Cat Hot Ears

If your cat’s eats are hot to the touch, veterinarian sites will say that your cat might have a fever. I’ll touch on that later in the article but one point that is rarely made is that a cat’s ear (the ear flap or pinna) has very little fur on it and it is thin and rather delicate. It is made of cartilage covered with skin and fine blood vessels feeding it.

Yoda the cat with four ear flaps
Yoda the cat with four ear flaps. The extra ear flaps do not lead to actual ear mechanisms. Photo Glenn Olsen
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The blood vessels will therefore be very near the surface and there is no barrier between your finger and the skin of the cat. Your finger which senses the temperature of the ear, is very near the blood vessels. The blood inside the cat circulates around the cat’s body and the body temperature is:

  • Fahrenheit – Adult cat = 100° – 103°F
  • Centigrade – Adult cat = 37.7° – 39.4°C

So, the ears will often feel warm and even hot sometimes (if for example the cat has been outside in the sun) because you are feeling the temperature of the cat’s inner core more or less.

Conversely cat’s ears become cooler and quite cold when the ambient temperature is cold because the ears are at the extremities of the body and the external temperature outweighs the warming effect of the warm blood coming up from the cat’s body.

The ears of a cat vary in temperature more than the torso because they are at the edge of the body and thin.

If my cat had hot or warm ears and he was showing no signs of ill-health, my conclusion would be that everything is normal.

If, however, you combine your observation that you cat’s ears are hot with signs that your cat might have a fever then you can conclude that something might be amiss, at which time you have to go to the next stage which is to conduct some tests.

Knowing your cat well and his/her usual behaviors is useful under these circumstances because when a cat has a fever, like us, he/she will change his behaviour. In order to notice a change in behavior a cat owner needs to know accurately what their cat’s normal behavior is. Click on this link to go to a page which discusses behavioral changes indicating ill-health.

However, the only sure way to check for a fever is to check your cat’s temperature. That should be done with care and with an assistant to ensure the cat remains as still as possible. Personally, I am not sure I’d try it as it could go badly wrong unless you have the skills or are confident are sure that you can make it work safely.

A fever causes the cat’s core temperature to rise because of substances produced by the immune system which resets the core temperature as controlled by the brain. The immune system produces these substances because of the presence of the infectious agent (virus) inside the cat.

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