights off the infection.
The ears aren’t the best way to monitor a cat’s temperature — as mentioned above, they use the ears to cool down. Instead, check the underarms and stomach.
If these are warm as well, then your cat might have a fever. If it persists for two days, contact a vet.
The most effective way to check a cat’s temperature is with a rectal thermometer. Anything above 104°F, and you should contact your vet.
YOUR CAT HAS EAR MITES
Ear mites are incredibly uncomfortable for a cat. An ear mite infection can cause your cat to rub and scratch at their ears more, bringing the temperature up.
Ear mites love to eat the oils that are found in a cat’s ears, leading to an intense itch and inflammation.
Cats with ear mites will often rub their head against the furniture, and scratch their ears more than usual. If you suspect your cat has ear mites, take a look inside their ears.
Black and grainy ear wax or a darker discharge indicates an infection.
Ear mites need to be treated, so take your cat to the vet.
YOUR CAT IS STRUGGLING WITH AN EAR INFECTION
Ear infections are quite common in cats, and they’re most frequently caused by mites. However, yeast and bacteria, as well as trapped foreign objects, can also result in an ear infection.
Hot ears aren’t a common symptom of an infection, and they’re more likely to be a side effect from itching and scratching.
Other symptoms to look for include troubles with balance, a bad odor from the ears, and excess ear wax. Your cat might also struggle with chewing, and opening their jaws.
If your cat has an ear infection, then it will need to be treated by a vet. An untreated ear infection can lead to hearing loss, and even deafness.
MY CAT HAS HOT EARS — WHAT SHOULD I DO?
The first thing to do when you notice your cat has hot ears is to stay calm. It’s unlikely to be a serious issue, and it might be that you’ve simply never noticed before how warm their ears can get.
If it’s a hot day, then warm ears are probably a result of your cat getting comfortable.
You can help your cat cool down further by providing them with lots of fresh water, creating cool spaces within the house, and stroking them with a damp cloth.
If you’re still feeling worried, then check for other symptoms. Hot ears alone aren’t a sign of illness.
However, if your cat is scratching or rubbing their ears a lot, then they might have an infection, or an allergy. Check for other symptoms, and contact a vet if you’re concerned.
If there are no other symptoms, keep an eye on your cat's temperature over the next few days. You’re likely to notice it fluctuates naturally.
Cats are naturally warmer than humans, and as their ears are used to regulate body temperature, then you might notice they feel hotter than the rest of the body.
This is rarely a sign for concern, unless accompanied by other unusual symptoms. Check for itching and redness, if you’re worried about your cat’s temperature.
At Love4Cats, our practice involves consistent collaboration with licensed veterinarians and reputable industry experts. However, it's important to note that the content provided on Excited Cats is not intended as veterinary advice. While we strive to enhance your understanding of feline care, the information presented on this blog should not replace professional veterinary guidance.