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Why Do Cats Put Their Ears Back? 3 Reasons for This Behavior

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

grey cat licking its paw

Cats are extremely expressive little creatures. They not only communicate through mews and hisses, but they also talk through body language. One of the easiest ways to determine your kitty’s mood is to watch her ears.

Felines have over 30 muscles in their ears alone, enabling them to have a huge range of motion. In fact, some cat breeds can even swivel their ears up to 180 degrees! Wow!

Not only do their ears help them listen for prey and predators, but cats “talk” through their ear movements. If your cat’s ears are flat against her head, she’s most likely trying to tell you something.

Here are three reasons why your cat is putting her ears back.

1. Grumpy Kitty

One of the first telltale signs of an aggravated cat is pinned ears. Most cats will put their ears back when they’re anxious or annoyed. If the irritating behavior persists, your cat will hiss or even scratch at you or another pet. If your cat’s ears are pinned, give her some breathing space.

Grumpy Kitty
Image Credit: Pixabay

2. Cat Fight

If your cat is ready to attack, she will lay her ears against her head. This protects this sensitive body part from teeth and claws. If your cat is becoming aggressive toward another animal, mitigate the problem by removing the other pet from the room. Don’t try to touch your cat. You might end up being bitten or scratched.

3. Scaredy Cat

 A nervous or frightened feline put her ears in “airplane mode” when she’s about to take flight. If your cat is in a new environment, being introduced to a new animal, or just sees something frightening, she’ll pin her ears and scamper off.

shy scared-cat-in-bucket litter box
Image Credit: Tung Cheung, Shutterstock

Cat Talk: Other Ear Communications

Now that you know what pinned ears mean on your cat, here are some other ear positions to be aware of:
  • Ears forward: A cat with her ears forward of feeling content, playful, and relaxed.
  • Ears perked: When your feline’s ears are perked forward, something definitely has her attention. If your cat hears a strange noise, her ears will immediately perk up.
  • Sideways and low ears: If your cat’s ears are lopping in opposite directions, she might be annoyed or scared. This is a sign that your pet is uncomfortable and needs her space. She’ll move her ears up when she’s feeling calmer and more confident.
  • Unmoving: If your pet’s ears are constantly horizontal or don’t move, something’s up. She might have ear mites or an infection. Contact your vet right away.

Final Thoughts

Your cat will tell you what she’s thinking or feeling through her body language, including her ears. As a responsible pet owner, it’s important to pay close attention to your cat’s ears and know when she’s feeling anxious, angry, upset, or sick. If you think your cat is suffering from an illness or an injury, book an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.

Perky or upright ears mean your cat is attentive, healthy, and happy. Make sure she stays that way.

Featured Image Credit: michal dziekonski, Unsplash

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

Authored by

Nicole is a lover of animals of all sizes but is especially fascinated with the feline variety. She’s the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese, and works every day so he can relax in the sunshine or by the fire. She’s always had a cat in her home and has spent countless days with others, observing behaviors and softening up even the grouchiest of the lot. Nicole wants to share her kitty expertise with you so you and your cat ...Read more

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