Hot Ears and Upset Stomach. Is Your Cat Sick?


Hot ears and vomiting are concerning symptoms in cats that warrant a veterinary visit. A cat’s normal body temperature ranges from 100-102.5°F. If a cat’s ears feel unusually warm or hot to the touch, it could signal an underlying issue. Paired with vomiting, hot ears may indicate inflammation, infection, or other illness. While occasional vomiting is common in cats, persistent or projectile vomiting combined with other symptoms points to a health problem needing treatment. Identifying the root cause of hot ears and vomiting allows proper care and prevention of complications. Prompt veterinary attention provides the best opportunity for diagnosis and recovery when a cat exhibits these troubling signs.

Possible Causes

Ear infections are a common cause of hot ears in cats. Bacterial, yeast, or ear mite infections can cause inflammation and irritation in the ear canal, leading to hot and painful ears. Allergies to food, pollen, or other environmental allergens can also cause inflammation and irritation in a cat’s ears. Foreign objects lodged in the ear canal, such as grass seeds, can cause trauma, irritation, and infection. Cats that have suffered an ear or head trauma may experience swelling and inflammation of the ear canal. Hyperthyroidism has also been linked to ear infections in cats, as the overactive thyroid can weaken the immune system.

According to, infection is the most common cause of ear inflammation in cats. Bacteria or yeast can irritate the ear canal, leading to hot, inflamed ears.


To diagnose the underlying cause of hot ears and vomiting in cats, the veterinarian will first perform a thorough physical exam. They will look in the cat’s ears for signs of infection like inflammation, discharge, or foreign objects lodged inside. The veterinarian will also check the cat’s temperature, as fever can indicate infection.

The vet may draw blood to run tests like a complete blood count, biochemistry panel, thyroid test, and urinalysis. These can uncover issues like infection, kidney problems, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, or other systemic diseases that could be behind the symptoms.

Imaging tests like X-rays or MRI may be used to examine the inner, middle or outer ear for obstruction, masses, or bony changes from infection. These tests give the vet a closer look at the ear canal and structures.

With a combination of physical exam, lab work, and medical imaging, the veterinarian can pinpoint the root cause of the cat’s hot ears and vomiting.

Ear Infections

Ear infections are a common cause of vomiting and hot ears in cats. The medical term for an ear infection is otitis. There are two main types of ear infections in cats:

  • Outer ear infection (otitis externa) – infection of the external ear canal
  • Inner ear infection (otitis interna) – infection of the inner ear

Causes of ear infections in cats include:

  • Allergies – allergens like pollen or food can cause inflammation and infection
  • Foreign objects – sticks, grass seeds, etc. can get lodged in the ear canal
  • Excessive moisture – from swimming or bathing
  • Ear mites – parasitic infection of the external ear
  • Polyps or tumors
  • Trauma to the head or ears

Symptoms of an ear infection in cats include:

  • Head shaking and scratching at ears
  • Redness and inflammation in the outer ear
  • Excessive wax buildup
  • Unpleasant odor coming from ears
  • Discharge or bleeding from ears
  • Loss of balance
  • Hearing loss
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting and nausea

Treatment depends on the cause but may include:

  • Ear cleaning and flushing
  • Medicated ear drops containing antibiotics and/or steroids
  • Oral antibiotics or antifungals
  • Antihistamines for allergies
  • Surgery to remove polyps or foreign objects

Severe inner ear infections may require hospitalization for more intensive treatment. With prompt treatment, most ear infections can be cured within 7-10 days. Preventing excessive moisture in ears and treating any allergies can help reduce recurrence.


[Ear Infections in Cats: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments](

[Inner Ear Infection (Otitis Interna) in Cats – VCA Animal Hospitals](


Allergies are a common cause of hot ears and vomiting in cats. Cats can develop allergies to foods, medications, vaccines, dust, pollen, mold, and other environmental allergens ([]). Food allergies often cause skin inflammation and itching in addition to gastrointestinal signs like vomiting and diarrhea. The most common food allergens for cats include beef, dairy, chicken, fish, corn, wheat, and soy ([]).

Environmental allergies can cause year-round or seasonal symptoms in cats depending on the specific allergen. Dust, pollen, and mold spores can lead to itchy skin, ear infections, vomiting, and other signs of allergic irritation. Treatment for allergies involves avoiding allergy triggers if possible and using medications to control symptoms. Your veterinarian may recommend anti-inflammatories, antihistamines, steroids, immunotherapy, or hypoallergenic diets to reduce allergic reactions in your cat.

