why to cat ears change position when they grow?

why to cat ears change position when they grow

Admit it, cat ears are adorable. The fashion world has embraced this, providing a variety of cat ear headbands for us to wear. But aside from their cuteness, cat ears are interesting for their shape and purpose. In addition to giving cats excellent hearing and helping them stay balanced, their ears are also important for communication, conveying messages to other cats and observant humans through sound and body language.

Understanding cat ear development

Cat ears are not only adorable and fascinating, but they also serve a crucial role in a cat's communication and sensory perception. One common phenomenon that many cat owners notice is that cat ears change their position as they grow. This behavior has piqued the curiosity of many cat enthusiasts and researchers alike. In this article, we will delve into the reasons behind this intriguing development.

Cat ear movement explanations

1. Muscle development: As kittens grow, the muscles that control their ears also develop. This increased muscular strength enables the cats to control the movement and position of their ears more effectively. You can observe this change in ear position as your cat transitions from a cute little ball of fur to a graceful adult.

2. Listening and hunting: Cats are well-known for their exceptional hearing abilities. Their ears are incredibly sensitive and can move independently, allowing them to detect even the faintest sounds. As cats mature, their ear muscles become more refined, enabling them to pinpoint the sources of sound more accurately. This adaptive mechanism aids them in their hunting endeavors and enhances their chances of survival.

3. Mood and emotions: Cat ear movements can also reflect their moods and emotions. When a cat feels calm and content, their ears tend to be in a relaxed and forward-facing position. Conversely, when a cat is agitated, frightened, or threatened, their ears may flatten or move backward. By observing the position of a cat's ears, you can gain insight into their current emotional state.

4. Social communication: Cats are known for their social nature, and their ears play a significant role in their communication with humans and other animals. When a cat is interested or curious, their ears may tilt forward, enhancing their ability to hear and perceive their surroundings better. On the other hand, when a cat feels threatened or defensive, their ears may flatten against their head as a warning sign to others.

5. Temperature regulation: Another interesting aspect of cat ear movement is their role in temperature regulation. Cats have a higher body temperature than humans, and their ears play a vital role in dissipating excess heat. When a cat feels warm, their blood vessels dilate, causing their ears to move outward and maximize the surface area for heat dissipation. Conversely, in cold environments, a cat's ears may reflexively move inward to conserve heat.

Ear Ye, Ear Ye

Just like all animals with four legs, cats have ear shapes that are cup-like. There are four different types of cat ears - rounded tips, pointed tips, folded (forward and downward), or curled (away from the face toward the back of the head). The tufts of fur on the tips of the ears are called tufts, while the longer fur growing within the ears is called furnishings. These tufts and furnishings help cats pick up faint sound vibrations, which is especially important for hunting both inside and outside the home. Cat ears can move independently of each other, swivel up and down, and rotate 180 degrees thanks to 32 muscles.

The cat's ear position can give valuable information about its mood. It is important to observe the cat's body, tail, facial expressions, and surroundings in order to better understand its feelings. By paying attention to the signals from the cat's ears, we can decipher its emotions more effectively.


A relaxed and happy cat has ears that are standing up and facing forward. When the cat becomes more interested, its ears may tilt slightly forward. Even when your cat is napping, its ears remain alert and will rotate towards sounds.

Fearful, Anxious, Stressed

When a cat becomes anxious, nervous, or stressed, its ears will gradually swivel from an upright position to the side and may slightly flatten. If the fear or stress increases, the ears will flatten even more. This flattened position serves as a warning to cease whatever is causing the disturbance.


Be observant of a cat showing signs of aggression. This cat may have ear movements that may seem conflicting at first. At first, the cat's ears may point straight up before turning to the side, with the open part facing forward and flat. The ears may then move back and flatten against the head. This movement not only shows aggression, but also protects the cat's ears from potential harm in a fight. Remember, the angrier the cat, the flatter the ears will be. Allow the cat to calm down and avoid trying to touch or pick them up, as this could lead to serious injury.


Cats are good at hiding their pain, making it challenging to recognize. Signs of pain in cats include erect and forward ears, a tense face, and possible expressions of fear or anxiety. The more pain a cat is experiencing, the more flattened and rotated the ears may appear. It is crucial to consider all physical and behavioral changes in your cat. If you suspect your cat is in pain, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Mixed Emotions

At times, a cat's ears may be in different positions at the same time, indicating its attentiveness to various sounds and its uncertainty about where to fully focus. For instance, while Briscoe may be observing birds outside the window, he may also hear the sound of a drawer opening in the kitchen. One ear remains focused on the birds, while the other pivots towards the kitchen noise. In this moment of hesitation, Briscoe must decide whether to stay put or head to the kitchen in hopes of receiving a treat. His ear movements provide insight into his decision-making process.

If you observe your cat frequently tilting his head to one side, shaking his head often, or scratching at his ears, it is important to make an appointment with your vet for a examination. It is possible that he may have an infection or ear mites.

Cat ears can convey a range of messages, allowing cat owners to understand their pet's emotions and determine whether it is appropriate to interact with them or give them space.

why to cat ears change position when they grow

Factors influencing cat ear position

1. Breed: Different cat breeds have distinct ear shapes and sizes, which can influence their normal resting position. For example, Scottish Folds have uniquely folded ears that remain in a permanent forward-facing position due to a genetic mutation. Maine Coons, on the other hand, are known for their large tufted ears, which may naturally rest in a slightly different position compared to other breeds.

2. Age: As mentioned earlier, kittens go through a developmental stage where their ears may appear larger in proportion to their head size. As they grow, their ears gradually achieve the typical adult proportions and position. Age-related changes in ear position are a natural part of a cat's growth process.

3. Individual variation: Just like humans have unique traits and characteristics, cats also exhibit individual variation in their ear positions. Some cats may naturally have higher or lower ear positions compared to others. These subtle differences add to the charm and diversity of feline companions.

4. Environmental stimuli: Cats are highly responsive to their environment, and various stimuli can cause changes in their ear position. For example, a sudden loud noise may cause a cat to flatten its ears temporarily, while an intriguing sound or scent may pique their curiosity and make their ears perk up.

5. Health and emotions: Cat ear position can also be influenced by their overall health and emotional well-being. Cats experiencing pain, discomfort, or anxiety may exhibit changes in their ear position. If you notice persistent or dramatic changes in your cat's ear position without any apparent cause, it is essential to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical or behavioral issues.

In conclusion, cat ears changing position as they grow is a fascinating aspect of feline development. Their ability to independently move their ears serves multiple purposes, including enhanced hearing, communication, emotional expression, and thermal regulation. Understanding the factors influencing cat ear position can deepen our appreciation for these incredible creatures and strengthen the bond between humans and cats.