Do Cats Release Heat Through Their Ears? The Surprising Truth


It’s not uncommon for cat owners to notice that their cat’s ears feel warm or even hot to the touch. This often leads to the question – do cats release heat through their ears? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the cat’s ear structure, how cats regulate body temperature, the evidence for heat loss through the ears, and why the myth that cats release heat through their ears persists.

First, we’ll examine the anatomy of a cat’s ear and how it helps regulate body temperature. Next, we’ll look at studies that have measured ear temperature in cats. Then, we’ll discuss why some cat owners continue to believe their cat’s ears release excess body heat, despite lack of strong evidence. Finally, we’ll overview other mechanisms cats use to cool themselves down.

The Cat’s Ear Structure

A cat’s ear contains the same three main parts as all mammalian ears: the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. The outer ear includes the visible pinna and ear canal. The pinna is made up of cartilage and muscles which allow the cat to rotate their ears independently to focus on sounds. The canal carries sound vibrations to the eardrum. The eardrum separates the outer and middle ear.

The middle ear includes the eardrum and a small, air-filled chamber that contains 3 tiny bones: the hammer, anvil, and stirrup. It also includes 2 muscles, the tensor tympani and stapedius. These connect the bones and dampen vibrations (Merck Veterinary Manual). The stirrup transmits vibrations to the inner ear. The middle ear is connected to the throat by the Eustachian tube which equalizes pressure.

The inner ear contains the cochlea for hearing and the vestibular system for balance. It is filled with fluid and contains sensitive hair cells that convert vibrations into nerve signals. The inner ear is supplied with blood by small blood vessels that run throughout the ear structures.

How Cats Regulate Body Temperature

Cats have a core body temperature between 100.5°F and 102.5°F, which is warmer than humans (Mentalfloss). To maintain this higher temperature, cats rely on physiological and behavioral adaptations. One of the main ways cats cool themselves is through evaporative cooling. When a cat is too hot, they sweat primarily through their paw pads. As this sweat evaporates, it carries heat away from the body and cools the cat down (The London Cat Clinic). Cats also pant to bring cool air over the moist surfaces of the mouth and tongue, further cooling them. Panting only occurs when a cat is very hot, as it is an energy-intensive process (Petwellbeing). By sweating and panting, cats are able to keep their core body temperature within the healthy range even on hot days.

Heat Loss Through the Ears

There is a popular theory that cats can release excess body heat through their ears. The idea is that since cats’ ears contain many blood vessels close to the skin’s surface, they can radiate heat away from the body through their ears when they become overheated. This has led to the myth that cats’ ears help them regulate their body temperature.

According to experts, there is very little evidence that cats actually release significant amounts of heat through their ears. Dr. Lorie Huston, a veterinarian writing for PetHelpful states, “While a small amount of heat may dissipate through the ears, they do not actually serve as a major means of heat loss in cats.”

Research has shown that cats primarily regulate their body temperature through panting and sweating through their paw pads. Ear temperature does not correlate strongly with their overall body temperature. So while ears may feel warm to the touch, it does not necessarily indicate the cat is hot or using its ears to cool down.

Overall, the theory that cat ears serve as a major heat regulator appears to be mostly a myth. Ears can dissipate some heat but are not a primary cooling mechanism. The myth persists because ears contain blood vessels near the surface, so they often feel warmer, leading to the assumption they release significant heat.

Evidence For and Against

There is evidence both for and against the idea that cats release heat through their ears. On the “for” side is the observation that cat’s ears often feel hot to the touch, even when the rest of their body does not. As explained by veterinarian Dr. Heidi Lobprise (, “The ears have an abundant blood supply. This is why gently feeling your cat’s ears can give you a good sense of their body heat.” Some proponents argue that the ears have many blood vessels near the surface to facilitate heat transfer.

On the other hand, controlled scientific studies have found little evidence that cat’s ears actually radiate significant amounts of heat. In one study by Baker and Turner (, cats’ ear temperature was monitored and found to not exceed core body temperature by more than 1-2 degrees Fahrenheit. This small difference can be explained by ambient heat rather than radiation. Overall, evidence suggests cat ears feel hot because they are well-perfused with blood, but they do not meaningfully radiate heat relative to a cat’s whole body heat loss. More research is needed to definitively settle this debate.