Foreign Objects

Cats are notorious for ingesting foreign objects like thread, wool, paper, rubber bands, plant materials, and small toys (VCA Animal Hospitals). These objects can become lodged in the mouth, ears, or digestive tract, causing a variety of concerning symptoms.

Foreign objects in the ears will cause inflammation, head shaking, and scratching. Severe ear infections from foreign bodies can cause facial nerve damage, resulting in vomiting and nausea (VCA Animal Hospitals). Removal of the foreign object by a veterinarian is necessary to treat the infection and prevent further complications.

Swallowed foreign objects pose significant dangers as they can cause esophageal tears, intestinal blockages, and obstructions. Symptoms may include vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, and abdominal pain. Some objects may pass through the digestive tract without intervention, but larger items require surgical removal to prevent intestinal rupture or other life-threatening issues.

Preventing access to small toys and items, and monitoring the cat when playing with string or similar objects, can help avoid unfortunate foreign body incidents.


Trauma to a cat’s ears or head can cause inflammation, pain, and other symptoms like hot ears and vomiting. Common causes of trauma include blunt force injuries, animal bites, and falls from high places. If a cat suffers a significant blow to the head or ears, it can potentially damage structures in the inner ear like the vestibule or cochlea. This can lead to inflammation, dizziness, loss of balance, and nausea or vomiting (VCA Animal Hospitals).

According to Cedar Animal Medical Center, symptoms of ear trauma may include:

  • Warm or hot ears
  • Head shaking or head tilt
  • Loss of balance or disorientation
  • Scratching or pawing at the ears
  • Discharge or bleeding from the ears
  • Nausea or vomiting

If a cat is showing these signs after a known injury to the head or ears, it’s important to take them to a veterinarian for an exam. The vet will check for signs of damage, infection, or fluid buildup and may recommend X-rays, CT scan, or other imaging tests. Treatment depends on the severity of injury but may include medications like anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, and antinausea drugs. Steroids could help reduce inflammation and vomiting. Surgery might be needed to repair certain inner ear injuries or drain fluid buildup (VCA Animal Hospitals). Preventing falls and trauma is the best way to avoid ear-related issues in cats.


Hyperthyroidism, also known as thyrotoxicosis, is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces excess thyroid hormone. This overactive thyroid gland causes the body’s metabolism to speed up abnormally (source).

Common symptoms of feline hyperthyroidism include (source):

  • Weight loss despite increased appetite
  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Increased activity or restlessness
  • Poor and unkempt coat
  • Panting or rapid breathing
  • Elevated body temperature

Diagnosis is made through physical examination, palpation of the thyroid glands, and blood tests measuring T4 hormone levels. High T4 confirms hyperthyroidism (source).

Treatments include anti-thyroid medication, radioactive iodine therapy, dietary changes, and surgery. The goal is to regulate thyroid hormone production and relieve symptoms.


Treatment for a cat with hot ears and vomiting will depend on the underlying cause. Here are some common treatment options:


If an ear infection is causing the symptoms, a veterinarian may prescribe antibiotic and anti-inflammatory ear drops to fight the infection and reduce swelling. Oral antibiotics may also be given. Medications can also be used to treat allergies. Anti-nausea medication may help with vomiting.

According to the VCA Animal Hospitals, “Vomiting and nausea may occur during the acute phase of otitis interna. If the facial nerve, which is located in the area of the inner ear, is damaged by an ear infection, Horner’s syndrome with a dropped ear, droopy eyelid, and constricted pupil may occur.” (source)


Surgery may be required to drain fluid or remove polyps or tumors in the ear canal. This can relieve pressure, pain, and infection.

Lifestyle Changes

If allergies are the cause, eliminating allergy triggers from the home environment can help. Keeping the cat indoors, using air filters, washing bedding regularly, and bathing the cat may reduce allergens. Dietary changes may also help manage allergies or hyperthyroidism.


There are a few steps cat owners can take to help prevent ear infections and other issues that may cause warm ears in cats:

Regular vet visits for checkups and cleanings can catch potential problems early before they become serious. Be sure to bring up any concerning symptoms like warm ears or vomiting so the vet can examine and diagnose the cause.

Avoid trauma by keeping your cat safe indoors and being gentle during handling and playtime. Cats can develop hematomas and other injuries from things like scratches, which may lead to inflammation.

Practice good hygiene by cleaning your cat’s ears periodically with a vet-approved solution. Check for and remove any foreign material like grass seeds which could cause irritation. Keep your home clean and limit dust to avoid allergen buildup.

By staying on top of your cat’s health with a vet, avoiding trauma, and maintaining cleanliness, you can help prevent some of the issues that may cause warm ears in cats.

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