Cat Got Hot Ears? Here’s why…..

Cat Got Hot Ears?  Here’s why…..

By Melvin Pena as seen in Catster’s magazine

 

Ever thought something along the lines of, “My cat’s ears are hot — is he sick?” Anthropocentric creatures that we are, humans tend to assume, regardless of context, that our own baseline experience of the world is some kind of universal standard, and that any deviation from it is strange, problematic or worrisome. For example, in an idle moment of couch-sitting, you’re petting your beloved cat and start mindlessly fondling the cat’s ears. Suddenly, you’re thinking, “Man, my cat’s ears are hot!” You’ve never really noticed that before, and now those hot cat ears are all you can think about.

Cats are warm creatures. No cat owner or fan of cats would dare to deny it. A cat’s natural body temperature is several degrees hotter than any human’s. Anything up to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit (39.2 degrees Celsius) is considered normal. When playing with cat ears, you are bound to make note of the contrast between what you consider normal and what is typical for the cat. So, if you’re sitting here wondering, “My cat’s ears are hot — is it an issue?” let’s take a closer look.

Facts on cat ears and temperature

The first thing to know when thinking, “My cat’s ears are hot” — the temperatures of cat ears fluctuate based on the animal’s surroundings, which is perfectly normal. Unlike most of the surface area of a cat’s body, cat ears tend to be thin and exposed, protected by neither a great deal of fur nor by body fat. Their noses are also notoriously changeable.

During warmer times of the year, vasodilation increases blood flow to these areas, the better to release excess heat from the body. During colder periods, vasoconstriction does the opposite to conserve heat. You may think that indoor cats are subject only to the whims of the thermostat, but any cat perched near a window in the daytime is going experience a temporary hike in both ear and nose temperature.

If we look to colorpoint breeds like the Siamese, we can see that our baseline perception of warmth is very different to that of our cats. For these breeds especially, their experience of heat is written on the body. You may know that the unique coat markings of color-pointed cats are expressions of a form of partial albinism, and that all specimens of these breeds are born with white coats. The patches of color develop as these cats mature, and are darkest at the coolest parts of its body, typically the ears, nose and tail.

Do those warm cat ears mean your cat has a fever?

Some humans might immediately think, “My cat’s ears are hot — does my cat have a fever?” Are cat ears reliable gauges for a cat’s general health? In cats, even a standard fever, from 103.5 degrees Fahrenheit (39.7 degrees Celsius) and upwards, is usually nothing to worry about in the short term. The heat increase experienced during a fever is the body’s natural way of fighting infective agents, like viruses or bacteria, and kickstarts the immune system into action. A cat with a “normal” fever will seek to isolate herself in a cool place — unlikely to be your lap — and remain still with her body splayed out rather than curled up.

If a cat’s ear temperature is a source of concern, feel the stomach and underarms. If they, too, are hot to the touch, the cat may have a fever, since a cat with a true fever will experience increased temperature across the entire body. Seek veterinary attention if you observe extreme total body heat for more than two days consecutively. If this describes your cat’s current conditions, you’ll probably have noticed a number of related signs and symptoms, any of which will be more telling than ear temperature alone.

Related: 4 Cat Ear Problems and How to Treat Them

Most cat owners spend enough time with their cats to be familiar with their routines. Is the cat eating less, or not finishing her food with her normal alacrity? Does her heartbeat seem quicker than usual? Is she not only hot, but also shivering? Any combination of these symptoms points more conclusively to a potentially dangerous health issue.

Hot cat ears and fevers of unknown origin

Fevers caused by viral infections in cats may subside as quickly as they arise. Fevers caused by secondary bacterial infections are usually accompanied by wounds that you can easily observe or can be indicated by unnatural areas of swelling if they are internal.

If your cat has experienced feverish conditions four or more times over the course of two weeks, the cat may have what is referred to as a fever of unknown origin. Make careful note of any and all changes — behavioral, physical and otherwise, including the first time you noticed hot cat ears. That way your vet can begin the difficult process of identifying the problem.

Can temperature signal other cat ear problems?

Wondering, “My cat’s ears are hot — does he have any sort of ear problem?” Where cat ear health is concerned, there are always more obvious signs of disorder and disease than hot cat ears. The most common cat ear issue is otitis externa, or an infection of the outer ear. Cat ear infections are most frequently traced to two sources, ear mites and yeast infections, with mites being the problem in the majority of reported cases.

Ear infections may present with ears that are warmer than normal. But this can be attributed to the cat paying them more attention than usual. Abnormal amounts of scratching at an ear with paws, or intently rubbing them against furniture, will necessarily raise their temperature and cause reddening. Whether the source of the infection is mites or yeast, these microscopic organisms wreak havoc only when conditions are optimal.

Excessive buildup of ear wax reduces ventilation and raises the internal temperature of the ear canal. The pinna, or the outer part of the ear that you see and touch, may become warmer as well, but it is the heat inside that permits mites and fungi to flourish. Symptoms of an ear infection more alarming than warmth include dark-colored discharge and a strange, pungent smell.

Bottom line: Don’t be stressed if you’re thinking, “My cat’s ears are hot!”

Cat ears are fascinating organs. Heavily muscled in spite of their delicate appearance, each is capable of moving and turning independently of the other. Subject to the vicissitudes of their environment, the external temperature of the pinnae varies wildly. A cat can have warm ears one hour and cool ones the next.

If the heat emanating from one or both cat ears is a cause for concern, don’t panic. Look to the whole cat before you call the vet. Discoloration in and around the ear canal can alert you to serious issues, along with marked shifts in behavior and unusual odors.

