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Feline ears are fascinating as they play a big role in your cat’s behavior and overall health. As a pet parent, it’s important to remember to watch your cat’s ears and overall behavior for signs of health issues your furry friend could be dealing with.
Keep reading to learn more about your feline’s ears and signs of illness you should look for.
Cats can rotate their ears like satellite dishes, up to 180°, to zone in on the tiniest of sounds6. With 32 muscles, cats can easily determine the precise direction from which that electric can opener or mouse squeak is coming from7.
Additionally, cats can detect much higher pitches than dogs and variances only 1/10 of a tone apart8. This allows your kitty to figure out just how big or small a prey animal is.
Diving deeper, inside the feline ear are 3 semicircular fluid-filled canals lined with teeny, tiny hairs9.
The movement of fluid over these hairs alerts your cat’s brain as to which way she is moving, while the Vestibular Apparatus, transmits information about whether kitty is right-side up, upside down, or laying on her side. This can also help your kitty land on her feet when she falls, making ears critical to a cat’s sense of balance.
Cat’s ears are also mood barometers for those around.
If ears are flattened against the head, generally accompanied by an open mouth and whiskers pulled back, this is a signal that your cat is in an unhappy mood. When your cat’s ears are relaxed and your kitty is circling your feet, a more loving emotion is being displayed by your furry friend.
Cats are warm-blooded creatures with a body temperature averaging 101°F, but what could it mean if her ears are hot10?
Cat ears are thin and exposed to all of the elements. They are not protected by much fur or body fat, so when external temperatures rise, vasodilation increases body flow to the extremities to help release excess heat from the body.
When temperatures plunge, vasoconstriction works in the opposite manner, to conserve body heat. Outdoor cats, therefore, may have considerable fluctuations in their ear temperature however, any cat sunning herself on a sill, will experience a temporary hike.
Heat can even be written into a cat’s coat pattern. Colorpoint breeds, like the Siamese, are born with white coats. Patches of color develop as the cat matures and is darkest at the coolest parts of the body…the tail, nose, and ears!
Can hot ears, however, indicate illness in your cat?
Fever is generally determined to be 104°F and higher in the feline species11. Fever is the body’s way of fighting infection, so likely, a cat with a fever will retreat to a cool place with her body splayed rather than curl up on your lap. If your furry friends temperature is more than 104°F, they should be taken to the vet immediately for further treatment.
Dr. Liz Koskenmaki, DVM, Burbank, California, stated that the only way to tell the difference between normal warm ears and hot ears is to check the cat’s temperature with a thermometer. Dr. Koskenmaki shared that the degree of ear hotness is not a good indicator of body temperature since cats use their ears to cool themselves down.
“The blood flow within the ear flaps (pinnae) is closest to the skin which allows for cooling, so if the ears feel hot the cat may just be regulating her temperature,” Dr. Liz Koskenmaki, DVM, Burbank, California said.
Dr. Koskenmaki shared that there can actually be many causes of fever in cats.
“Most commonly [it is] some type of infection, but other causes include heat stroke, ingestion of certain toxins, or other inflammatory processes in the body. Increased body temperature can cause inappetence, lethargy, and abnormal behavior, so it is critical to have a veterinarian examine a cat with fever to diagnose the problem and treat it accordingly,” Dr. Liz Koskenmaki, DVM, Burbank, California said12.
A quite common issue cats experience, is Otitis Externa, an infection of the outer ear.
Ear mites are the cause of the majority of cases with yeast infections holding a close second. If your cat has an ear infection, inflammation will be present and therefore, warmer than normal ears. Additionally, your cat may scratch or rub her ears against the furniture to soothe the discomfort, and that can raise the temperature and increase redness.
Excessive wax build-up can reduce ventilation and also increase the temperature of your cat’s ear canal making the pinnae warmer as well. This warmth is the perfect environment for both mites and yeast to flourish, so one problem may lead to another. Dark discharge and a pungent smell may be more worrisome than warmth.
Cat ears regulate temperature, and a healthy cat should always have ears that are warm to the touch. If you feel, however, that your cat’s ears are warmer than usual, look for other signs and symptoms by doing a snout-to-tail check.
If you find anything that is a cause for concern, it is best to check with your veterinarian!
Here at PetFirst1, we know accidents and illnesses can happen to all pets. PetFirst Pet Insurance1 can help cover unexpected vet visits2 and can provide peace of mind. PetFirst Pet Insurance1 has cat and dog insurance policies2 to fit every budget.
Consider getting pet insurance for your furry friend today.
1PetFirst Healthcare, LLC (“PetFirst Pet Insurance” or “PetFirst”) is the program administrator authorized to offer and administer pet health insurance policies underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company, a Delaware insurance company, with its main office at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, or New Hampshire Insurance Company or The Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania, each with its main administrative office at 500 West Madison Street, Suite 3000 Chicago, IL 60661. For costs, complete details of coverage, and a listing of approved states, please contact PetFirst Healthcare, LLC.
2Like most insurance policies, insurance policies offered by PetFirst Healthcare, LLC contain certain exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force.
6AnimalPlanet.com: Cat Ears & Hearing
7CatsInternational.org: Amazing Cat Facts
8AnimalPlanet.com: Cat Ears & Hearing
9Merck Manual: Ear Structure and Function in Cats
12Dr. Liz Koskenmaki, DVM, Burbank, California