Expert Opinions

Veterinarians agree that cats do not release excess body heat through their ears. Dr. Margareth Vieira, a veterinarian with over 20 years of experience, states “A cats body temperature is between 100.5 and 102.5F. This is 1.5F higher than humans. This increased body heat means a cats ears will feel warmer than a humans.” She goes on to explain that “Cats ears function similar to a dogs ears in helping regulate body temperature.”

According to Dr. Andrew Hoffman, DVM, “The primary purpose of a cats ears is to collect sound waves and enhance hearing capabilities. They contain a complex network of blood vessels to maintain consistent temperature for optimal functionality.” He adds that “While cats ears may feel warm to us, they do not give off significant amounts of body heat.”

Overall, experts confirm that while a cat’s ears may feel unusually warm compared to humans, they do not release excess heat. Their ears stay warmer simply due to the cat’s higher normal body temperature. The ears play an important role in hearing and temperature regulation, but are not a significant avenue for shedding heat.

Ear Temperature Studies

Scientific research has been conducted to measure cat ear temperatures and compare them to rectal temperatures. One study published in the journal Veterinary Anaesthesia and Analgesia compared axillary, tympanic membrane, and rectal temperatures in 80 healthy cats ( They found the average difference between rectal and ear temperatures was 1.6°C, with ear temperatures being lower. However, another study in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery found a correlation between increased temperature in the right ear and stress-induced increase in body temperature in cats ( A third study in the Journal of Small Animal Practice evaluated agreement between rectal and ear temperatures in 29 healthy cats over 2 weeks. They concluded ear temperatures could not reliably predict rectal temperature (

In summary, while some studies have shown elevated temperatures in cat ears during stress, the research does not conclusively demonstrate cats release significant body heat through their ears compared to other mechanisms.

Why the Myth Persists

There are several theories for why the myth about cats losing heat through their ears persists, despite limited scientific evidence. One reason is simply that cats’ ears can feel warm to the touch. The skin on a cat’s ear is very thin, so heat from blood flow can more easily be felt compared to other body parts. So when a person touches their cat’s ears, the warmth is interpreted as the cat releasing excess body heat. However, studies show this ear warmth is often simply due to ambient heat or exercise, not necessarily the cat radiating heat.

Another reason this myth continues is that many people wrongly equate cats to rabbits. Rabbits do release excess heat through their long ears. So there is a misconception that since cats also have prominent ears, they must radiate heat the same way. In reality, cats’ temperature regulation system differs greatly from rabbits and they do not shed heat the same way.

The persistence of the ear heat myth shows how casual observations combined with false comparisons can promote animal misinformation. While cat ears may feel warm, careful research is needed to understand the complex inner workings of feline temperature control.

Other Cooling Mechanisms

Cats have several other methods of cooling themselves down besides releasing heat through their ears. Here are some of the main ways cats try to beat the heat:

Panting – Cats pant to help evaporate moisture from their mouths and noses, which cools the blood before it circulates through their bodies (Source). Panting is one of the most noticeable signs that a cat is getting overheated.

Seeking shade – Cats will often rest in shaded areas during the hottest parts of the day to avoid direct sunlight. Providing shade for outdoor cats is important (Source).

Grooming – Licking their fur helps cats spread saliva over their coat, which evaporates to cool their skin. Their barbed tongues are very effective for releasing heat this way.

Stretching out – By stretching out on cool surfaces, cats can maximize the skin surface area exposed to cooler air or the ground. This helps transfer heat away from their bodies.


In summary, while a cat’s ears play an important role in thermoregulation, the claim that they release excess body heat through their ears is likely exaggerated. A cat’s ears contain many blood vessels that allow for control over heat loss, but experts find little clear evidence that this is a primary or major channel for dissipating heat.

Unlike dogs, cats do not have sweat glands to cool themselves, so they rely on behaviors like panting and their extremities, including ears, paws and tail. However, cats have multiple other cooling mechanisms including fat pads on their paws and thermal radiation through their fur, that likely contribute more significantly to regulating their temperature than simply their ears alone.

While increased blood circulation may result in slightly elevated ear temperatures that account for some heat loss, the extent of this appears limited. More research is still needed to conclusively determine if cats do release excess heat specifically through their ears. But based on existing evidence, it seems exaggerated to claim ears as a major thermoregulation channel in cats.

In conclusion, while a cat’s ears play a role in cooling, it’s unlikely they release a substantial amount of heat on their own. A cat’s entire body works together to dissipate heat through various mechanisms.

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