 

Cat Facts: 10 Interesting Things About Cat Ears

By Matt Soniak

Cats are fascinating creatures, and they’re built with some pretty amazing functions. As we’ve already pointed out, their “software” is pretty advanced, and they’re not lacking for cool hardware, either. A lot of attention gets paid to animals’ senses of smell and sight and their noses and eyes, but cats’ ears and hearing deserve a little praise, too. Here are 10 things you might not know about your cat’s ears and what they can do.

 

  1. Cats’ ears are pretty similar to those of other mammals and share the same three structural areas: the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. The outer ear is made up of the pinna (that’s the external triangular part you can see on top of their heads, and what we usually think of when we talk about their ears) and the ear canal. The pinna’s job is to capture sound waves and funnel them down the ear canal to the middle ear. Cats’ pinnae are mobile, and they can turn and move them independently. “Cats have a lot of muscle control over their ear,” says Dr. George Strain, a neuroscientist at Louisiana State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine. “They can actually use it like a radar unit and turn it toward the source of sound and increase their hearing sensitivity by 15 to 20 percent.”

 

The middle ear contains the eardrum and tiny bones called ossicles, which vibrate in response to sound waves and transmit those vibrations to the inner ear. In the inner ear, sensory cells in the organ of Corti respond to the vibrations by moving and bending, which sends electrical signals through the auditory nerve to the brain for processing.

 

The inner ear also contains the vestibular system, which helps provide a sense of balance and spatial orientation. Its shared location and connectivity to the sensory parts of the inner ear mean that an inner ear infection can affect both hearing and vestibular function, Strain says. “As a result, [a cat with an inner ear infection] may exhibit signs like a head tilt or a curvature of the body toward the side where the infection is.”

 

  1. For all their similarities to other mammalian ears, cat ears do have some anatomical differences, including one that can frustrate veterinarians. “One of the things that we struggle with in patients who have middle ear infections is that cats have a septum, like a bony shelf, that separates their middle ear into two compartments,” says Dr. Christine Cain, the section chief of dermatology and allergy at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. “That can make it really difficult for us to resolve their middle ear infections because there’s a compartment that you just can’t get to very easily.”

 

  1. You might have noticed cats have folds of skin forming what look like small slits on the outer bases of their pinnae. These little structures are formally called the cutaneous marginal pouches, but are more commonly known as Henry’s pockets. Veterinarians are unsure what purpose the pockets serve, if any.

 

Henry’s pocket is a pretty great anatomical term, and there’s another one for the tufts of fur that grow on the interior of cat’s pinnae—they’re called “ear furnishings” by cat fanciers and breeders.

 

  1. Most cat owners can tell you, anecdotally, that their pet has a very good sense of hearing. But just how good is it? “Cats hear lower frequencies and higher frequencies than dogs and people do,” Strain says. A cat’s hearing range is approximately 45hz to 64khz, compared to 67hz to 45khz in dogs. While the range of human hearing is usually pegged at 20hz to 20khz, Strain says 64hz to 23khz is a better representation.

“Among domestic animals, cats have some of the best hearing,” he says. “It helps them in that they’re predators by nature—being able to hear a wider range of sounds helps them detect a wider range of prey species, and gives them a chance of hearing and avoiding their own predators.”

 

  1. White cats with blue eyes have higher than normal incidences of congenital deafness due to genetic anomalies that result in the degeneration of some of the important sensory parts of the ear. “The gene that produces white hair and skin does so by suppressing pigment cells,” Strain explains, including those in the tissue of the inner ear. If those cells don’t function, he says, the tissue degenerates and the sensory cells involved in hearing die, leading to deafness.

 

  1. Some cats have four ears (or at least four outer ears, with extra pinnae behind their normal pinnae). The additional ears are the result of a genetic mutation. “They also have some other abnormalities,” Cain says. “Their eyes are smaller and they have a little bit of an underbite, too.”

 

  1. Cats’ ear canals have a self-cleaning mechanism, Cain says, and they don’t need your help keeping their ears clean. In fact, trying to clean a cat’s ears can cause ear problems to develop. “They’re sensitive creatures and susceptible to developing things like irritant reactions when we put things into their ears,” Cain says. “Unless your cat has an ear problem, for which you should go to your veterinarian, I wouldn’t do a lot of cleaning at home. Don’t try to fix it if it’s not broken.”

 

  1. Cats are an altricial species, which means that for some time after birth, they’re relatively immobile and not all of their sensory systems are working at their full potential. Strain says cats are born with their ear canals sealed and their auditory systems immature. “They respond to sounds as soon as the ear canal opens, and their hearing threshold will get better—that is, they can hear softer and softer sounds—in the several weeks after that,” he says.

 

  1. A cat’s ear temperature can help you tell if he is stressed out. Cats’ responses to fear and stress include increased adrenaline and other physiological changes that lead to energy generation in the body. Part of that energy is released as heat, increasing a cat’s body temperature in several areas. Scientists have found that the temperature of a cat’s right ear (but not the left ear) is related to the level of certain hormones released in response to stress, and could be a reliable indicator of psychological stress.

 

  1. Giving a hearing test to a cat is sometimes tricky, but it can be done. Behavioral tests where veterinarians make a noise and look for responses have several problems, Strain says. They can’t detect unilateral deafness, for example, and it’s not uncommon for cats to be stressed out and unresponsive during the tests.

 

“The most objective test we have available to us is the BAER test, which stands for brainstem auditory evoked response,” Strain says. In these tests, he explains, electrodes are placed under the skin on the top of a cat’s head and in front of each ear. A sound is then played into each ear, and the electrodes detect electrical activity in the auditory pathway.

 

“It’s like a TV antennae picking up a signal deep in the brain,” he says. A series of peaks in activity indicates the ear heard the noise, while a lack of activity peaks suggests the ear is deaf.