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Why Are My Cats Ears Hot? 6 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

Bynewsmagzines

May 19, 2023
woman holding cats ear


Dr. Karyn Kanowski Photo

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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As a cat owner, you likely spend a lot of time curled up with your cat and have learned what they like, don’t like, and their behaviors. You also notice when things are out of the norm. One of the many things cat owners become concerned about is when their cat’s ears feel unusually hot.

Although cats naturally have warm ears, especially when they’ve been in the sun or under a warm blanket, they shouldn’t have hot ears, and this temperature change is often an indication that something isn’t right. This warning sign is often accompanied by other symptoms, so identify what those are because it’s important to provide your vet with as much information as you can. Here are six reasons why your cat’s ears could be hot.

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The 6 Main Reasons Your Cats Ears Are Hot

1. Fever

If your cat has a fever, they’re going to have hot ears as well as a hot stomach and underarms. This will usually be accompanied by other clinical signs such as lethargy, rapid breathing or inappetence, because the fever is only the symptom of an underlying health issue or illness, and not the primary problem itself. In severe cases, they may become confused, go into shock, and have seizures.

If your cat has a high temperature, they need to be examined by your vet to diagnose and treat the cause. In cats, fevers can be caused by something as simple as an infection from fighting, to more serious illnesses such as liver disease, gastrointestinal disorders or infectious peritonitis.

vet checking up the cat
Image Credit: YULIYA Shustik, Shutterstock

2. They’re Self Regulating

It may surprise you, but your cat’s hot ears might be normal and not something to be concerned about at all. Cats have a body temperature that is higher than that of humans, which you may not notice until you feel cold. If the temperature has dropped and you’re wrapped up in warm clothes, but your cat feels warm, it might have more to do with you than your cat, as they may simply feel hot in contrast to your cold hands.

Remember that your cat’s ears regulate their body temperature. When they’re cold, the veins in their ears constrict to reduce heat loss, and when they’re hot, they dilate to help cool the body down. If your cat has been in the sun for hours and you’ve been in your cold office, their ears may feel hot because they’re releasing heat. If your cat is regulating their body temperature, their paws and nose should feel warm too, and there won’t be any other symptoms of concern.


3. Ear Infection

An ear infection can affect the outer, middle, or inner portion of your cat’s ear, and that location can determine how serious the condition may be. The cause of the infection is usually from overgrown yeast or bacteria, and sometimes a combination of both—but not always. Normal ear wax can sometimes accumulate in the ear canals, leading to a warm, moist environment that is ideal for yeast and bacterial growth. It can occur in any cat, but certain breeds and cats with weak immune systems are at higher risk.

If your cat’s hot ears also have a strong odor, redness, inflammation, or discharge around them or coming from them, they may have an ear infection. You may also notice that they’re irritable, shaking their head frequently, pawing at their ears, and trying to rub their ears against things. With infection, it is more likely that just one of the ears will be infected, but both can be involved.

Your vet will need to take a look at your cat’s ears to diagnose them, and they’ll start them on medication, such as antibiotics. If you don’t give the medication to your cat as prescribed, the infection can flare up again, so be sure to follow the vet’s instructions closely.

cat ear checked by vet.
Image Credit: Ivonne Wierink, Shutterstock

4. Allergies

Hot ears can be an indication that your cat is struggling with allergies. Cats are commonly allergic to fleas, foods, dust, mold, pollen, and grass. If your cat has started to show signs of allergies for the first time, it might be because they’re allergic to a type of plant that only releases its pollen during certain seasons of the year, or dust released when central heating is turned on.

Cats with allergies often develop rashes and itchiness over their skin and ears, which can make them hot to the touch. They may also cough, sneeze, and wheeze, as well as have a runny nose and discharge from their eyes. Allergies can be very uncomfortable, so chat with your vet about testing and treatment options for your cat.


5. Ear Mites

Just because you may not see ear mites doesn’t mean they’re not there. In fact, they’re very common and highly contagious among cats and dogs, especially when they’re still young. Although the mites may not make your cat’s ears hot, all the pawing and scratching at their ears to ease the itch will.

