Cat Ears and Their Overall Health

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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.

Cat Ears and Sound

Cats can rotate their ears like satellite dishes, up to 180°, to zone in on the tiniest of sounds. With 32 muscles, cats can easily determine the precise direction from which that electric can opener or mouse squeak is coming from.
Additionally, cats can detect much higher pitches than dogs and variances only 1/10 of a tone apart.  This allows your kitty to figure out just how big or small a prey animal is.

Cat Ears and Balance

Diving deeper, inside the feline ear are 3 semicircular fluid-filled canals lined with teeny, tiny hairs.

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 Ears and Moods

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.

Cat Ears and Body Temperature

Cats are warm-blooded creatures with a body temperature averaging 101°F, but what could it mean if her ears are hot? 

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!

Cat Ears and Fever

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.

Cat Ears and Infections

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.

Other Signs and Symptoms

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.

Consider Investing in Cat Insurance  

Looking for more ways to protect your kitty?  Consider investing in a cat insurance policy with MetLife Pet Insurance.1  Get your free quote today.

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 Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.


1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

2 Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC.

6 AnimalPlanet.com: Cat Ears & Hearing

7 CatsInternational.org: Amazing Cat Facts

8 AnimalPlanet.com: Cat Ears & Hearing

9 Merck Manual: Ear Structure and Function in Cats

10 VCA: Taking Your Pet's Temperature 

11 VCA: Taking Your Pet's Temperature 

12 Dr. Liz Koskenmaki, DVM, Burbank, California