6 Incredible Facts About Your Cat’s Ears

Without going into a full anatomy lesson, this article will explain six of the reasons why your cat’s ears are incredible.

Jun 16, 2024byAbigail Gould
incredible facts about your cats ears

Cats are better than dogs. And humans. In fact, cats are better than a lot of animals because they have a ridiculously sharp sense of hearing. We all know that cats use their ears to look adorable… and to hear things, of course. But there’s also a whole bunch of less obvious facts that you might not know about.

Here’s what to know about cats’ ears!

1. Cats’ Ears Are Self-Cleaning

ginger cat rolling
Image credit: The Welcome Waggin

Cats keep themselves clean. Of course, you should regularly groom your cat, but they do all the “dirty” work. And it’s not only thanks to their exceptional grooming habits. Even a cat’s ear canal is designed for self-cleaning!

That’s right, cats are remarkably well-kept all over. It’s just how their bodies work.

A well-cared-for, healthy cat may go her entire life without ever needing to have her ears cleaned by a human. Generally speaking, a cat’s ears are best left alone. Of course, keeping tabs on your cat’s ear health is still a good idea. And if your cat does need help cleaning his ears, your vet will explain exactly what you should do. Otherwise, save the ear-cleaning fight for your human children!

2. Cats’ Ears Have Special Folds and “Pockets”

grey cat looking down
Image credit: PetCareRX

Have you ever noticed the extra folds of cartilage on your cat’s ears? These are called “Henry’s Pockets.”

No one really knows why they are called that, or what they are for. It’s one of the many mysteries about cats that humans have yet to figure out. Some speculate that it helps cats to amplify noises and to distinguish between high and low frequencies.

But since no one really knows who this Henry character is or why his name is attached to kitty ears, let’s just say it’s a slightly more endearing term than having to call them cutaneous marginal pouches.

And you know the layers of long fur inside cats’ ears? These are called “ear furnishings.” It’s thought that these special hairs are sensitive to the faintest sound vibrations, enhancing the sense of hearing even further.

3. Cats Hear Sounds Up to 2,900ft Away

tabby cat wearing red collar
Image credit: Basepaws

As if you aren’t already impressed enough by the fluffy wonder that is your kitty, cats really do have the best hearing. It’s true! Of all the different types of popular pets, cats have the most acute hearing. Even better than dogs (yep, even the floppy-eared Basset Hound!).

Research says that cats hear in a range from about 48hZ to 85 kHz. Our simple human ears can only tune into noises that run somewhere between 20hZ and 20 kHz. In short, we’re simply incapable of hearing the range of pitches, both high and low, that cats can.

What do cats do with their supreme sense of hearing? For one thing, they prey on all sorts of unsuspecting creatures. Also, cats have a lot of their own predators that they need to hide from. Plus, they are very good at freaking out their human parents by reacting to things that are literally undetectable to us – an undeniably important use for their superior abilities.

4. Cats Have Lots of Ear Muscles

kitten sleeping beside toy
Image credit: Paramount Pet Health

Your cat has around 32 muscles in each ear, as compared to 18 for dogs. And each ear can rotate about 180 degrees.

These highly mobile sound detectors once again put mere humans to shame. Unlike us, a cat can locate the source of a sound without having to turn their whole head. Their ears move independently, swiveling around toward the noises they’re receiving.

Plus, just as we use the muscles in our faces to communicate our emotions through smiling and frowning, cats use their body language to express moods such as fear or playfulness.

5. Cats’ Ears Help with Balance

calico cat balancing on fence
Image credit: Wenatchee Valley Humane Society

We said this wouldn’t be an anatomy lesson. And it won’t be. However, the way cats’ ears influence their balance does get a little technical. So, in the interest of keeping things short and sweet, we aren’t going to describe the entire vestibular system.

Putting things super simply, the inner ear works for hearing as well as spatial awareness and balance. This means that cats’ ears house the specialized equipment they need to sense their position in space. Thus, a cat’s inner ear allows him to land on his feet, leap with accuracy, and perch on tiny surfaces.

6. A Cat’s Ears Regulate Body Temperature

cat lying on blanket
Image credit: Unsplash

Have you ever felt slightly alarmed at the heat radiating from your cat’s ears? That’s because your cat’s ears are full of blood vessels that close when it’s cold and open wider when it’s hot. Thus, ears help your cat’s body retain or release heat in a process known as thermoregulation.

If your cat’s ears seem unusually toasty to you, chances are she’s been basking somewhere warm, like on a laptop. When your cat feels hot, their ears will be hot too.

Even cooler, your cat’s ear temperature can help you tell if she’s experiencing anxiety. If your cat’s right ear is warmer than her left ear, that means she’s feeling stressed. This has to do with hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline that result in various body changes.

If this sounds confusing, just think about the last time your own body betrayed your emotions. For example, we blush when we feel embarrassed, and our eyes leak tears when we are sad. Likewise, in cats, their right ears get hot when they are stressed out. It’s a reliable indicator proven by decades of research.

You Can Help Protect Your Cat’s Ears

kitten watching something on ground
Image credit: Green County Humane Society

Kitty ears are extremely sensitive, meaning any irritation can result in a fair amount of discomfort and even suffering for your pet.

How do you help your cat protect her incredible ears? While routinely helping her clean them shouldn’t be necessary, frequent visual inspections are a great idea.

Cats’ ears are also prone to mites. And you would want to look out for any early warning signs of ear infections because these are difficult illnesses to treat, even with veterinary attention. Be vigilant to any changes such as head tilting or shaking.

Understanding your cat is super important. For more interesting and useful cat facts, read the other articles in our series!

Abigail Gould
byAbigail Gould

Abigail’s experience with animals comes from growing up on a farm. She has been fortunate enough to look after cats, dogs, ducks, geese, chickens, and guinea pigs. Of all the pets she’s cared for, guinea pigs have been the most entertaining, dogs the most rewarding, and cats the most essential!