Ear mites will only go away with treatment, so for the comfort of your cat and to prevent them developing an infection, make sure to visit your vet to get it treated quickly. This will also stop the spread of ear mites from one pet to another. If you’re not sure if your cat has ear mites, look out for these signs:

  • Shaking of the head
  • Ear discharge (usually dark brown to black)
  • Excessive grooming
  • A crusty rash around the ear
  • Blood blisters in the ear
cat with ear mites
Image Credit: Todorean-Gabriel, Shutterstock

6. Aural Hematoma

If a blood vessel inside of your cat’s earflap bursts, blood can accumulate between the skin and cartilage of the ear, forming an aural hematoma. It is usually the result of excessive rubbing, scratching, and pawing at the ear due to an underlying problem or injury. In fact, most of the health issues listed above can lead to an aural hematoma forming. Unlike some of the above health issues, this problem is easy to identify due to the swelling and droopiness that occurs in the affected ear. It will also cause the ear to be hot.

The aural hematoma will need to be examined by a vet and will likely need to be drained, plus your cat will likely be prescribed medication for the pain. In some cases, they may require surgery if conservative treatments have not been effective. Your vet will also examine your cat to identify the underlying health issue that caused the aural hematoma.

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How To Clean Your Cat’s Ears

Many of the health issues listed above can be prevented with proper cleaning of your cat’s ears. Although you should avoid over-cleaning their ears, it can be beneficial to do it around once a month or when there is a lot of wax. However, if you notice discharge or an odor coming from their ears, this may be a sign of an infection and you should consult your vet.

If your cat is prone to getting ear infections, wax build up, or ear mites, chat with your vet about how often they recommend that you clear their ears, as they may advise on more frequent cleanings. They’ll also recommend the best cleaning solution for your cat’s ears and show you the best way to go about cleaning. You should only ever use a vet-approved ear cleaner to clean your pet’s ears; anything else could make the problem worse or cause serious damage.

If you’re new to cleaning your cat’s ears, follow this guide:

  1. The best way to prepare your cat for ear cleaning is to start slowly, preferably when they are young, by just handling the ears gently and get them used to having them rubbed and wiped, then follow this process with treats.
  2. Preparation is key! Make sure you have everything you need within reach before you start (ear cleaner, cotton balls, treats), and find a quiet, secure room in case your kitty tries to do a runner!
  3. Avoid wrapping or constricting your cat as this will make them more likely to become distressed and struggle. Place them on a thick towel or blanket that they can grip with their claws so they feel more secure. If you can, have one person to gently restrain the cat by placing their hands around the shoulders, careful not to put pressure on their necks. That way, you can use both hands to steady the head as you clean the ear.
  4. Expose the ear canal by pulling the tip of the ear back against the top of the head.
  5. Squeeze some of the ear cleaner directly into their ear canal until it is filled.
  6. Massage the base of the ear to break up the dirt and gunk.
  7. Your cat will naturally shake their head due to the sensation of the liquid in their ear canal, so try to steady their head and wipe the solution from the ear with cotton balls, or prepare for you and your walls to be covered!
  8. You can use cotton tips ONLY on the outside part of the ear, and these can be particularly useful for removing wax from the nooks and crannies around the canal. You should NEVER use these inside the ear canal.
  9. Move onto the other ear and repeat the process.
  10. Reward your cat!
orange cat ear clean by vet
Image Credit: flywish, Shutterstock

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Conclusion

As cat owners, it’s natural to fuss over our felines and become concerned if something doesn’t seem right with their health. If your cat has hot ears, it could be an indication that something is wrong, such as an ear infection, fever, ear mites, allergies, or an aural hematoma. However, it cat ear mitescould also be due to your cat releasing heat from their body.

If you are concerned about your cat or if they have any other symptoms, it’s important to get them examined by the vet.


Featured Image Credit: NONGASIMO, Shutterstock

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