my cat’s ears are hot and red
Cat Health and Wellness

Why Do Cats Have Hot Ears?

One of the many things cat owners may notice during a casual petting session is body warmth. Cats are naturally hot creatures, most notably on the ears. The ears of a cat can be hot, red, and dry depending on the environment and if it is feeling well.

With a natural body temperature that is 4-5 degrees higher than a human, hot ears are typically a sign of normal health. Unless other symptoms are present, such as vomiting or lethargy, warm ears are natural.

Is your cat’s entire body hot? A quick examination can reveal if your pet is potentially unwell. If your cat’s stomach is overheated, as well as the underarm area, this could be a sign of fever.

Are Hot Ears Normal in Cats?

Cats are naturally warm creatures. While people often associate an elevated temperature with illness, a higher temperature in cats is relatively normal.

  • While the average temperature of a healthy person is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, any reading above 98 (and as high as 102.5) is entirely normal for a cat. In most environments, your cat’s ears will feel warmer than the touch of your hand.

When did you last touch your cat’s ears? With environmental changes come fluctuations in body temperature. Because cats ears are thin, they are more susceptible to environmental conditions.

Similar to the way that a cat’s nose can change from wet to dry in certain environments, the same holds true for a cat’s ears. Their naturally elevated body temperature would need to dip dramatically before the ears start to cool down.

  • The only way to know if your cat’s ears are hotter than usual is to check periodically over a 24-hour period. You are looking for any bodily changes that are abnormal for your cat.
  • Does your car have short or long hair? Cats that have limited fur covering their ears are more susceptible to their environment. If your short-haired cat relaxes in the sun or by the fire (or radiator) regularly, it is logical that your pet will have hotter ears most of the time.

What Are the Signs of Fever in Cats?

A cat’s ears are not an effective way to gauge a cat’s health. While hot ears could potentially be a sign of a fever, that is not usually the case.

A body temperature of 103+ is considered to be a standard fever. The heat produced in a cat’s ears, similar to the human body, is higher as a means to fight an infection. This is a positive sign.

cat has one hot ear

If your cat has a fever, it will likely reside to a cool spot in the home. Resting in a more open position rather than curled up is an effective way to reduce body heat.

Noted below are signs of fever and illness…

  • If your cat’s ears feel hotter than usual, it is wise to explore the entire body. The stomach and underarms should be scrutinized. If these areas are just as hot as the ears, this is a more conclusive sign that fever has developed.
  • Is your cat continuing its normal routine or has its activity ceased? Because cats are excellent at hiding signs of illness, you may have to look for different clues. If they are exhibiting changes in personality, failing to engage, refusing to eat and drink, and are lethargic, your pet is likely to be ill. A combination of these symptoms usually points to a bacterial and viral infection with elevated ear temperature playing the role of a secondary sign.

Common Ear Problems That Affect Cats

An elevated ear temperature could be due to an ear infection or skin issue.

Are your cat’s ears hot, itchy, and red?  Are the ears producing a discharge or are the ear covered in tiny black scabs? This could be the result of a skin infection or fleas. A condition known as otitis externa can occur when the outer ear becomes infected. Ear mites can also be a problem. An allergic reaction from foods or infection can result in an elevation in your cat’s ear temperature.

  • Some ear issues are not visible, especially older cats who experience hearing loss. If your cat fails to respond to verbal cues the way it once did, or develops a head tilt and seems confused, your cat may not be able to hear you properly. In this case, the temperature of your cat’s ears is not connected to what is happening within the ear itself. One of the primary signs of hearing loss is a failure to respond to noticeable loud and startling noises.

A wax buildup can also cause ear concerns, ranging from pain to hearing loss. If wax buildup results in an infection, your cat’s ear may seem a bit hotter than normal due to fungi that are present.

Dark-colored discharge complete with a foul odor can occur in cases that are not appropriately treated. Cats that are unkempt, feral or have longer ear hair can fall victim to wax buildup and complications.

Polyps, Cysts, and Tumors

Somewhat rare, yet occurring more often in senior cats, the formation of a polyp, cyst or tumor can cause inflammation in (and of) the ear and also lead to hotter ears. As the growth continues to form and swell, your cat’s ear may become progressively warmer.

While mites, allergies, and other issues can cause similar problems, if you notice that one ear is considerably warmer than the other ear, it could be due to a growth. Having a vet inspect your cat’s ears is crucial. This is especially true if the elevated temperature in one ear continues for several days in a row.

A foreign body can also be the cause of inflammation and ear warmth. If your cat resides outdoors on a regular basis, the heat could be caused by dirt, a small stone or other debris.

Can Stress Cause Hot Ears in Cats?

In addition to excessive grooming, fur pulling, the need for isolation, and gastrointestinal issues, stress can cause an increase in body temperature as well as increased and labored breathing.

Your cat may also begin to scratch more frequently. With the ears being the primary target, fur will slowly fall away and the skin underneath will become irritated.

This will not only increase the ear temperature but could also lead to infection. If scratching becomes a compulsion, the drawing of blood may occur as an open wound becomes visible.

are cats ears hot when they have a fever?

The result is warm ears due to stress, additional warmth due to physical irritation, and tiny bumps and scabs caused by the intense scratching.

Hot ears alone are inconclusive without other symptoms and behavioral changes, such as flicking the ears constantly.

You should also perform an internal examination of your cat’s ears. You should never attempt to place an object into the ears or attempt to remove known debris, but a quick inspection could reveal an issue. If there are any signs of a problem, you should take your cat to the vet for a check-up.