Why Are My Indoor Cat’s Ears Feeling Hot?

Cats’ Ears Help Regulate Body Temperature

A cat’s ears play an important role in regulating their body temperature. Cats release excess heat through their ears via increased blood flow to the many blood vessels close to the surface of the skin (Source). Because a cat’s ears have a large surface area relative to their body size and are packed with blood vessels, they act as effective radiators to release heat when a cat’s body temperature rises. This is why a cat’s ears may often feel hot to the touch – the increased blood flow to the ears helps pull heat from the body core to the skin’s surface, preventing overheating.

Indoor Cats May Run Hotter Than Outdoor Cats

Indoor cats live in temperature controlled environments and don’t experience the same outdoor temperature variations as outdoor cats. This means they are not exposed to the same cold stresses and temperature regulation. According to the ASPCA, the average body temperature for an indoor cat may run 0.5 to 1°F warmer than an outdoor cat.1 Their bodies simply don’t have to work as hard to maintain a healthy temperature.

Indoor cats are kept in ideal temperature ranges for humans, usually between 60°F to 80°F. But a cat’s natural body temperature is 100.5°F to 102.5°F.2 This means indoor environments may cause them to run slightly hotter than what’s natural.

Lacking the variation of outdoor temperatures, an indoor cat’s body adapts to moderate indoor temperatures. Their bodies become conditioned to that as a baseline, which can cause their average temperature to skew higher.

Exercising and Playing Increases Body Heat

Cats playing and running around generate more body heat as their muscles work harder during physical activity. This increased activity raises their normal body temperature as exertion causes the body to produce excess heat that needs to be released. A cat’s ears play an important role in releasing this excess heat generated during exercise or playtime. As blood circulates through the ears, the heat gets released into the surrounding air which helps cool down their body temperature back to normal levels. According to one source, a cat’s hot ears can help regulate body temperature more efficiently after physical exertion.

Source: https://blog.catbandit.com/why-do-cats-feel-hot-exploring-the-reasons-behind-feline-temperature-regulation/

Stress and Anxiety Can Raise Body Temperature

Stress and anxiety can cause a cat’s body temperature to increase above their normal range. When a cat experiences stress or anxiety, the body releases stress hormones like cortisol. Cortisol acts to raise body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure as part of the physiological stress response. Anxious or nervous cats may frequently run hotter as their body continually releases these stress hormones.

Overgrooming is a common sign of stress in cats. Cats that excessively groom themselves can experience hair loss and irritation. The constant grooming is thought to be a self-soothing behavior in response to chronic stress. Therefore, stressed cats may groom excessively in an attempt to cool themselves when their body temperature is elevated from high cortisol levels.

According to an article on the Veterinary Information Network, “Elevated rectal temperature [in cats] just from the trip to the veterinary clinic has been documented.” The stress of new environments can quickly raise a cat’s body temperature (https://www.vin.com/apputil/content/defaultadv1.aspx?pId=19840&id=8249823).

Illnesses May Cause Fever and Hot Ears

Infections and diseases can cause fever in cats. Ear infections, in particular, can make that ear feel hot to the touch. As noted in this article on cat fevers from WebMD, “The ear is exposed to the environment and prone to scratches and irritation that can allow bacteria to take hold.”

According to the WebMD article, “Cats exhibiting signs of a fever for more than 24 hours or a fever above 104o F at any point need to see their veterinarian.”

In addition to hot ears, other signs of illness that may indicate a fever include lethargy, decreased appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. It’s important to monitor your cat closely and contact your veterinarian if these symptoms persist.



Certain Breeds Have Hotter Average Temperatures

Certain cat breeds tend to run hotter than others due to their physical characteristics. Brachycephalic breeds like Persians and Exotic Shorthairs have shortened nasal passages that don’t allow air to cool properly before reaching the lungs, leading to higher body temperatures (https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-facts-genes-siamese-cats-temperature-sensitive-albino/). Their squished faces also restrict air flow and heat dissipation.

In contrast, breeds like the Maine Coon with long fur and bodies have an easier time staying cool. Their size allows body heat to dissipate more readily. Long-haired breeds also get insulation from their coats that helps regulate body temperature (https://www.arlingtonanimalhospital.com/cat-coat-colors-can-change-over-time/). So brachycephalic breeds often run hotter, while larger and long-haired breeds maintain cooler average temperatures.

Solutions for Cats with Chronically Hot Ears

If your cat seems to frequently have hot ears even when not ill, there are some steps you can take to help them stay cooler:

Provide areas for your cat to rest and cool down. Make sure there are shaded, breezy spots for them to lounge where air can circulate around their body. Tile or wood floors may feel nice and cool against their skin. You can also place cooling mats or pads in their resting areas.

Regularly grooming your cat can improve air flow to their skin underneath their fur coat. Brushing helps remove excess fur and allows for better ventilation. Be gentle around the ears.[1]

Use cooling mats, fans, or air conditioning to lower the ambient temperature. Create an overall cooler environment so your cat doesn’t get overheated in the first place. Place fans to allow for air movement without blowing directly on your cat.

When to See the Vet About Hot Ears

If your cat’s ears are hot but they seem otherwise normal, you may be able to monitor them at home. However, it’s important to contact your veterinarian if the hot ears accompany concerning symptoms or don’t resolve on their own.

According to Rover, you should take your cat to the vet if their hot ears are accompanied by lethargy, reduced appetite, vomiting, or other signs of illness [1]. These symptoms may indicate an infection or other medical issue causing a fever.

You should also see the vet if your cat’s ears look inflamed, are tender to the touch, or have any discharge [2]. These can be signs of an ear infection or inflammation that requires treatment.

Additionally, if your cat has persistently hot ears with no obvious cause like heat, exercise or stress, it’s a good idea to get them checked out. A vet can help determine if there’s an underlying medical reason for the increased temperature.

In summary, see your vet promptly if your cat’s hot ears don’t resolve or are accompanied by other symptoms of illness. This will allow for proper diagnosis and treatment of any issues.

Tips for Keeping Cats Cool

There are several things cat owners can do to help keep their feline friends comfortable in warmer weather:

Provide access to cool, shaded areas. Giving cats a place to relax out of the sun is important. Set up shaded spots indoors or on screened porches using cat trees, cardboard boxes, or tents. You can also find cooling mats made specifically for pets.

Consider clipping long-haired cats in summer. Long coats can cause cats to overheat more easily. Ask your vet if a “lion cut” or shave is appropriate for your cat’s coat type.

Don’t overdress cats in warm weather. Avoid putting cats in clothing like sweaters or costumes during hot days. Let them regulate their temperature naturally.

Make sure water is always available. Provide clean, cool water in several locations so your cat can stay hydrated. Consider getting a pet fountain, which many cats prefer over bowls.

Takeaway on Hot Cat Ears

Hot ears are a normal way for cats to release excess heat from their bodies. Cats don’t have many sweat glands, so they rely on behaviors like panting and blood flow to the ears to cool down. Ears that are warm or hot to the touch are not necessarily a cause for concern.

However, persistently hot ears that are accompanied by lethargy, appetite changes, or other symptoms may indicate an illness such as a fever or infection. It’s a good idea to monitor your cat’s behavior and take its temperature if you notice any unusual symptoms along with hot ears.

To keep your indoor cats comfortable, make sure they have access to cool, shaded areas and plenty of fresh water. Cats are very sensitive to heat, so helping them stay cool will allow them to maintain healthy body temperatures.

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