Although cats are mysterious, understanding what it is that they want to say with their ears is only a matter of paying close attention. What is the message behind the movements of your cat’s ear?Your cat will use her ears to express how she feels, needs or desires. Check out how to decipher cat ear language.While cats may seem mysterious to some, to others, understanding a cat is simply a matter of paying attention, watching the cat’s body language and responding accordingly.
The illustrations below will help you better understand felines’ nonverbal cues. However, it’s important to take other factors into consideration when assessing a situation, including the environment, your cat’s personality and your cat’s comfort level with being harnessed.
Ears forward – A cat with ears slightly forward is likely feeling content or even playful.
Ears straight up – When a cat is alert, his ears are likely standing at attention as well.
Ears turned back – Watch out for this kitty! He might feel irritated over stimulated, so it’s probably a good idea to leave him alone.
Ears turned sideways or back – This cat is feeling nervous or anxious about something. Use caution around a cat whose ears are in this position.
Ears back and flat against head – This is a sure sign a cat is scared and feeling defensive. Ears flat against the head may also indicate an angry or aggressive cat. Either way, ears against the head means don’t mess with this guy!
When a cat's just being a cat, their ears are facing forward in what's called the neutral position. Neutral ears indicate that a cat is feeling happy and relaxed and wants to chill out. When your cat's ears are in neutral, it's a great time to take advantage of their friendly mood, so now's the time to carefully pick up that cat and get your snuggles!
Straight Up and Forward
A cat will move its ears into this alert position when they want to pay closer attention to what's going on around them. Your cat wants to know, "What's that noise? Who's there? What's going on?" Sometimes, their ears are even facing different directions! Cats who are inclined to patrol their home exhibit this ear position and make great guard cats. In addition to "confident, curious cats," "a cat who is hunting or playing will also keep [their] ears forward to collect as much auditory information as possible to execute a successful pounce." Are your cat's ears pointed up? Engage them in some fun.
Low and Sideways
If your cat's ears are flattened against their head in "airplane mode" — as if they're about to take off in flight — it means that they're frightened or nervous, and it could lead to aggressive behavior. When a cat's ears are in this position, the cat is telling you that they're uncomfortable and need some space. Your cat may hide in their favorite spot until they're feeling more secure, so it's important to respect their bubble and their privacy.
Gray striped young cat with airplane ears crouched on a cushionLow and Flat
There is no doubt about which cat ear emotions are associated with this position. Basically, it translates to "step off" and is indicative of potential aggressive behavior to come, including biting or scratching. In multiple cat households, you may see this when cats are tussling. If it happens, keep an eye on the cats and discourage aggressive play. It's in the best interest of humans to walk away from a cat when their ears are in this position, or you could risk getting injured.
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*We hope to give you better ideas for your pet, but this information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian. If your pet feels bad, please take it to the veterinarian in time.