You and your cat are cuddling on the couch when you feel its ears, and they feel very warm. As you sit there, you start worrying and wonder if maybe you should call the vet. Does this mean that your cat is sick, or is that normal?
A cat’s body temperature is slightly higher than humans’ normal body temperatures. Because their ears are not well protected by fat or fur, they indicate the ambient temperature in your home. Their ears also regulate their body temperature and keep them either cool or warm.
There might be several reasons why your cat’s ears feel hot, but does it have a fever? Let’s move on and find out.
Cats’ Ears Regulate Their Normal Body Temperature
A cat’s ears regulate body temperature and will either be warm or cool to the touch. Because the ears are not protected by either fat or fur, they will be subject to the ambient temperature in your home. If it’s slightly cool, your cat’s ears will reflect that, or if it’s rather warm in your home, your cat’s ears will be warm. Healthy cats will have warm ears, but your cat might have a fever if they are warmer than usual.
Then again, your cat might have just come from sitting in the window on a sunny day, and their ears soaked up the sun. If you just adopted your cat and you have no idea what the cat’s normal temperature of its ears is, finding hot ears might raise your concern. However, as with humans, a cat’s temperature fluctuates somewhat, depending on what time of day or how much food they’ve had.
Before you panic about your cat’s ear temperature, remember that they have a higher normal body temperature than humans have.
What is a Cat’s Normal Body Temperature?
A cat’s normal body temperature fluctuates between 100℉ and 102℉ (37℃ to 38℃), which is slightly higher than a human’s normal body temperature. If the ears help regulate their body temperature, then they might be warmer or cooler than your cat’s body. Hot ears might not be anything to worry about, especially if their appetite is the same, and they are grooming themselves as normal.
Even if your cat has a fever, it could be short-term, and as with humans, nothing to be too concerned about. A fever is the body’s way of dealing with minor infections. More on this later, but you might want to keep an eye on your cat to make sure it’s not more serious.
Because your body temperature is lower than your cat’s, it might explain why their ears feel hot to you sometimes when their body is working normally. Any deviation from this might mean a fever.
What If Your Cat’s Ears Are Hotter Than Normal?
If your cat’s ears are hotter than normal, feel around under the stomach and front paws. A cat with a true fever will be hot throughout their entire body. They will also spread out rather than curl up in a ball to sleep. If they have a fever, their body temperature will be around 103℉ (39℃) or higher, and they will show signs of a fever, such as a loss of appetite or rapid breathing.
But if your cat doesn’t have any other signs of a fever besides hot ears, then you have nothing to worry about. However, if you need to do something, check the room temperature or close the blinds to keep out the sun during the heat of the day.
Like humans, body temperatures rise and fall throughout the day or night, which is normal for all mammals. Hot ears don’t always mean that your cat has a fever. It could mean that it’s too hot in your home, or they’ve been spending some quality time in the sunshine.
Look For Signs of a Fever in Your Cat
You’ve checked the room temperature and shut the blinds, but your cat’s ears are still hot. Your cat might have a fever, but to be completely sure, some signs that will tell you if it has a fever or not, or if their ears are hot due to an ear infection.
- The underside of their front paws and their stomach is hot as well.
- Their heartbeat is unusually fast.
- There is a loss of appetite.
- They are breathing rapidly.
- They don’t want to cuddle when they normally cuddle most of the time.
- They seek a cool location.
- They don’t groom so much.
- They drink less water.
If none of these signs are present, but your cat’s ears are abnormally hot, it’s time to check their ears for signs of infection. Ear infections might not always bring about a whole-body fever, but their ears will be hot, especially if they are fighting an infection. They might either be fighting ear mites or a yeast infection.
Look for the following:
- Abnormal scratching at their ears.
- Dark-colored discharge coming from their ears.
- A strong, pungent smell from their ears.
- Red or swollen spots around their ears.
They might also have an excessive wax buildup in their ears, explaining the extra heat coming from their ears. This reduces ventilation and may cause their ears to get hot. A vet will be able to clean out their ears safely. Please don’t try cleaning them out yourself, as a cat’s ears are extremely sensitive and can be damaged very quickly.
Short-Term Fevers Are Nothing to Worry About
Short-term fevers in cats and humans are a response to minor infections or a virus of sorts. The fever helps to fight off these things, and it’s the immune system’s way of clearing the body of any illness. Given time and rest, your cat should be back to normal in a day or so. If the fever lasts longer than that, however, you should take your cat to the vet to make sure there isn’t anything else wrong with your cat.
A cat’s ear temperature also fluctuates throughout the day and is not a cause for alarm. They could also be hot because your cat gave them more attention by rubbing them against furniture or excessively scratching at them.
When Is It Time to Call the Vet?
While a fever or hot ears is usually not enough to call the vet, as they are usually a normal part of a healthy cat, there are some times when you should call your vet, as there could be something more seriously wrong.
As mentioned earlier, if your cat’s ears have any dark-colored discharge coming out, or they have a strong, pungent odor, there could be an infection that needs medical attention. If they don’t eat for more than a day, with elevated body temperature, this could be a sign that it’s not a short-term illness.
Your vet will be able to determine the exact cause and can treat your cat accordingly.
Cats’ ears are remarkable organs in that they can turn in the direction that sound is coming from and regulate a cat’s body temperature. Hot ears are not necessarily a sign that your cat is sick. Look for other signs that might indicate illness before you begin to panic or stress out about your cat.
Trust your instincts and call the vet if you think it’s a good idea. Chances are, they can alleviate your worries over the phone without ever needing to bring your precious feline buddy into the clinic. If the vet sounds concerned, make an appointment so you can get your kitty back to good health.
- Catster: Why Are My Cat’s Ears Hot?
- My Pet Needs That: My Cat’s Ears Are Hot: Is This Normal?
- The Humane Society: Is Your Cat Sick? Try This At-Home Exam
- Vetoquinol Pet: My Cat’s Ears Are Hot: What Should I Do?
- TailsLife Blog: My Cat Has Hot Ears! Is He Sick?
- Purina One: How to Spot Ear Issues In Cats