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What Does Hot Ears On A Cat Mean? Should I Worry?

You're petting your kitty, and you notice that your cat's ears feel really hot. Is this normal? Are cats' ears supposed to be hot, warm, or cool? You've never really given it any thought before, but now you're starting to worry that something might be wrong with your kitty. What does it mean if your cat's ears are warm or hot? Does my cat have a fever? Read on to find out the answers to all these questions and more.

Sally Jones

Last Updated: July 29, 2023 | 4 min read

A cute tricolor Sphynx kitten with big ears sits on the owner's lap

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In most cases, warm or hot ears on a cat aren’t anything to worry about, but sometimes this can indicate an illness. We’ll explain what’s normal and when it’s time to see your veterinarian.

You’re petting your kitty, and you notice that your cat’s ears feel really hot. Is this normal? Are cats’ ears supposed to be hot, warm, or cool? You’ve never really given it any thought before, but now you’re starting to worry that something might be wrong with your kitty. What does it mean if your cat’s ears are warm or hot? Does my cat have a fever? Read on to find out the answers to all these questions and more.

Are Cats’ Ears Supposed To Be Warm Or Cold?

First, let’s address what your cat’s ears should normally feel like. Cats’ bodies, including their ears, should feel warm to our touch. Unlike humans, a cat’s normal body temperature is between 100°F and 102.5°F, so they’re naturally warmer than we are. If you notice that your cat’s ears feel cold to your touch, then that could indicate a potential physical problem if she’s been outside in the cold for a long time.

Why Do Cats’ Ears Get Hot?

There are several reasons cats’ ears get hot other than their normal, elevated body temperature. In most cases, hot ears on a cat isn’t a cause for concern.

  • Sitting in the sun or near a heater can make your cat’s ears feel hot. There’s not much fur or fat on a cat’s ears, so they’re sensitive to temperature changes. If this is the cause, her ears will naturally cool down within a few hours.
  • Cats use their ears to regulate their body temperature and help them cool down when they overheat (as well as panting and sweating through their pads).
  • Cat ears that are hotter than normal for more than a few hours could indicate an illness causing a fever or an ear infection. Sick cats will display additional symptoms and may start behaving differently than normal.
  • One research study of domestic cats even found that stress increased the right ear temperature (but not the left ear).
  • Ear wax blockage can lead to pain, irritation, and increased temperature in the ears. Dark-colored ear wax is a sign of an infection or ear mite infection.
  • Inflammation in the ears can cause pain and redness. The ears will be hot to the touch, and your cat will not like being touched.

Is My Cat Sick?

If you think your cat may have a fever, you can check by using a rectal thermometer. A temperature over 102.5°F is considered a fever in cats. If your cat’s temperature is over 106°F, seek emergency veterinary care immediately. Other signs that your cat could be sick from a virus or other cause include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Self-isolating
  • Stopping grooming
  • Change in mood
  • More or less vocal than usual
  • Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Feeling too hot in other areas of the body

If you notice any of these symptoms, you should consult your vet so your cat can get a proper diagnosis and any necessary treatment. To prepare yourself financially for future vet fees, we highly recommend pet insurance for cats.

Does My Cat Have An Ear Infection?

Veterinarian examines a cat's ears with an otoscope.
Prolonged hot ears could also mean that your feline friend has an ear infection.

Cat ear infections are usually caused by ear mites or an overgrowth of yeast. Infections can be bacterial or fungal and often require the vet’s assistance to treat properly. Some cats with food or environmental allergies are prone to ear infections. In addition to hot ears, other signs of an ear infection include:

  • Strong ear odor
  • Red, inflamed ears
  • Discharge
  • Black specks (ear mites)
  • Shaking the head
  • Tilting head to the side
  • Pawing at the ears

What Do Cold Ears On A Cat Mean?

As we said above, cats’ ears are sensitive to extreme temperatures, and they use their ears to regulate their body temperature, which can explain why their ears sometimes feel hot or cold.

Cats’ ears are designed to normally vasodilate when their environment is hot and vasoconstrict when it’s cold. Vasodilation increases blood flow to the ears to relieve excessive internal body heat, making the ears feel hotter. The opposite occurs with vasoconstriction, which causes the blood vessels in the ears to constrict to preserve heat in the body. In turn, this makes ears feel colder.

However, if your cat has been outside in cold temperatures for a long period of time and her ears aren’t warming up, you want to make sure she’s not suffering from hypothermia or even localized frostbite on her ears. If you suspect either, immediately wrap your kitty in a blanket with a warm water bottle to raise her body temperature. And seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are hot ears on my cat a sign of fever?

Warm ears are a common sign of fever in felines, but that does not mean every time a cat’s ears get warm that they have a fever. Check for a dry nose, glassy eyes, and lack of energy. They may avoid touch or show aggression when people come near. Call your vet if you suspect a fever.

How often should I clean my cat’s ears?

Cat’s ears may need cleaning, but only as needed. If required, only clean your cat’s ears every two or three months. More than that can cause irritation, leading to pain, itchiness, and even infection.

How can I cool down hot ears on my cat?

There are a few ways to cool down your kitty ears. Try a cool cloth, reduce the temp in your house, and observe your cat for any other symptoms. Call your vet if you notice any other symptoms. Your cat may need allergy treatment or antibiotics.

Final Thoughts

Petting your feline friend and her ears frequently can help you become familiar with how her normal body temperature should feel to your touch — and creates a strong bond between both of you. You know your cat’s appearance and behavior better than anyone, so if your kitty doesn’t seem right, trust your gut feelings and consult your vet.

Portrait of silhouette of cat with yellow eyes in dark on window sill

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