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Cat Airplane Ears: What Is It & What Does It Mean

Adam Mann

By Adam Mann

Cat Airplane Ears

Part of being a responsible pet owner is knowing how to read and interpret different behaviors from your pet. And if you own a cat, one of the behaviors you need to learn to recognize is airplane ears. Airplane ears are when your cat’s ears lay flat and sideways on its head.

But what does it mean, what can you do about it, and when should they worry you? The truth is that airplane ears are extremely common for your cat, and just about every cat on the planet will display airplane ears at one point or another.

So, before you start worrying, keep reading and we’ll walk you through everything you need to know.

Click to Jump Ahead:

What Are Cat Airplane Ears?

Cats have “airplane” ears when they lay them down flat and sideways, thus resembling airplane wings. This is different than when they lay them down flat and straight back, and these are usually two different types of behaviors.

When your cat is displaying airplane ears, it’s a clear sign that they need some space, and the best thing you can do is give them that space to get comfortable. Cats display airplane ears when they’re uncomfortable with a situation, when they’re scared, or when they’re nervous.

So, if you never see your cat with airplane ears, that’s a good thing—it means they’re comfortable in your home!

Scared cat'
Image Credit: SakSa, Shutterstock

What Are the Signs of Cat Airplane Ears?

The signs of a cat with airplane ears are pretty straightforward. When you look at your cat, they’ll have their ears flat against their body and sticking out to the side. However, there are a few other behaviors cats will commonly display when they’re feeling nervous, uncomfortable, or scared.

Common signs a cat will display in addition to airplane ears include arching their back and puffing up their fur and either swishing their tail tip quickly from side to side or tucking it between their legs. Finally, if you look at a cat’s eyes while they have airplane ears, you’ll likely see dilated pupils that look like ovals or circles.

What Are the Causes of Cat Airplane Ears?

A cat displays airplane ears when they’re feeling nervous, anxious, or scared. Bringing a cat into a new environment, bringing a new person or pet around them, or a wide array of environmental stimuli can cause airplane ears on a cat.

Other reasons a cat might display airplane ears include changes in routine, inappropriate handling, or simply turning up the volume on a tv show that they’re not used to! Keep an eye on your cat and if they’re displaying airplane ears, see if you can’t figure out what’s stressing them out.

The more you get to know your cat, the better you’ll be able to recognize what might be stressing them out.

perturbed Tortoiseshell tortie tabby cat scared cat
Image Credit: Sheila Fitzgerald, Shutterstock

How Do I Care for a Cat With Airplane Ears?

If your cat only occasionally has airplane ears, one of the best things you can do is leave them alone until they calm down. Let them figure it out on their own and give them a space to get away from everything. However, if they’re acting this way all the time, it might not be the way to go.

If your cat is suffering from constant anxiety and stress and you can’t get it under control, we highly recommend taking them to the vet. They can help you figure out what’s going on and give you some great tips to help calm your cat.

Meanwhile, you can help your cat out a bit by bringing some routine and consistency into your home while removing potential stressors. Stick with a routine so your cat knows what to expect throughout the day and limit the noise levels around them.

Additionally, give your cat a space where they can get away from everything. Having a space they can call their own and knowing that nobody is going to mess with them while they’re there can be a great way to help your cat feel safe.

Finally, if there are other pets in your home, ensure your cat has a place they can go to get away from them too. This might be a bit more challenging for you to create and enforce, but often, other pets are the stressors for your cat, so having the ability to get away from them might be just what they need.

Cat Airplane Ears and Curious Eyes
Image Credit: Ranganathan Iyer,Shutterstock

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Cats are emotionally complex creatures, so it’s only normal for you to have a few questions the more you learn about them. We understand, and it’s why we took the time to address some of the most frequently asked questions about airplane ears for you here:

Why Are They Called Airplane Ears?

People call them airplane ears because when a cat’s ears are this way, it looks like they’re about to take flight. And, often, a cat will “fly” off to get away from an uncomfortable situation.

Do Cats Like It When You Touch Their Ears?

It depends on the cat’s individual personality, but most cats like it when you scratch or rub their ears. Just watch your cat’s behavior when you do so, and if they don’t like it, leave the ears alone!

What Happens to a Cat’s Ears on a Plane?

It’s not what most people are talking about with a cat with airplane ears, but it’s still good to know about! Just like how human ears can experience a change in pressure at higher altitudes, a cat’s can too. This is why most experts recommend a cat fly in the cabin with you instead of in the cargo hold.

lying on red sofa young woman with cat and dalmatian dog
Image Credit: photomak, Shutterstock


Now that you know a little bit more about cats and airplane ears, you can respond appropriately the next time your cat has them. It’s not something you usually need to make a big deal about, but you’ll want to give your cat a little extra space when they have them!

Featured Image Credit: marimos, Shutterstock

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