If you have been a cat owner for a while, you’re certainly aware of just how warm felines like to be.
This is why we see them often on windows catching a ray of sunshine. Some of them could also prefer to lie near the fireplace or any other source of heat.
Cats’ love and need for warmth is also the reason why they are usually so warm. However, on certain occasions, you could notice some of your cat’s body parts seem to be cold. To be more precise, these could be your feline friend’s ears.
My cat’s ears are cold: Does this indicate something is wrong with it?
Noticing your cat is cold is probably surprising for you and something you didn’t expect. Let’s explore the seven main reasons for cold ears in cats and what you should do to help in every one of these situations.
1. Your Cat Is Cold
The first reason is the most likely one and something you should first check upon noticing cold ears in your pet.
Most likely, your cat has been outside in cold weather. As WebMD explains, a normal cat’s body temperature ranges from 100.4 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. This is somewhere between 37.2 and 39.2 degrees Celsius.
This means that cats are constantly warmer than humans and they always seek warmth. When they leave a warm home and get out of the cold, they’re likely to have cold ears.
If your cat is inside and has cold ears, this can indicate that your house is a bit chilly. When cats find themselves in cold conditions, their bodies reduce blood flow to extremities like the ears.
This is done so that their vital organs can receive more blood and avoid losing heat due to the cold environment.
How To Help?
Cold ears in your cat due to weather conditions aren’t anything serious or something you should be worried about.
However, you should always try to keep your cat warm.
Of course, the best way to do this is by keeping it indoors. You should also provide your cat with a warm, cozy bed and some nice blankets to keep it comfortable.
Your cat could prefer to snuggle up near a fireplace or a radiator to keep itself warm. Make sure you’re always nearby to prevent injuries in your pet.
If you let it go outside during fall and winter, dry its fur to warm it up when it comes back into the house.
2. Reduced Blood Flow
A cat’s ears can become cold due to reduced blood flow to them.
You certainly noticed your cat adores sleeping or napping a lot during the day. On some occasions, it could sleep even more than usual – during colder months and bad weather, for instance.
While a cat is sleeping or napping, its metabolism slows down, and its blood flow is reduced. After it gets up, it’s perfectly normal for it to have cold ears and the rest of its body can be cold, too.
This happens so that the cat helps its body conserve the heat. Soon after your cat engages in any activity, its ears should become normally warm.
How To Help?
Usually, there is nothing you should do here, just as long as your cat doesn’t manifest any symptoms of distress.
Since cats spend a serious part of their day napping, it’s likely you’ll often notice cold ears in them.
If this happens only due to resting, you have nothing to worry about.
3. Old Age
We’ll all be glad to see our feline friends living up to their old age. However, aging comes with some important changes.
Jan Bellows and his associates  divide these changes into three main sections. Behavioral changes such as an altered sleep cycle, reduced stress tolerance, and changes in interaction are the first ones.
The second group refers to appearance changes such as decreased skin elasticity and weight condition. Finally, older cats will manifest changes in their activity patterns and will show decreased mobility and a decline in vision and hearing.
Furthermore, senior cats often have difficulties regulating their body temperature, often leading to colder extremities.
If your cat is in its senior years, having cold ears is not an unusual occurrence but rather a natural part of the aging process.
How To Help?
You should keep your older cat warm just like you did throughout its whole life.
Still, it’s essential to emphasize that older cats need even more attention and care. You should provide your pet with additional blankets and an extra source of heat.
Make sure it doesn’t have to climb stairs or jump high to make itself warm. Many senior cats have sore joints and various other health problems that can make moving and jumping painful for them.
Cold ears in a cat can also be a sign of damaged skin, which is a condition known as frostbite.
According to VCA Animal Hospitals, prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can reduce blood flow to a cat’s extremities, leading to the potential freezing of its tissues.
A cat’s ears, together with its tail and paws are most likely to be affected with frostbite. Besides cold ears, common signs of frostbite are the following:
• Discoloration of the affected area of a cat’s skin
• Swelling of the affected area
• Skin ulcers
Frostbitten tissues may also become red and will be very painful for a cat.
How To Help?
In case you notice cold ears in your cat, together with other symptoms that could indicate frostbite, you need to seek veterinary help immediately.
Before you take your cat to a vet, you need to ensure it’s warm enough. Be careful not to use direct heat such as a heating pad, but rather a warm water compress.
The veterinarian will give your cat pain medication and antibiotics to prevent bacterial skin infections.
Hypotension refers to low blood pressure in cats.
Some of the causes of hypotension are trauma, anemia, shock, and underlying health conditions like kidney failure and heart failure. Also, as the American Animal Hospital Association points out, hypotension is a common complication in cats during anesthesia.
Cold ears can be a sign of low blood pressure in your cat, as well as weakness and disorientation.
How To Help?
If you suspect your cat has hypotension, you need to take it to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
The crucial thing here is to address the underlying issue that causes low blood pressure in a cat.
The treatment can include intravenous fluid therapy, specific medications, or warming the cat up.
The veterinarian will monitor the cat carefully in the following period to ensure its blood pressure gets back to normal.
Hypothermia in cats occurs when their body temperature drops below 100° F. As PetMD explains, when a cat’s body temperature drops, its heart rate and other body activities slow down. If hypothermia is not promptly treated, it can lead to organ failure in the cat.
Exposure to cold air, together with wet fur, is the main cause of hypothermia in felines.
The most common symptoms here are cold ears, a white nose, shivering, weakness, shallow breathing, and decreased heart rate.
How To Help?
Here it’s necessary to move the cat to a warm environment immediately. Then you should wrap it in a warm blanket or towel.
You need to warm your cat, but be careful not to make its surroundings too hot. As soon as you do this, the next stop is taking your cat to a vet clinic.
The veterinarian will perform a detailed observation of your cat. If necessary, it will treat the cat with warmed intravenous fluids.
7. Heart Disease
Finally, cold ears in a cat can be a sign of heart disease.
Cats with this health problem have a decreased volume of blood pumped out to their heart, which can cause their extremities to feel cold.
Some other signs of feline heart disease are lethargy, poor appetite, increased respiratory rate, and collapse.
Cats can have a heart disease as a result of a birth defect, or they can acquire it as they age.
How To Help?
Heart disease is an urgent problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
The course of treatment will be determined by the type and severity of heart disease in your cat. There are many potential medications that are used here, such as beta blockers, diuretics, or anticoagulants.
Unfortunately, not all cats with heart disease will have a happy and long life. Some will be fortunate enough to live normally with proper treatment. Others, on the contrary, may die young due to complications caused by heart disease.
This is why it’s essential to take your cat to a vet as soon as you notice symptoms that could potentially point to this medical problem.
The Bottom Line
There are a couple of potential causes of cold ears in cats.
Most usually, this will happen due to exposure to colder temperatures. Make sure your cat is always warm enough, since this is essential for its body to function properly.
However, cold ears can also point to severe health problems like hypotension, hypothermia, or even heart disease.
Always observe your cat carefully and check out whether any other symptoms are present. If you have any doubts your pet may be seriously ill, reach out to a veterinarian immediately.
You may also want to learn why cats have hot ears. Hope to catch you there!
 Bellows J, Center S, Daristotle L, et al. Aging in cats: Common physical and functional changes. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. 2016;18(7):533-550. DOI, Retrieved November 27, 2023.