A cat’s ears are one of its most expressive body parts. They can stand up, twist, or lie flat to show the cat’s mood. However, it is common to see cats’ ears twitching back and forth.
When cats’ ears twitch, they may be happy to see you, investigating a toy, or trying to determine the location of their prey. Cats can hear sounds 1.6 octaves higher than humans. To do this, they angle their ears to catch most of the sound to get an accurate reading. Cats twitch their ears when they detect a slight movement or hear a faint sound. Cats naturally twitch their ears to learn more, even when an object makes no sound.
Cats twitch their ears several times a day by default. This is a reflex action in most cases because cats have more control over their ears than humans.
Although sometimes involuntary, cats twitch their ears to hear better. However, it is an alarming sign if this happens several times a minute or hour.
Then it could be that your cat may have an ear infection, mites, lice, fleas, or growths on the ears. Cats will then twitch their ears to shake off the discomfort.
What Does It Mean When Cats Twitch Their Ears?
Since cats have more control over their ears than humans, they naturally twitch occasionally. It’s just part of the cat’s natural behavior:
- Part of their body language
- hunting behavior
- environmental perception
For this reason, you can find out what your cat is thinking, seeing, or hearing by looking at their ears. A slight twitch may even mean that she is happy to see you.
However, a cat may twitch its ears far too often. If this happens several times an hour without exposing your cat to new sounds, it could mean it is dealing with a medical problem.
The Cat Has Spotted Prey
Cats rely on their impressive hearing to stalk prey.
Because of the shape of their ears, cats are able to tune them to specific sounds. To do this, they twitch their ears or even turn them at a certain angle.
This allows vibrations to be picked up and directed into the ear canal. This movement also allows the cat’s ears to tune out other unimportant sounds from the side.
With this level of precision, cats can accurately locate sounds:
- Focus on a specific sound.
- Recognize the location of the sound.
- Better understand what the sound means.
For example, your cat may twitch her ears when she senses the tiny footsteps of a mouse.
She then turns her ears when she cannot identify the sound and where it is coming from.
By changing the position of the ears, the cat can recognize more sounds.
She orients her ears in that direction once she perceives the sound in question most clearly. It can then respond based on the new information.
For example, the mouse might be on the left side of the room, under a table, and move very slowly to avoid detection. A slight twitch of the ears proves to the cat this is the case.
This habit is ingrained in the cat’s natural instincts. For this reason, cats also twitch their ears when they investigate something, even if it makes no noise.
If your kitten is interested in a toy, it may turn its ears as it approaches the object to understand it better.
The Cat is Happy to See You
Twitching can also be a sign of affection. If your cat is happy to see you, it will turn its ears to be sure:
- Where you are
- What sounds you are making
- What you are doing
This is because cats use their excellent hearing to understand their surroundings better. If they twitch their ears frequently, they want to know more about a subject.
A single twitch should tell the cat that you are home, and that’s it. If she keeps twitching her ears, she wants to know more about you.
How are you doing? How do you sound? Do you sound healthy and normal? Do you have anything on you?
The extra interest proves that your cat appreciates your presence. You are not just a creature passing through.
The Cat Wants to Get Rid of an Itch
Have you ever felt an itch on your leg, but couldn’t find a reason?
Sometimes a twitch of the leg is enough to get rid of the itch. Cats do the same thing with their ears.
Maybe your kitty spotted a bug fluttering around near his ear, sensed a hair was out of place and bothering him, or wanted to test a muscle that felt too tight.
By quickly twitching its ear, it gets rid of the discomfort and feels better.
The Cat Has Mite Infestation
Ear twitching is not always expected. When a cat is dealing with a mite infestation, she twitches and flicks her ears almost constantly.
She attempts to shake off the irritation, much like flies or mosquitoes. Since the mites are stuck, cats have no choice but to twitch their ears several times a minute, hour, and day. Unfortunately, however, to no avail.
Cats are very skilled groomers, but they can still fall victim to these pesky bugs. This is especially true if your cat likes to spend time in the garden.
If your pet seems to be twitching its ears to remove something, you should take a closer look.
The Cat Has a Medical Problem
Aside from bugs, cat ears can also be irritated by other factors. They cause the cat to twitch its ears to find relief constantly.
The usual suspects in such a case are:
- Bacterial infections
- Inflammations of the ear canal
- Ear diseases such as otitis externa.
These diseases can cause the cat’s ears to burn, itch and hurt.
Your cat may scratch his ears, rub them on flat surfaces, or pluck them frequently to relieve discomfort.
If that doesn’t work, the cat may become upset and cranky. She may even begin to hurt her ears by scratching excessively.
Is It Normal for Cats’ Ears to Twitch?
Twitching of the ears in cats is usually a reflexive reaction. It is no different than how your eyes may react to a strange noise or movement out of the corner of your eye.
Therefore, you should not worry if your cat seems to twitch his ears for no reason. This is a natural behavior when:
- Someone has entered the room
- There is a noise outside, such as a car passing by
- Another pet has lifted its head or moved
- You have brushed against an object, making a soft noise.
The cat is simply noticing the sounds around it and trying to understand them.
If the sounds are normal and not worth investigating, the cat will not continue to twitch or turn its ears.
If the sounds are unfamiliar or inconsistent, the cat may wiggle its ears more to understand the sound better.
This is also true if the cat has sensed a slight movement but does not want to get up, come closer, or reveal its position.
For example, if you nudge a toy in passing, the cat may twitch its ears as it watches the object move and return to rest.
Even if you don’t notice the sound or movement, your cat might. Cats can detect sounds 1 octave above those of dogs and 1.6 octaves above those of humans.
An insect scurrying across a wall or a distant car horn can catch your cat’s attention. Their ears twitch to adjust to a sound you can’t even hear.
Why do cats’ ears twitch when you touch them?
Your cat’s ears may twitch automatically when you touch them. This is because cats have over 30 ear muscles susceptible to touch.
Even if the pressure is not uncomfortable, the cat will naturally move its ears to get rid of the sensitive feeling.
The hair around your cat’s ears is also sensitive. Even a slight breeze can disturb this soft hair and transmit the vibrations to the muscles underneath.
This will cause your cat to feel tickled, causing him to move away or twitch his ears a few times to eliminate the sensation.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pet this area. A few gentle pats can be pretty pleasant as long as the cat doesn’t move out of your reach.
But give your kitty room to twitch so the tickling doesn’t become uncomfortable.
Twitching Cat Ears While Sleeping
A cat’s ears can also twitch when it sleeps. Like humans, cats can also dream. In response to what they see, they move slightly.
This may mean they move their paws, squint their eyes, and twitch their ears.
Younger cats and kittens also tend to twitch more than older cats. This is because they spend most of their time asleep, growing and developing.
The twitching of the muscles around the ears and body helps develop the nervous system.
In addition, rapid eye movements (Rapid Eye Movement or REM) occur during the deepest phase of sleep.
REM is an experience that many animals have during rest, and body movements usually characterize it. So, if your cat twitches its ears in sleep, it rests profoundly.
Cats, however, have a unique advantage in these small movements. By twitching their ears, they signal other creatures that they are awake and aware of their surroundings.
This can deter other cats or small predators from sneaking up on a sleeping cat. After all, they can’t be sure that the cat is truly unaware.
The Cat Twitches Only One Ear
Twitching ears is a form of body language. Not only does it show affection, but it can also express whether a cat is anxious or excited.
You will notice this when a cat twitches only one ear. She is not trying to tune in to a particular sound, or she would use both ears.
Instead, her attention is divided, and she is concerned about something she can’t put her finger on.
This can happen when cats are emotionally disturbed, sometimes by other pets, their environment, or even the food they are given.
Mites rarely infest just one ear, so it is rare for your cat to twitch just one ear due to an infestation.
Excessive Ear Twitching in Cats
While ear twitching is usually normal, it can become abnormal if it occurs constantly. Your cat should not be twitching his ears every few seconds or minutes.
In a strange new environment or when bombarded with noise, cats not only twitch their ears constantly. They also show signs of fear or distress.
If your cat is otherwise good-natured and calm, but its ears are constantly twitching back and forth, you may be dealing with a medical problem.
This may be a result of irritation or inflammation, usually caused by the following:
- Mite or flea infestation
- Ear infections
- Non-cancerous growths in the ear
- Bacterial diseases
What Causes Ear Twitching in Cats?
There are ways to tell if your cat is twitching his ears for the wrong reasons. To detect diseases and infections early, look for sure signs.
The Cat Twitches Its Ears and Shakes Its Head
If your cat’s ears twitch and she shakes its head repeatedly, she may struggle with parasites or mites. The cat tries to shake off the discomfort.
She also starts rubbing and scratching the affected ear with her paws. She believes the irritation will go away if she removes the vermin.
Unfortunately, mites, lice, and fleas can be microscopic. Your cat cannot get rid of the inconvenience without your intervention.
The infestation will spread to other parts of your cat without proper treatment. This can result in the following:
- hair loss
- Injuries from excessive scratching.
You can relieve your cat by taking him to the vet or using remedies for fleas and ear mites. These remedies are usually available over the counter.
The Cat Keeps Shaking Its Head But Doesn’t Have Mites
Ear infections are rare in cats, but they do happen. Most owners discover them when looking for mites and have not found them.
In cats, infections usually develop inside the ear canal rather than on the outside of the ear.
An inner ear infection will cause your pet to twitch his ears and shake his head repeatedly.
The condition can even disrupt your cat’s balance and cause him to:
- Staggers on the spot
- Misses jumps
- Has an unsteady gait
- Refuses to walk
The infected ear may give off a foul odor or discharge in severe cases. This is usually due to otitis externa, a condition associated with pain and discomfort.
The affected ear becomes red and inflamed. The persistent discomfort forces your cat to shake its head vigorously to clear the fluid and debris from the ear.
Your cat may also shake his head if he has polyps, non-cancerous growths, in his ears.
Even if these pink growths are benign, they can bother the cat. They can even lead to middle ear infections, which you may notice first.
Taking your cat to the vet can help you correctly diagnose the problems. The professional can recommend effective treatment for your cat.
Cat’s Ears Twitching After Flea Treatment
If your cat’s ear twitches after being given flea medication, it is likely an allergic reaction caused by the drug.
Some flea medications are highly toxic and can harm your pet shortly after application.
If you notice excessive salivation and muscle tremors, this is the case.
These symptoms usually subside on their own. However, if they persist, you should give your cat a warm bath with a mild hand soap.
You can also rub your cat with a warm towel and brush to eliminate the symptoms.
Summary: Why Do Cats Twitch Their Ears?
Twitching ears is a normal behavior of cats.
It usually indicates that your cat has noticed a strange noise, is happy to see you, or is trying to stalk prey.
If you notice the twitching occurring too frequently, you should look for a mite infestation or infection.